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“Grant me the serenity, to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference.”

I cannot change other people, situations, or the fact that I am an alcoholic. But I can change the way in which I respond to these things. My attitudes. My behaviour. My decisions. My actions. I can choose to “employ common sense thinking instead of reacting emotionally” (Norman Vincent Peale), as my emotional response is simply my ego’s demands: what I want and how I think the world ‘should’ be. If I allow this kind of thinking to govern me I will be perpetually disgruntled.

Signposts for being a slave to my emotions can be indulging in resentments instead of recoiling from them, ditching my commitments because I become emotionally disturbed, or thinking about what I can get rather than what I can give. If I am to experience anything like long-term serenity I must abandon my old thinking that emotions are my guide and that the management of my emotional state is my primary purpose. This doesn’t work and I have several long, painful years of evidence for this.

What I have learned is that almost anything worthwhile will involve some degree of short-term discomfort. A life based on short-term comfort (immediate relief / self-indulgence) will invariably lead to long-term discomfort ( pain, regret, depression, guilt). Emotional comfort therefore cannot be by aim, as I will surely drink to achieve this.

Instead I allow my actions and decisions to be guided by a set of principles designed to look after my long-term emotional health far, far better than I can! (even if the application of them is difficult and feels counterintuitive). Essentially, I try to suit up and boot up, regardless of how I feel about it.

• Try to be of service always, even if it feels like an inconvenience
• Pause when agitated
• Shut my mouth when I want to argue
• Forgive instead of resent
• Ask for help, guidance and strength (from my sponsor, higher power and fellows) – remain teachable and know I don’t have all the answers

When I inevitably falter, I try to remind myself that no life run on self-will is going to be a success.