Principles of Recovery: A Broader Application

Serentiy Prayer

For decades, professionals and lay sponsors alike have utilized the “Serenity Prayer” as foundational to recovery from addiction. The prayer reads as follows:

“God grant unto me the Serenity to accept the things I cannot change; Courage to change the things I can; and Wisdom to know the difference” (The Serenity Prayer  – utilized by AA and other 12-step treatment programs).

In examining some of these keywords via the Encarta Dictionary we find:

  • Serenity: “Without worry, stress, or disturbance”
  • Courage: “The ability to face danger, difficulty, uncertainty, or pain without being overcome by fear or being deflected from a chosen course of action”
  • Wisdom: “The ability to make sensible decisions and judgments based on personal knowledge and experience”

At New Haven, when families are faced with a crisis, we encourage them to ask themselves these questions:

  • Question #1: What do I not have control over in this situation? The goal here is to acknowledge and accept the lack of control; making peace with such instead of fighting such. Redirect the energy attempting to settle here to the next question. Spending your energy with things not in your control only increases feelings of anxiety, frustration, fear, and hopelessness. It sometimes even further perpetuates the issue. Spending large amounts of energy here is counterproductive.
  • Question #2: What do I have control over in this situation? It is helpful to acknowledge specific things within your control and clearly define the limits of your control. Without clearly defining this, we often lose sight of the fact that many things remain within our control and influence.
  • Question #3: What will I begin doing with the things in my control? This is where your energy needs to be. Make a specific plan based on things within your control, according to your desired outcome. Begin implementing the plan immediately, even if it is a small step toward your desired outcome. At any time your energy begins to center upon things outside of your control, redirect it back to this question and carrying out your defined plan. Let your energy rest here…

At New Haven, we encourage the application of these three principles in the lives of the students and families we serve, whether or not their struggles are substance related. As a family begins to clearly define those things within their control, and make peace with the things that are beyond their control, they are able to more intentionally focus energy on those items that will support family healing the most. Our employees are expert at facilitating this process, which empowers an Internal Locus of Control, and combats the helpless and hopeless feelings that often accompany significant family crisis.


Nevin G. Alderman, MA, CMHC