This discussion topic about serenity is from one of our friends in recovery, JR. Thanks to JR for contributing to the group discussion and for the time he put into collecting his thoughts about recovery. If you’re interested in sharing a discussion topic, please reach out to me here.
Have you ever asked yourself, “So, what ARE the things I can/cannot change, and how DO I know the difference?” I know I have. A lot.
Of the many sayings Einstein is famous for, one quote that applies most often to my day job is this:
“Given one hour to save the world, I would spend 55 minutes defining the problem and 5 minutes finding the solution.”
I’m definitely not saving the world at my day job, but this formula has reminded me over and again that jumping into solving a problem at the first sliver of insight is basically guaranteed to result in failure – not only to solve the problem, but to even identify the right problem to solve.
This is so true for me in my sketchy history of attempted recovery and relapse. I can’t recall even a fraction of the “insights” I gained about what I’d been doing wrong in my recovery attempts, believing that now I’d found the missing ingredient that would ensure success, only to fail miserably hours, days, weeks, or months later. These insights weren’t necessarily wrong or misguided, but they were miserably incomplete and untethered to a commitment to recovery-focused living. I was jumping into recovery attempts without first having identified and accepted the real problem … me.
But even when I started to accept that I was the problem—not other people, not porn, masturbation, lust, resentment, etc.—I had no concept of what it would really take to fix me, or if that was even possible.
Working the 12 Steps with my SA Lifeline brothers has been the key to unlocking the principles and behaviors required for recovery. Applying those principles is where I stumble and fall constantly, and I have often felt defeated and depressed by my snail’s pace in recovery behaviors. “Serenity now!”
What does serenity look like for me?
I’m still figuring that out, but it definitely starts with what Einstein said about solving problems. If I am the problem, then I need to know a whole lot more about me—the REAL me—before I can effectively solve for the problem of me. This doesn’t mean that I sit idly by waiting for this knowledge to distill before I work recovery. I work the steps every day. I do what I know is already within my ability to do, no matter how poor my performance is at times.
Part of what that has looked like recently is studying more about the mind-body connection in addiction, trauma, and different personality disorders. I’m learning about how the brain works both for and against my recovery efforts; how trauma and addiction are stored in the body and not just the brain; how practices like meditation, yoga, and martial arts help to rewire the brain; how treatments like EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) therapy is more effective than traditional talk therapy and medication combined; and how I can affect change on the autonomic body systems and processes that keep me unintentionally stuck in addiction.
Said another way, I’m trying to slow down and take the time I need to learn about the things I can change, which in turn helps me know more about what I can’t change and accept them.