Harm Reduction


I’m grateful to Harm Reductionists for introducing me to the concept of “stability”. Harm Reductionists suggest that stable drug use is better than chaotic drug use and that any changes in the direction of stability are worth acknowledging and celebrating.

 Though I chose a path of abstinence years ago, I recently started to consider stability in my own life. What am I finding stressful and what could I do to make things better? Who or what things throw me off balance? What choices would add to my stability? I’ve also begun to use the concept of stability in my coaching practice with clients recovering from addiction. I ask, “What can you do that would increase the stability in your life?” I’ve begun to see stability as a guiding light.

 When I joined a 12-step program years ago I was introduced to the Serenity Prayer. The prayer was useful to me—I could understand the advantage of accepting things I cannot change and having the courage to change the things I can—but serenity itself never appealed to me. I really didn’t understand what serenity was, or why I should want it. Serenity seemed rather like complacency and that sounded dangerous or boring. I’m quite sure that if I had been introduced to the Stability Prayer when I quit drinking it would have been a much better prayer for me. Maybe because I was a child of chaos.

I grew up with neglect and trauma and I knew what chaos was. When I left home I eventually figured out that drinking and drugging added to the chaos in my life. I knew that drinking too much led to having sex with men I didn’t know, which added to shame, which added to misery. I knew that having a boyfriend who spent the rent money on drugs resulted in chaos. I knew that having a boyfriend who tried to kill me was more chaos and misery.

 I still remember when my best friend asked me if I would help her raise her son. I told her that we both drank too much and were too fucked up to raise a child. She turned her boy over to her parents, which was the better choice though she hated it. And I hated it too.

 It was my growing dislike of chaos that eventually got me to stop drinking and drugging. I didn’t quit when things were at their worst. I quit when I had a good opportunity to improve my life and was afraid my drinking/drugging would ruin it. 12-step recovery did a lot to help me stabilize. I worked all the steps and learned the Serenity Prayer.

Yet I think a Stability Prayer would have been way more practical for me to orient around. As it was I floundered in recovery for many years. It took me a good ten years to learn how to be a functioning self-supporting adult. It might not have taken so long if I had set my sights on stability. These days, I say the Stability Prayer while others are reciting the Serenity Prayer. Just one word is different, and yet for me that one word keeps me heading in the direction of positive change. Here it is. Try it—you might like it.


God, grant me the stability

 to accept the things I cannot change,

courage to change the things I can,

and the wisdom to know the difference.