What I Learned From An Addict About Building A Meaningful Life

I’ve always had so much admiration for people who were doing what I perceived as amazing things with their lives.

I had one friend who was a mother of four and also a marathoner, and I thought she was so kick-ass. I wanted to be like her someday. Another friend of mine was a woman of what seemed like a dozen talents. She was a baker, a florist, a vocalist, a friend to what seemed like hundreds and was always hosting dozens of people at her house for elaborate meals.

meaningful-life

Photo Credit: player_pleasure, Creative Commons

Then there was my friend who wrote a book (something I had always wanted to do) and it turned out to be a really good book—good enough he could support himself with his writing alone.

In a way, I wanted to be like these friends, but I  also wasn’t sure that was possible.

Where did they come up with the strength and the talent to do the things they did? Where did they find the energy? I was just an average single girl with a simple 9-5 job and sometimes my life felt exhausting.

I couldn’t imagine what it would be like to add a bunch of books or marathons or children to it.

Then, I heard the serenity prayer.

Actually, I’m sure I had probably heard this prayer before, but until recently, I don’t know that I was paying much attention.

But now that I live in Nashville, every Wednesday morning I’m here, I make it a point to visit a place called Thistle Farms; a non-profit and social enterprise that employs women who have come out of addiction or prostitution. The women spend two years in The Magdeline House, getting clean from their addictions and getting their lives back on track.

Then, they can build their skills and earn a living making all natural soaps, candles and body products.

Members of the community who want to visit or volunteer are invited to their morning meditation on Wednesdays, after which, they always recite the serenity prayer. You may know the prayer: “God, give me the grace to accept the things that cannot be changed, the courage to change the things that can, and the wisdom to know the difference…”

They always end the prayer with this line: “Just for today…”

The idea is this: When it comes to creating a life of meaning, weather that means overcoming addiction, learning a new skill, growing a family, turning a relationship around, building character, finishing a project or something else entirely—it does take a ton of strength.

It takes more than we can probably muster or fathom.

But the prayer doesn’t ask for all the strength, all at once, to accomplish the task. The prayer only asks for enough strength to get through today.

And I thought that was really powerful.

In fact, it helped me to see how I wasn’t any different than my friends who I perceived as so awesomely successful. I could run a marathon if I wanted to. So I did. I had no idea what I was doing, but I printed a schedule off the internet, and just started running—one day at a time.

I could write a book, I realized. So I did.

It wasn’t as good as my friend’s book, but that’s okay. I didn’t need it to be. I just needed it to be the best book I had ever written, and the first of many more to come. I didn’t need all the strength in the world to do it. I just needed enough strength to get up early one morning, and start writing.

I’m not sure what a meaningful life looks like for you.

But whatever it is, don’t get stuck thinking you don’t have the strength to do it. Don’t get caught looking at the people around you, assuming they are stronger or more talented than you.

They aren’t. The only difference between them and you is they took the first step.

They focused on the strength they needed just for that day, and got started.

There is no reason to feel inadequate or overwhelmed. Focus on what I learned from the women at Thistle Farms (who are living some of the most meaningful lives I’ve ever seen).

God, give me strength: Just for today…

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Comments

  1. says

    Beautiful Ally, I heard about Thistle Farms for the first time at Storyline in October. So very cool. AND nothing beats one day at a time living. Several years into recovery, I learned that there were more lines to the Serenity Prayer. I like the whole thing…

    God, give me grace to accept with serenity
    the things that cannot be changed,
    Courage to change the things
    which should be changed,
    and the Wisdom to distinguish
    the one from the other.
    Living one day at a time,
    Enjoying one moment at a time,
    Accepting hardship as a pathway to peace,
    Taking, as Jesus did,
    This sinful world as it is,
    Not as I would have it,
    Trusting that You will make all things right,
    If I surrender to Your will,
    So that I may be reasonably happy in this life,
    And supremely happy with You forever in the next.

  2. Marilyn Newell says

    I love this. And for the record, your book freaking changed my life and is significantly shaping my choices and faith as a 22-year-old in transition. Thank you :)

  3. says

    Hi Allison,

    That’s a great idea! I shall recite the serenity prayer everyday from now on.. And add just for today.

    By the way, I got your book “Packing Light” from story cartel and downloaded your book “the chase”. I love them! Keep on inspiring people.

    God Bless you even more!

    Divine

  4. Amanda J says

    Allison- I share your articles nearly daily. Yet again, I want to say- EVERYONE needs to read this. To my core, this impacted me, was exactly what I needed to hear, read, see, and know. Thank you for your boldness and vulnerability, God uses you in amazing ways.

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