What Recovering Alcoholics Can Teach Us About Managing Our Emotions

A few years ago a co-worker of mine was arrested for drunk driving.

Since it was his first offense, the judge was lenient, ordering him to complete community service hours and recommended he attend weekly A.A. meetings.

I can’t say I was totally surprised when I found out what happened. It had been circulating around the office for a while that he had a drinking problem but due to his position with the company nobody dared to ever say anything.

The morning after his court appearance he came to my office and broke down crying, telling me all he had been going through.

He asked me if I thought he should attend the A.A. meetings. I told him it wouldn’t hurt.

“I had a close friend who attended meetings for years and it totally transformed his life. He’s been sober for over 10 years.”

It took a little arm twisting but he eventually agreed to attend.

It wasn’t long before the effects of the A.A. meetings became apparent. He had a newfound gusto for life.

He would come by and talk to me everyday about his meetings and his latest sobriety token and the people he had met.

But what helped him the most was the spiritual infusion he was receiving by connecting with people just like him. People fending off the same monster.

He mentioned how the Serenity Prayer, a prayer spoken out loud during meetings and encouraged to recite during moments of vulnerability, helped him and many of his A.A. brothers and sisters control their urges and regain control of their emotional well-being.

“I feel empowered when I recite that prayer man!”


Even if you’ve never stepped foot in an A.A. meeting you’ve probably heard of the Serenity Prayer, or at least the first part of it. Here it is:

“God grant me the serenity
 to accept the things I cannot change;
 courage to change the things I can;
 and wisdom to know the difference.”

What is it about this prayer?

How has it been able to help countless people through the years overcome their addictions and take back control of their emotions?

Let’s unpack it a little to find out.

1. Plugging In

We live in a culture where individualism and independence is directly correlated with strength and success. Worn like a badge of honor.

“I got this. I don’t need any help. I can do this on my own.”

The fact is we can’t do it all on our own.

Spending a lifetime trying to do it all by ourselves without external or spiritual connectivity increases our chances of never being able to fully reach our highest contributing version.

We are more creative, more resilient, and more powerful when we’re plugged into our true Source.

This is the first step in reclaiming our emotional balance.

2. Accepting The Unchangeable

How often do you worry about things you can’t change? For me, all the time. But whatever the answer, the truth is most of us use up a large portion of our lives emotionally bound to problems, situations, and events that are totally out of our control.

We can’t change them no matter how hard we try.

It would be better to devote this time to things that fall within our scope of control. Things that really matter. Things we can do something about.

This might be the most challenging aspect of the Serenity Prayer because accepting the things we can’t change means surrendering our logic and putting our trust in a force outside of ourselves.

3. Courage

Taking back control of our emotions also means realizing that some things do need to change.

We aren’t perfect.

Each and every one of us have some sort of flaw, bad habit, or unhealthy pattern of thinking that is holding us back to some degree. It takes great courage to admit we need to change these deeply embedded parts of ourselves.

We can however, overcome our fears by constantly conducting internal inventories and asking ourselves real questions.

“Is my fear of change worth me living beneath my highest potential?”
“Don’t I owe it to myself and my loved ones to finally put my past in the past?”

As spiritual activist Marianne Williamson once said,

“It takes courage…to endure the sharp pains of self discovery rather than choosing to take the dull pain of unconsciousness that would last the rest of our lives.”

4. Higher Wisdom

I used to think wisdom was something that came with age and experience. But as the prayer states, wisdom is something granted to us.

It’s something that transcends our own limited understanding.

This lesson here is simple.

Living emotionally unrestrained requires surrendering our often faulty reasoning and shortsighted perception to a force beyond us.

Regularly seeking that Higher wisdom keeps us from losing focus on the things that matter.

This is how we live better, more emotionally stable lives.

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Originally published on personal blog.