“The first step toward change is awareness. The second step is acceptance.” –Nathaniel Branden

The serenity prayer is often used in recovery work; it’s simple, profound, and sometimes elusive. Let’s explore an example of it today.

In some relationships in my life I wanted the relationship much more than they did. In others, what I wanted was not aligned with what they wanted. Others were even toxic. My codependency and other dysfunctional behaviors kept me from being aware. This resulted in not seeing the truth in relationships so that I could have the opportunity to move into the first part of the serenity prayer: “acceptance of the things I couldn’t change.”

Instead, I tried to change the relationships by giving more of my self, working harder, and sacrificing myself in attempts to have my love reciprocated. Truth: we can’t make others be loving, or love us (or to the extent we desire). It’s only after much healing – and lots of painful relapsing in relationships – before I was *aware* that I was not accepting things “as they were.” Instead, I was believing in what I hoped they would be which only caused suffering. I got this image of me pulling others around like a puppy on a leash saying, “Come on, come on—love me.” I wasn’t conscious that I was doing this. It came from a really deeply wounded part of me that was attempting to get love and connection. I had no idea how much I needed to love and connect to my self.

The need for love and connection is intense, so it’s easy to trick ourselves and not see the reality of situations. I hope you’ll step back and give yourself compassion for painful relationship missteps and/or not loving your self. It’s how we learn, discover our own self empowerment, and gain wisdom.

It amazes me how miserable we have to get at times to see the truth and then choose to do something about it by moving to the next part of the prayer, “courage to change the things we can.” Courage is needed to accept the truth of “what is,” set boundaries, “change the rules” in the relationship and/or to “let go” in the most loving way possible. It doesn’t always mean the end of a relationship, but sometimes requires it; there will be, at minimum, changes to it. And, when I first became aware in my life that I didn’t know how to love and connect to my self – I also needed huge doses of courage in order to learn how to. Maybe that resonates for you as well.

The great news is that there’s beauty in it all. Relationships end, or change form for many reasons, but the love shared is never lost! As for me, I will never regret loving. I would rather go through life loving and making mistakes, than to have a hard, bitter or closed heart—what about you?

More great news: in filling up our own “love tanks” by loving ourselves and healing, it keeps us from extracting it from others. Especially those we might metaphorically be pulling around like a puppy on a leash to love us. If we don’t do this filling up, we inadvertently keep suffering in circulation.

The last part of the prayer is the “wisdom to know the difference.” The wisdom comes from the inner healing of recovery work. Healing from some of the most painful things in my life has resulted in pieces of wisdom. It hasn’t come easily or quickly and it’s an ongoing journey – but the gifts of wisdom are loving, truly transformative, and utterly priceless.

Cheri Thomas

Cheri works as a Peer Support Specialist for RI in Arizona. She has experienced loss and grief which has led her to write for the masses to bring voice to those in similar situations. Cheri possesses a deep passion to share with, encourage, and inspire others on what she calls the Journey of the Heart.