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New Year’s resolutions are typical of good intentions in that they can be deflating in practice. How many times do we have the same resolution every year? How many years go by before we actually accomplish what we resolved to do? By now, most of us have already given up on our “typical” New Year’s resolutions. As Daniel Wallen wrote:

“Only 12% of you will ever experience the taste of victory. Sound bad? It is. 156 million people (that’s 156,000,000) will probably give up on their resolution before you can say ‘confetti’.” 

Those of you who are living up to your resolutions, stay strong! But for the fallible among us, perhaps some definitions may be helpful in achieving our unfulfilled goals.

The word resolution, which means “A firm decision to do or not to do something,” comes from the Latin word resolvere, “to loosen or release,” and resolutio plus the English word “resolve” meaning, “A firm determination to do something.”

If you take a look closely, you can see there is a subtle difference in their meanings. Resolution is a decision and resolve is determination. A decision is defined as “a conclusion or resolution reached after consideration.”  However, determination is a little more concrete, meaning “the process of establishing something exactly by calculation or research.” One requires a thought, the other requires action. 

Recovery requires a whole lot of both.

However, this time of resolution is also a moment for us to remember that our struggle with substance use disorder is not a matter of mere willpower. As alcoholics and addicts, we suffer from a chronic brain disease. Regardless of stereotypes to the contrary, this fact means we are not weak, feeble-minded, or unethical, but sick.

We have to receive treatment for our disease in order to survive our affliction, not unlike how cancer patients undergo chemotherapy. In treatment, we learn this disease is not our fault or a matter of self-control. Chemicals have activated our genes and rewired our brains. Willpower may help to motivate our recovery, but it is not enough.

If we are lucky, we come to a point in our lives where we want to quit using. We erase numbers from our phone, start going to meetings, promise to never drink or use again. But our disease is merely in remission. The disease fights our attempts to treat it. Without the use of proper tools to maintain our recovery, many of us relapse and turn back to our old behaviors, no matter how much willpower, strength or determination we have. This is the disease retaliating against the “cure.”

In recovery from addiction, we come to understand we have a “daily reprieve.” Every day our freedom from addictive thinking and behaviors are contingent on the upkeep of our spiritual, emotional, mental and physical health. New, healing habits replace the self-destructive ones dictated by our disease. One of those habits is working the 12 Steps.

The 12 Steps were created by Alcoholic Anonymous as a tool to help those of us who struggle with addiction come to terms with our disease. The 12 Steps also help guide us into action. The Big Book describes willingness to act as “absolutely necessary.” Step 3 is a perfect example of how we can demonstrate that willingness. It may seem contradictory, but when we “surrender” our will and accept we cannot stay clean and sober on our own, we will find the “will” to recover.

Surrendering is our choice. We admit we are powerless and in need of a Higher Power, whether it be God, the universe, etc., to restore us to “sanity”: “We made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him . . . ” (AA Big Book ch 5, pg. 59).

By working Steps 4-12, we are also working Step 3. Action comes in to play when you work Steps 4-12 thoroughly. This goes back to the “daily reprieve” idea. We MUST work these steps every day, in every aspect of our lives, or we will fail.

It helps to engage with the recovery community. A support network not only teaches us a new way of living, it bolsters those lessons. We must be open-minded to take the correct steps into action, following the guidance of our sponsor or another recovering alcoholic/addict who is putting their recovery first. They have gone before us, and blazed a trail for us to follow. However, the decision to begin — or to resume — our course along the path of recovery is ours. Then we just need to heal, one step at a time, one day at a time.

Happy New Year!

“I think in terms of the day’s resolutions, not the years.”

Henry Moore

 Matt’s Story

Any college I wanted to go to, free of charge? Or the lifestyle of drugs and alcohol? I chose the latter. Despite the praise, fame and joy that athletics provided me, the way using made me feel took “center stage”.  After years of going back and forth, I was arrested for some serious drug charges, faced with a decision of jail or a treatment center. I remember sitting in that court room at 22 years old wondering if I should go to treatment or just do the jail time. I gave recovery a chance and it was the best decision I made in my life thus far.  Life took on new meaning, I finally had new friendships, a new purpose, and so much more. I thought I had found my answer. By six and a half years sober, I had achieved every goal I could have ever imagined, plus some. I was married to my dream girl, we had our first daughter, I owned my own home, I was making more money than I ever had before. I was without a care.  Then these “gifts” I received became more important than my own recovery. After my second beautiful daughter was born, I slowly stopped going to meetings, calling my sponsor, answering the calls from numerous sponsees and overall stopped recovering. I believe when you stop recovering you end up going backwards.

