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Step One - Powerlessness- In Buddhist Terms

Michele Happe, MA, LADC Updated: Apr 13th 2011

Step one: I am powerless over alcohol and my life has become unmanageable.

2 glasses of alcoholI was asked by a MentalHelp reader to comment on the Buddhist interpretation of the 12 steps. When talking about powerlessness, the root cause is attachment. Attachment is a primary cause of suffering. Whatever we become attached to gives rise to powerlessness. If as addicts we did not have attachment we would not have an issue with addiction. The cause of the attachment is physical, mental and spiritual. All causes must be addressed and respected. Physical addiction is the easiest to detach from. All you have to do is abstain for a period of time and all physical causes will disappear. It is the psychological addiction that is the toughest to heal. This is attachment in the Buddhist sense.

Psychological attachment requires mindfulness and discipline to master. It arises as a craving. Rather that succumbing to the craving, identifying it and deciding what to do with it can reduce attachment. It goes something like this: I have a craving. I am attached to the idea of using my "drug" of choice. I do not want to use. I want to recover. This craving like all things is subject to impermanence. If I wait it will pass. The arising of my craving is Samsara- The eternal cycle of birth, suffering, death, and rebirth.

Unmanageability is Samsara. It arises as the ripening of karma from attachment. Unmanageability is the karmic result of attachment or powerlessness. It is simple cause and effect. It defines the suffering that arises from attachment. Being mindful of the consequences of addiction is helpful. The simple bumper sticker platitude is THINK.

The next installment will deal with Step 2: I came to believe that a power greater than myself can restore me to sanity. Until then,

Be well


Michele Happe, MA, LADCI am a licensed addictions therapist that specializes in addiction and codependency. I use Buddhist principles to aid in recovery and to help promote happiness. I also write and teach about these issues. I have a private practice in Minden, NV and Reno, NV and work nationally on the phone(775)230-1507 and through skype (mhappenow). My webpage is Join me on Facebook for lots of mini teachings.

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