Serenity in 12-Step Programs

Serenity plays a central role in 12-step recovery programs that deal with issues related to alcohol, drugs, gambling, or co-dependency. The most widely-known expression of serenity is the Serenity Prayer, incorporated into use by Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) since the 1940s.

In AA literature the prayer contains elements of acceptance, letting go of control over certain elements of life, developing trust in and surrendering to the will of a Higher Power, discerning when to take appropriate action, accepting life on life’s terms, having a present-day orientation, and experiencing joy.

The Serenity Prayer

God, 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.

A definition of serenity: “a spiritual experience of inner peace, trust, and connectedness that exists independently of external events.”

Defining Characteristics of Serenity

  • The ability to detach from desires and/or emotion and feelings.
  • The ability to be in touch with an inner haven of peace and security.
  • A sense of connectedness with the universe.
  • A trust in the wisdom of the universe.
  • The habit of actively pursuing all reasonable avenues for solving problems.
  • An ability to accept situations that cannot be changed.
  • A way to give unconditionally of one’s self.
  • Forgiveness of self and others.
  • The ability to let go of the past and the future and to live in the present.
  • A sense of perspective as to the importance of one’s self and life events.

Reference; Gerard J. Connors, Ph.D., Radka T. Toscova, Ph.D., &  J. Scott Tonigan, Ph.D. Integrating spirituality into treatment: Resources for practitioners. In W. R. Miller (Ed.), (pp. 235-250). Washington, DC: American Psychological Association


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