“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.”
I think most of us are familiar with those words. It is the serenity prayer used by Alcoholics Anonymous.
As someone who has had chronic pain for over 30 years and only recently stopped writing “disabled – at present” when I had to fill in my occupation on forms, I have tremendous difficulty in accepting what I cannot change, at least when it comes to my pain.
I have fought for most of these 30+ years to change the pain. Sometimes I have been successful, other times not, sometimes overwhelmingly not.
I am not sure when courage becomes desperation. Just as an alcoholic hits bottom and says “no more” — we have to learn to say “I accept that pain is a part of my life and it is time to live with that knowledge, to make the changes I need to in order to accommodate the pain.”
Unlike alcoholics who cannot drink again, we cannot swear off trying to stop the pain. It is a bargain, accepting the reality, but also knowing and hoping that medicine makes strides every day. What is not fixable now may at least be helped or stopped sometime down the road. Relying on hope makes the present that much harder to live with, makes the acceptance that much more challenging.
Support groups help. Whether online, in person, or both it is good to be where we know we are not alone, that others know and intimately understand our struggle. A place where we are free to share our fears and struggles, to vent and to know someone will hear us. To know they are the same as us. It is a validation that too many of us do not get elsewhere.
There is actually a group called Chronic Pain Anonymous. Should we be embarrassed or shamed because we have chronic pain? The idea of a support group that invites the comparison of chronic pain to alcoholism takes the analogy way over the line.
At some point, we do need to look at how we live. Alcoholics talk about the alcohol taking over their lives, how they are powerless against it. Taking back their lives means taking back the power.
When the issue is pain and the power it has over us, we need to make a choice, one that may be just as wrenching and as difficult as the decision to stop drinking is for an alcoholic.
We have to say, to feel it deep within ourselves, for me to feel it deep within myself, that I have given the pain authority over me. We need to affirm it is time to take back that power, to let the pain be a part of us but not the overriding part.
Let us announce, as of this moment. Pain, you are not in control of me. I am in control of you.