Refuge Recovery takes ancient Buddhist practices and molds them into a modern method to manage addiction and achieve sobriety.
It’s an alternative to traditional 12-step meetings, but like them, there is a sense of community, peopled with peers who are on the same journey. There’s no focus on a higher power, but there is meditation.
Founder Noah Levine says he began abusing substances at a young age. By the time he was in junior high, he already was building an extensive rap sheet for himself. He was ordered into drug counseling and 12-step meetings, but the Judeo-Christian approach didn’t jibe with him. (His father was poet and Buddhist teacher Stephen Levine.)
While in juvenile hall, his father suggested meditation. Levine said he was initially skeptical, but after giving it a serious go, he found it really resonated with him.
By the mid-2000s, he’d developed his Buddhist-inspired path to sobriety. In 2014, he published Refuge Recovery.
According to Refuge Recovery philosophy, people must accept the reality of their addiction. That will lead to enlightenment, wisdom, compassion, forgiveness, and love for self as well as others. Also, being under the influence interferes with mindfulness.
That awakening will not be an easy process, Levine told Tricycle: The Buddhist Review. “We first ask you to get really uncomfortable, to turn toward the suffering in order to get through it.”
Mindfulness and meditation are part of the toolkit Refuge Recovery uses to curb cravings, manage emotions, and to forge connections with others.
Practitioners are not required to believe in anything, but simply to trust the process and be willing to do the work toward recovery. Part of that work involves taking stock of the suffering they’ve experienced and caused. To find the underlying causes, this allows them to begin to let go.
Meetings, which are peer-led, begin with a reading of the Four Noble Truths:
- Addiction creates suffering
- The cause of addiction is repetitive craving
- Recovery is possible
- The path to recovery is available
The Fourth Noble Truth segues to the Eightfold Path, which leads to the end of suffering. The eight steps focus on moral virtue, meditation (mental discipline), and wisdom. Right Livelihood, for example, frowns upon making gains that harm others. Right Effort means avoiding unhealthy states.
A group meditation follows, and then a speaker or one of the organizers will focus on a specific topic. After that, people will have a chance to speak up about any challenges or struggles they’ve been facing pertaining to their addiction.
Meetings are free, and there are online groups as well. Modest donations are accepted to cover costs.
tricycle.org - The Suffering of Addiction
amazon.com - Refuge Recovery: A Buddhist Path to Recovering from Addiction
refugerecovery.org - What Is the Refuge Recovery Program?
tricycle.org - The Noble Eightfold Path