Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot CHANGE,
the courage to CHANGE
the things I can,
and the Wisdom to know the difference!
For over thirty years, I have focused on the words serenity, courage and wisdom when praying this prayer, just as this picture highlights the same words. How about you? But there has been a shift in my thinking of late. The key word has become change! This word is the crux of the matter for me! I needed to change. Let’s consider what the A.A. Big Book tells us about change; this word is used in a profound way and helps to define ‘Recovered’ and what that looks like.
From the moment I first heard the word, “Recovered”, I wanted to go there! I wanted it so badly, it was like a splinter entered my skin. I wanted to live free, be free; to be set free! I was in a prison of sorts, I know that if you’re a “normee” (a normal eater) you think, “That’s weird! What is she talking about?” I don’t expect you to understand. But for all those who have struggled with addiction, you understand! From the start, for some reason, I considered ‘recovered’ a place to go, to reach; a trip that I must take! An island in the sun where I could walk free of the non-stop compulsive thoughts that swirled around my head about food and my next compulsive bite. And if I wasn’t thinking about food, I was thinking about what you and everyone else was thinking about me and worried, restless and irritable and so discontent with life. There was no peace. My mind was a back ally and so, I used food to get numb. Bill W. used alcohol. He, too, was in a quagmire, and it was of his own making too. His mind, like mine, was sick. How many walk around in this condition. I was one of the lucky ones who woke up. How many are sound asleep and have moments of lucidity from their stupor, be it ice-cream or gin? I’m not saying that eating ice cream is bad, but it was my drug of choice.
When I think about going to a far away land, I think about the many changes I will be confronted with: a different monetary system, a different language, a different time zone and even the need to change my watch settings and sleep patterns: a different culture and way of doing things, a change in how I drive, whether it’s on the opposite side of the street and/or cars with a change in the location of the steering wheel. When we put ourself in a strange place, a strange land, we have to acclimate and make changes, to grow and work with new circumstances. This is the essence of the changes that are required to become well and live in the land of recovered. This is what is required to get on the straight road as opposed to the crooked path we’ve been on! When Bill sees how his friend Ebby has changed, he says, “I saw that my friend was much more than inwardly reorganized. He was on a different footing. His roots grasped a new soil.” (Pg. 12-13) Could it be the land of Recovered that he spoke of?
To begin with, on Pg. 52 in the A.A. Big Book it says, “We had to ask ourselves why we shouldn’t apply to our human problems this same readiness to change our point of view.” Step 6 in the 12 & 12 tells us it’s all about being ready which implies a willingness and open-mindedness and a humble mind-set for change. One man, in the stories located in the back of the Big Book speaks to the change with these eloquent words.
“In the process of this change I can recognize two immensely significant steps for me. The first step I took when I admitted to myself for the first time that all my previous thinking might be wrong. The second step came when I first consciously wished to believe. As a result of this experience, I am convinced that to seek is to find, to ask is to be given. The day never passes that I do not silently cry out in thankfulness, not merely for my release from alcohol, but even more for a change that has given life new meaning, dignity and beauty. (From the first edition of the Big Book, written by Norman Hunt from Darien, CT and found on the last page of “Educated Agnostic”.) And in another story, we are told, “A tremendous change took place in my work, in my relationship with my employers, in my association with my coworkers and in my dealings with our customers..(A Businessman’s Recovery)
On my favorite page in the A.A. Big Book, page 143, the whole matter (the cure to what ails the compulsive person) is explained. First, on the top of the page, we are told in a no-nonsense way that we simply have to put the substance down. We have no choice. We must abstain. Then, lower down on the page it distills the remainder of the matter down to: “. . . he should understand that he must undergo a change of heart. To get over drinking (eating, or what ever the compulsive behavior) will require a transformation of thought and attitude. We all had to place recovery above everything, for without recovery we would have lost both home and business… i.e. everything.” (BB Pg. 143)
Finally, the word ‘change’ occurs three times on page 567. First, it tells us “The term “spiritual experience” and “spiritual awakening” are used many times in this book which, upon careful reading, shows that the personality change sufficient to bring about recovery from alcoholism has manifested itself among us in many different forms.” Then again, change is discussed in the middle of the page. “. . .Many alcoholics have nevertheless concluded that in order to recover they must acquire an immediate and overwhelming “God-consciousness” followed at once by a vast change in feeling and outlook.” Finally, at the bottom of the page, “He finally realizes that he has undergone a profound alternation in his reaction to life; that such a change could hardly have been brought about by himself alone.” (A.A. BB Pg. 567)
There are so many times throughout the book that change is discussed. The Drs. Opinion speaks of the ‘psychic change’ three times. We Agnostics tells us there has been a revolutionary change in their way of living and thinking! (Pg. 50) “In the Big Book, we read the experience of a man who thought he was an atheist. His story is so interesting that some of it should be told now. His change of heart was dramatic, convincing, and moving. Our friend was a minister’s son. . . (Pg. 55b). In the ninth step promises, we learn that “Our whole attitude and outlook upon life will change. Fear of people and of economic insecurity will leave us. We will intuitively know….. lots of things! (Pg. 84) This well describes the changes that occur when recovered.
“It would be difficult, if not impossible, for me to put into words the change that has taken place in me. . . “ (This too is from the story,”Educated Agnostic!” found in the 1st ed. A. A. Big Book) This is so true for me, too. It’s so hard to put into words the changes that have taken place. The Big Book endeavors to explain such changes. As I grow, I continue to change. It requires open-mindedness, a rigorous honesty with myself and others, a laying down of arrogance (and the idea that, “I know!”) and a turning to God daily and even moment by moment. Consider this; a dear fellow developed an acronym for CHANGE:
Continually Having A New God (or Growing) Experience.
Bless them, Lord, and Change me.