“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.”
This was the prayer that I recited each week for one year in a little metal building with the letters AA discretely stamped on the door.
I was nine years old when my mom, stepdad, and I began attending the meetings after my stepdad drove his vehicle into a tractor dealership one night on his way home from a bar. He almost died that night, and the wake-up call gave him a wrestling desire for sobriety.
Each week for a year, we met together with other self-identified addicts and their families. It was a place where wounded men, women, and children stood in front of one another and told the truth about their lives. I had never seen people speak so honestly.
That year, I watched as big burly men wept and told the hard stories that led them to use a substance to numb their pain. I listened to weary women confess all the ways they had lied to cover up the failings of the addict they loved. And I related to kids anxiously telling the truth about their fears and risking to hope that this time their family members would stop drinking for good.
Everyone in that little metal building was well acquainted with pain and knew what it was like to feel out of control. We were all scared, and yet we were all brave and honest, holding out hope that there was a better way.
There were three rooms in that little metal building, one for the addicts, one for the adult family members of the addict, and one for the kids. Each room had a copy of the Serenity Prayer in a frame on the wall. Even the prayer seemed brave and honest to me. Over the weeks, reading that prayer ignited a hope in me for internal peace and healthy empowerment that continues to this day.
My stepdad’s sobriety only endured for a year; then, my family stopped going to the meetings. I was back facing familiar uncertainty, but this time it felt different.
The community I experienced and the hope of redemption I witnessed made it a little more bearable.
The meetings taught me I wasn’t the only one walking this path and that someone could help me when I was old enough to get the care I needed.
Thirty years later, I am profoundly thankful for that year and the room of truth-tellers that I met. The experience impacted my life in profound ways. I continue to ask God to grant me peace in times I can’t control, the courage to change the things I can control, and for His help to know the difference; but the prayer I most fervently pray is that He would help me to be brave and honest with myself about myself, just the way I saw modeled way back then.
Heather Medley is a woman who is learning to be present and kind to herself and to the people she loves. She is drawn to engage her world with hope of restoration and redemption and gets to do this professionally as a therapist. She loves deep conversations over hot beverages, neuroscience research papers, and bargain shopping. Heather, her anchoring husband, and two delightful kiddos reside in the Northwest Georgia Mountains