GOD GRANT ME SERENITY,
TO ACCEPT THE THINGS I CANNOT CHANGE,
COURAGE TO CHANGE THE THINGS I CAN
THE WISDOM TO KNOW THE DIFFERENCE
As smokers trying to stop smoking, we cannot change the craving for cigarettes, but even if we can’t change the craving, we can accept it. The truth is that until we can accept our craving for cigarettes, we will not stop smoking. Lighting another cigarette is what we do if we decide we cannot accept the craving!
It’s that simple: If you want a cigarette and you will not accept the craving, then you will surely light a cigarette. Or maybe you will have “one puff” to get you through, but even one puff is “not accepting” the things that you cannot change.
Accepting the craving does not mean we want the craving or like it. Accepting it means, first, recognizing the craving for what it is: a strong desire, physical or psychological, not a need, for a cigarette. That’s all. We do not fight this craving; rather we look at it, letting it be, not getting panic-stricken or feeling sorry for ourselves, but saying, “Yes, I really am craving a cigarette right now.”
We do not practice self-deception and try to trick ourselves into thinking we don’t want to smoke. This is an honest program. Nor do we try to hate the habit (or ourselves) so much that we quit. No, we cannot make ourselves stop smoking, but we can live with the craving, and so we pray for…
The courage to change the things I can…
The thing that we can change is our unwillingness to live, even for a short time, with the craving for the next cigarette. We can, with God’s help and the support of the group, change our old way of dealing with craving, and we deal with it in a new way: We become willing to live with the craving; we no longer light a cigarette to get rid of the pain of craving. Our lighting up shows that we have not accepted what we cannot change and have not acted with the courage to change the things we can. Of course, living with a craving is hard, sometimes very hard, but you are not alone-with God’s help you can do it. That is what this Serenity Prayer is all about.
So we ask God to help us accept the craving, and then we ask God to give us the courage not to take care of this craving–as we have always done–by smoking one more cigarette. Thus, we need the strength to accept the craving, and the courage not to light up…
And the wisdom to know the difference…
The wisdom we ask for here is to become aware of the difference between our old way of handling the discomfort of craving in the past (by compulsively lighting up) and the new way of dealing with cravings: accepting the craving until it passes, uncomfortable though we may be for a few moments.
The strength and courage to live as ex-smokers with this discomfort do come if we ask for it, even though it may take time. What we receive is not raw will power, but Power that comes from God, from the group, and from our inner-most self The power that we want is actually to love! It is only with this kind of power that we can become ex-smokers and receive a new life free from nicotine addiction.
The reason we did not become ex-smokers years ago is that we chose not to live with the craving. Every time we craved a cigarette, we gave in and smoked it. And kept on hoping that in some magic way a day would arrive when the craving would disappear or we would find an absolutely painless way to stop smoking. That day never came. Each of us kept using our favorite rationalizations or excuses for lighting up, our own justification for not living with the craving. And we kept on craving and smoking, craving and smoking, year after year. But now we can change all that: The moment we can accept what is — “I want to smoke” — and face it with the courage God gives us, we can say, “I choose not to handle this craving by smoking a cigarette” then we become ex-smokers!
If you continue to smoke even though you say this prayer, then say it again, and again, and keep on saying it while you reflect what it means to you, a smoker. Eventually, it will work. It will not work if you are not sincere, but if all you can do at first is to say the prayer without believing it, then at least do that! Some time may be needed for you to receive the power to live with the discomfort that comes from craving without lighting up, but eventually, it will come. In time, the craving will diminish greatly, and someday, we trust. it will disappear altogether. If you have a slip, however, and you light one up, accept yourself reverently and say the prayer again the next time!
Remember, it really is not the stress, frustration or even the craving that causes us to have another cigarette, but rather our lack of strength to deal with the craving. That strength comes from God, from the group, and from your own healthy inner self! May God be with you now! – J.S.
Hannah Whitall Smith