When I first entered the twelve-step community, I learned I was powerless over drugs and alcohol. As it was the first step I took, I learned it quickly. Looking back on my using career, I saw the powerlessness in every aspect of my life. My work suffered, I dropped out of school, I burnt bridges with family and friends, and blamed my problems on everything and everyone except myself and my using.
Over time, twelve-step programs and Buddhism both have helped me see that I am powerless over much more than alcohol and drugs. I wish sometimes that other people would act in a certain way or that situations would go as I want. In reality, I am powerless over everyone and everything but myself. I even am not able to fully control my own thoughts and emotions consistently yet.
When I find myself upset with any situation, person, or thing in my life, it is generally because I wish or expected it to be different. As is commonly said in meetings, expectations lead to resentment. When I am able to realize that I am not in control and come to terms with it, my attitude immediately changes.
I see that the cause of my suffering was an attachment to my perception of what it should have been. Even once something has occurred, I often spend time fantasizing about how it could have gone differently, or what I should have done differently. The cause of my suffering in these times is both an attachment to my preference, and not embracing how things happened. I am continually learning more and more to see how my dis-ease is caused by myself.
The solution to the discomfort comes in several forms. One thing that really helps is working the Third and Fourth Noble Truth. When I realize that my suffering is my own creation, my next realization is that my salvation is also my own creation. I am powerless over so much, that I must keep power over what I can: myself. I see the cessation to my suffering, and then the path to cessation. I work the first of the Eightfold Path: Right View. I practice seeing it for what it is, and that alone often clears my discontent.
Also, I work the second and third steps of the program. I practice accepting that the Universe has a plan for me, and I turn it over. This is one of the times when Buddhism and twelve-step programs work very well together. When I see that things occur exactly how they are supposed to, I come into acceptance and can see things more clearly, with Right View. I am a true believer that everything happens for a reason, and I can learn from everything that happens in my life. When I work steps two and three, it helps me come to this conclusion. My powerlessness over everyone and everything are a fact of reality, and when I am able to accept that, I come far closer to living with true serenity.