The Road to Recovery: Things You Can Change, Things You Cannot

Reviewed May 12, 2017

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Summary

  • Let go of things you cannot change.
  • Much of life is out of control.

For every ailment under the sun
There is a remedy, or there is none;
If there be one, try to find it;
If there be none, never mind it.

—William W. Bartley, Stanford University

At times life is just plain hard and full of surprises and disappointments. There is something about us that expects life to be fair and for the most part, good. Yet bad things do happen to good people. When they do, it creates worry, and worry can create the false idea that we should take more control over life. When these efforts fail, we feel more out of control.

Letting go of things we cannot change

When a loved one gets sick there are certain things you can do to help, some things can make the situation worse and others don’t make any difference at all. The outcome of an illness is not up to you. This is especially true when dealing with addiction or mental illness. We tell families, “You didn’t cause it, and you can’t cure it.” Yet loved ones often feel that if their spouse or child develops an addiction or mental illness, it is their fault. As a result, they try to change things they cannot change. In other words they become overly involved and controlling. This is primarily caused by fear of losing their loved one. It is exhausting. Some refer to this thinking and behavior as codependent.

The main problem of trying to change things that you cannot control is this. When things go bad, you feel responsible. For example, when a teen with depression has a bad day, his mother may feel that it is her fault. The fact is everyone has bad days. Teens who have depression have them more often but that is the nature of the disease. No one can control that any more than the symptoms of cancer. But you can ask if there is anything you can do to help. We must learn to let go of what we cannot change and focus on what we can.

Much of life is out of control

Twelve-step programs like Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) remind their members that much of life is out of control but getting drunk is never the answer. “Let go, let God” they say. When bad things happen, change what you can, but recognize the things you cannot change. This philosophy is summed up nicely in the Serenity Prayer, which is said at every AA meeting: “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.”

It is common to second guess and blame ourselves when a child has depression or a spouse develops an addiction. Keep in mind that mental illnesses and addictions are caused by numerous and largely unknown factors. Blaming yourself or trying to control symptoms or the outcome will not change a thing, and may even make matters worse. The best way to help is to stay in the present, ask how you can help and pray for their recovery. Let them know how much you love them and take it one day at a time. Then let tomorrow take care of itself.

By Drew Edwards, EdD, MS
Reviewed by Trenda Hedges, BS, CRSS, Recovery Team Manager, Beacon Health Options

Summary

  • Let go of things you cannot change.
  • Much of life is out of control.

For every ailment under the sun
There is a remedy, or there is none;
If there be one, try to find it;
If there be none, never mind it.

—William W. Bartley, Stanford University

At times life is just plain hard and full of surprises and disappointments. There is something about us that expects life to be fair and for the most part, good. Yet bad things do happen to good people. When they do, it creates worry, and worry can create the false idea that we should take more control over life. When these efforts fail, we feel more out of control.

Letting go of things we cannot change

When a loved one gets sick there are certain things you can do to help, some things can make the situation worse and others don’t make any difference at all. The outcome of an illness is not up to you. This is especially true when dealing with addiction or mental illness. We tell families, “You didn’t cause it, and you can’t cure it.” Yet loved ones often feel that if their spouse or child develops an addiction or mental illness, it is their fault. As a result, they try to change things they cannot change. In other words they become overly involved and controlling. This is primarily caused by fear of losing their loved one. It is exhausting. Some refer to this thinking and behavior as codependent.

The main problem of trying to change things that you cannot control is this. When things go bad, you feel responsible. For example, when a teen with depression has a bad day, his mother may feel that it is her fault. The fact is everyone has bad days. Teens who have depression have them more often but that is the nature of the disease. No one can control that any more than the symptoms of cancer. But you can ask if there is anything you can do to help. We must learn to let go of what we cannot change and focus on what we can.

Much of life is out of control

Twelve-step programs like Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) remind their members that much of life is out of control but getting drunk is never the answer. “Let go, let God” they say. When bad things happen, change what you can, but recognize the things you cannot change. This philosophy is summed up nicely in the Serenity Prayer, which is said at every AA meeting: “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.”

It is common to second guess and blame ourselves when a child has depression or a spouse develops an addiction. Keep in mind that mental illnesses and addictions are caused by numerous and largely unknown factors. Blaming yourself or trying to control symptoms or the outcome will not change a thing, and may even make matters worse. The best way to help is to stay in the present, ask how you can help and pray for their recovery. Let them know how much you love them and take it one day at a time. Then let tomorrow take care of itself.

By Drew Edwards, EdD, MS
Reviewed by Trenda Hedges, BS, CRSS, Recovery Team Manager, Beacon Health Options

Summary

  • Let go of things you cannot change.
  • Much of life is out of control.

For every ailment under the sun
There is a remedy, or there is none;
If there be one, try to find it;
If there be none, never mind it.

—William W. Bartley, Stanford University

At times life is just plain hard and full of surprises and disappointments. There is something about us that expects life to be fair and for the most part, good. Yet bad things do happen to good people. When they do, it creates worry, and worry can create the false idea that we should take more control over life. When these efforts fail, we feel more out of control.

Letting go of things we cannot change

When a loved one gets sick there are certain things you can do to help, some things can make the situation worse and others don’t make any difference at all. The outcome of an illness is not up to you. This is especially true when dealing with addiction or mental illness. We tell families, “You didn’t cause it, and you can’t cure it.” Yet loved ones often feel that if their spouse or child develops an addiction or mental illness, it is their fault. As a result, they try to change things they cannot change. In other words they become overly involved and controlling. This is primarily caused by fear of losing their loved one. It is exhausting. Some refer to this thinking and behavior as codependent.

The main problem of trying to change things that you cannot control is this. When things go bad, you feel responsible. For example, when a teen with depression has a bad day, his mother may feel that it is her fault. The fact is everyone has bad days. Teens who have depression have them more often but that is the nature of the disease. No one can control that any more than the symptoms of cancer. But you can ask if there is anything you can do to help. We must learn to let go of what we cannot change and focus on what we can.

Much of life is out of control

Twelve-step programs like Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) remind their members that much of life is out of control but getting drunk is never the answer. “Let go, let God” they say. When bad things happen, change what you can, but recognize the things you cannot change. This philosophy is summed up nicely in the Serenity Prayer, which is said at every AA meeting: “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.”

It is common to second guess and blame ourselves when a child has depression or a spouse develops an addiction. Keep in mind that mental illnesses and addictions are caused by numerous and largely unknown factors. Blaming yourself or trying to control symptoms or the outcome will not change a thing, and may even make matters worse. The best way to help is to stay in the present, ask how you can help and pray for their recovery. Let them know how much you love them and take it one day at a time. Then let tomorrow take care of itself.

By Drew Edwards, EdD, MS
Reviewed by Trenda Hedges, BS, CRSS, Recovery Team Manager, Beacon Health Options

The information provided on the Achieve Solutions site, including, but not limited to, articles, quizzes, and other general information, is for informational purposes only and should not be treated as medical, health care, psychiatric, psychological or behavioral health care advice. Nothing contained on the Achieve Solutions site is intended to be used for medical diagnosis or treatment or as a substitute for consultation with a qualified health care professional. Please direct questions regarding the operation of the Achieve Solutions site to Web Feedback. If you have concerns about your health, please contact your health care provider.  ©2017 Beacon Health Options, Inc.

 

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