To make matters worse, I hurt my back at work and was put on opiates for the pain. One thing led to another and I picked up a drink again. I thought I already hit rock bottom but I had no idea what was coming. I lost my father to cancer March 2016, went to rehab in April, then 12 days after discharge I was diagnosed with cancer.  I was then faced with making the ego-deflating and humbling decision to go back to the program as a newcomer or the easier and softer way, continue using – like any good alcoholic or addict. I chose the easier softer way. Six months later, I met “the one”, and she stuck the very first needle in my arm. That needle and the bottle became my solution and my life.  I loved my daughters and missed them so bad, but they became an afterthought if they got in the way of my using.  Getting my “solution” everyday became a struggle as I was waiting for a large inheritance from my father’s passing. I ended up receiving that money and by 18 months, all of it went towards putting substances in my body to feed my addiction. I did many things I’m not proud and my life had officially hit rock bottom. 

My wife left me, the courts decided I can only see my daughters, the “loves of my life”, on 8 major holidays throughout the entire year. I was so full of guilt and shame I just wanted to end my life. No more dope, crack and alcohol, I was sick and desperate. I saw one of those commercials on TV that said, “…have drugs and alcohol ruined your life…” I couldn’t imagine how my life could get any worse. I remembered my Mom getting a call from a former patient at Serenity Acres and so I thought I would give it another shot. I emailed SA that night and the next morning they called me and got me in there fast. From the second I saw the first few employees, I knew this place was different. I felt the acceptance and willingness at Serenity Acres more than the times spent in the other 8 treatment centers. And while I love to boast about SA, I’ve come to determine that the difference was in me. I was “sick and tired of being sick and tired”. I wanted the life I had when I first got sober, but this time with the “gifts” they talked about in treatment and Recovery.

While at Serenity Acres, I got really honest and willing to do the work this time. The progress I made there allowed me to see my daughters again. I once again developed real friendships, was relieved of that guilt and shame from my past. I discovered self-love, so in turn I could learn to love others. After SA, I found that my addiction had done major damage to my body. Now, almost 4 months sober I’m fighting Pancreatitis, High Blood Pressure from Kidney Disease, Fatty Liver with borderline Cirrhosis, a deteriorated esophagus from the liquor, and most scary, they found “a spot” on my spleen. Here, I sit in the hospital being poked, prodded, scanned, and who knows what else. However, the important thing is I am sober, strong, humbled and content. In a few days I’m having another procedure, despite the outcome I can honestly say I am full of gratitude and acceptance. Life is better sober, regardless of life’s terms. I have the best chance of defeating the challenges in my life, and being the best son, brother, dad, uncle, friend and member of society when I choose Recovery as my “solution”. Thank you Serenity Acres Treatment Center for helping “light the fire in me” that I once felt before.

– Matt

 Alumni Milestones

Congratulations to some of our Alumni in celebrating their clean time. Thank you for giving hope to those who are still suffering!

  • Artur P – 1 month
  • Tom W – 2 months
  • Nick S – 2 months 
  • Braeden M – 3 months
  • Steve M – 3 months
  • Matt E – 3 months
  • Chris N – 3 months
  • Bobby B – 3 months
  • Kim T – 3 months
  • Wayne B – 3 months
  • Michael L – 3 months
  • Alicia R – 4 months
  • Life R – 5 months
  • Derrick A – 6 months
  • Amy E – 6 months
  • Phil P – 7 months
  • Danielle S – 7 months
  • Christy V – 7 months
  • Brett S – 9 months
  • Alexi D – 9 months
  • Amanda O – 11 months
  • Rebecca M – 1 year
  • David B – 1 year
  • Cade S – 1 year

A Look Back at 2018

We’ve had an incredible year as an Alumni community. We launched our first ever Serenity Acres Treatment Alumni Program in January, 2018. Since then we have grown to over 361 members on our app, 3 speaker events with our staff members (Dwayne, Mitch and Ann), our 1st Howard County Home Run for Recovery Softball Tournament, Jeremy’s Run (overdose awareness), a trip to Kings Dominion, our 1st Annual Family BBQ at Sandy Point State Park, and ending the year with our 1st Annual Ugly Sweater Christmas Party. I am honored and blessed to get to know each and every one of you. They say it’s not really ‘work’ when you love what you do. I am looking forward to seeing everyone thrive in this next chapter. Here’s to 2019!

Below are a few pictures from our Ugly Sweater Christmas Party:


Serenity Acres Mobile App

Our program now has its very own Alumni App! We have had a great number of alumni sign up already, with many of them sharing their milestone (length of clean time). It is also a perfect opportunity to reach out if you are in need of support and encouragement. The setup is similar to Facebook and Instagram, where you can comment and “like” posts from other members. You can download the app on your smartphone from either the iTunes store or the Play store, depending on what type of smartphone you have. You can also access the site from the internet on your laptop/computer via the Serenity website. It is a private app, strictly for Serenity Acres alumni.



Upcoming Events

  • Weekly Alumni 12-Step meetings every Sunday, 6:30-7:30pm at the St. Stephens Episcopal Church (1110 St Stephens Church Road, Crownsville, MD 21032
  • February 8th – Galaxy Bowling Night (TBD)
  • February 10th 6:30-8:30pm –  Serenity Alumni Recovery Support Event (S.A.R.S.E.) with one of our counselor’s – Debbie as our guest speaker. (More details to come – this takes the place of the Alumni Meeting that night.)