It is hard to appreciate the word serenity unless you have experienced the chaos that is its opposite. If your addiction has progressed very far, you will have plenty of experience with chaos.


Many addicts lived with personal chaos every day even before the development of their addictive behaviors. They had plenty of experience with it in their family of origin.

What we are describing is the kind of disruption in your life that leaves you with a sense that there is no order, no stability, no feeling that all is as it should be, and no meaningful contact with a Higher Power or Program.

Many addicts and codependent family members respond to the chaos around them by investing psychic energy in the illusion of control. They repress their feelings and maintain a facade that everything is all right, while waging a silent war against themselves.

As you begin using Steps One, Two, and Three in your recovery, you will find that you start seeing glimpses of serenity in your life. Hope begins to return, and you can start to feel that everything is going to be OK.

Serenity Prayer

God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
Courage to change the things I can, and
Wisdom to know the difference.

For many years, the Serenity Prayer was thought to be anonymous. Then several articles appeared explaining that it was part of a prayer written by Protestant theologian Reinhold Niebuhr. It may actually date back to an eighteenth-century German theologian named Friedrich Oettinger (1702-82). Whatever its origin, an early AA member handed it to Bill Wilson (cofounder of AA) in 1939. He and the AA staff liked it so much that they adopted it as AA’s official prayer and worked it into AA literature.


Serenity is related to surrender. While you keep struggling to change things, you are not likely to feel much serenity. For a sense of the difference, consider the following visualization:

Imagine you are swimming upstream in a large river. You are exhausted, but you feel you can’t afford to rest; you will lose too much of the progress you have made. You dread seeing the places where the river narrows and gets faster, and there are sometimes rapids that take superhuman strength to get past. You have swallowed a lot of water and feel as though you are drowning. Somehow it finally occurs to you that you could be swimming downstream just as easily. As you begin to do that you find that you can make much more progress with much less effort. You can actually float at times, rest, and enjoy the beautiful scenery along your journey. You still have to swim hard at times to avoid the rapids and snags, but you now can enjoy the trip. The river is the same -- but you have stopped fighting it.

Serenity, see also: Acceptance, Grace, Gratitude, Higher Power, Panic attacks, Prayer & meditation, Program, Relapse prevention, Relaxation, Sanity, Service & giving, Spiritual aspects, Spirituality, Step Nine, Step Eleven, Step Twelve, Surrender.

Updated 11 Sep 2015

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Addictionary 2 by Jan & Judy Wilson

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