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Al-Anon Forum Magazine Featured Article

Vital to Recovery
"...pain is inevitable but suffering is optional."
Accepting the things I cannot change has been a very slow process for me and continues to challenge me as I struggle to change and grow using Al-Anon's proven program of success. When I first came to Al-Anon, I recited the Serenity Prayer in desperation without really understanding its meaning. Now, after many years in Al-Anon, I do understand what it means when I say "God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change. I realize when I say this prayer I am actually taking Step One. I'm admitting powerlessness and a need for help.
Since God is the first word of this prayer, I must examine my relationship with this Power I am asking for help. It was in Step Two that I came to believe how much this Power could help me. For me He is great and good beyond anything I can imagine or understand. My connection to God is the absolute source of my acceptance and serenity. He does for me what I cannot possibly do for myself.
Once I admitted my powerlessness (Step One) and declared my belief that God could restore me to sanity (Step Two), I needed to establish trust in this Power so I could turn my will and my life over to His care. Step Three is all about trust. At first I was very cautious about trusting and letting go. I used the slogan Let Go And Let God. Gradually my trust began to grow as I noticed changes in my life. Through trusting in God I began to realize all my strength came from Him.
The incentive to work on accepting the things I cannot change is that peace-filled feeling known as serenity. Once I experienced the calmness of mind and evenness of temper that serenity offers, it became my most treasured possession. Accepting the things I cannot change is vital to retain or regain my serenity. Al-Anon has taught me to keep the focus on myself and live one day at a time. As I struggled to do that, I became aware that some of my shortcomings are exactly the ones I cannot accept in other people. Self-awareness can be a very humbling experience and has accelerated my acceptance to a new level.
What are the things I cannot change? I cannot change any person but me, including those I love. I can't change people or the choices they make. I have been struggling in Al-Anon for years to change myself. That is really all I can handle and it is a task which will occupy me for the rest of my life.
Acceptance simply means recognizing and admitting there are things I cannot change. Accepting them puts an end to my futile struggle and frees my thoughts and energy to focus on me and work on things I can change. At first I had to let go of the alcohol I resented, not the alcoholic. By accepting alcoholism as a disease, I have learned to develop a relationship with the person behind the disease. I have been able to let go of my critical and judgmental attitude and see clearly how much the alcoholic suffers.
Reflecting on acceptance I have tried to recall the hardest thing I ever had to accept. Painful memories flooded my mind. My husband and two of my three adult children struggle with this cunning, baffling and powerful disease of alcoholism and our whole family has suffered from its devastating effects. However, from a mother's perspective, my daughter's battle with the disease was by far the hardest reality I have ever had to accept.
There is a saying that pain is inevitable but suffering is optional. Before Al-Anon I chose to suffer much of the time. Now I have learned to accept pain as part of life. This enables me to endure the difficult times and then move on, leaving the pain behind. I have discovered pain may offer an equal amount of pleasure but I must be willing to accept the pain first.
After all these years in Al-Anon I just recently learned accepting something does not necessarily mean I approve of it or even like it. That was an important discovery for me because although my daughter has been blessed with sobriety, my husband and oldest son continue to drink and all three of them still make choices that cause me a great deal of pain. When I am uncomfortable I know I must take a good look at the reality of the situation. Only then can I make the appropriate changes. Sometimes I just need to call my sponsor and run something by her. She helps me to break through my denial or let go of my rigid thinking. Then I have the peace of mind that comes with acceptance.
This program has helped me to understand and accept the unexpected. All I have to do is keep the focus on me, live one day at a time and remember those first three steps: Accept my powerlessness, believe there is a Power in control and ask that Power for guidance.
Barb S. - Ohio
Alcoholism is a family disease. Those of us who live with, or have have lived with, this disease as children or adults sometimes have problems which the Al-Anon program can help us to resolve. If you have answered yes to some of all of the above questions, Al-Anon may be of help to you. You can contact Al-Anon by checking your local telephone directory, or from the Resources page. Phone numbers and Contact Information for the Austin Area are listed on the Contact Page of this website.
These articles were reproduced with permission from 'The Forum', the monthly inspirational newsletter of Al-Anon. Al-Anon World Headquarters, Inc. is located in Virginia Beach, VA. See www.Al-Anon.org for more information.