Another way that many people in sobriety engage with the process of recovering emotionally, mentally, and spiritually is participation in Refuge Recovery. Refuge Recovery is an abstinence-based, and Buddhism and mindfulness-based recovery program that ranks high in popularity, along with AA and SMART Recovery.
As Refuge Recovery’s website puts it: “Refuge Recovery is a Buddhist-oriented, non-theistic recovery program that does not ask anyone to believe anything, only to trust the process and do the hard work of recovery. In fact, no previous experience or knowledge of Buddhism is required. Recovery is possible, and this program provides a systematic approach to treating and recovering from all forms of addiction. When sincerely practiced, the program can ensure a full recovery from addiction and a life-long sense of well-being and happiness.” (https://www.refugerecovery.org/)
Refuge Recovery members practice a daily recovery program that includes meetings, meditation and personal inventory, mentorship, retreats and service to others. A standard Refuge Recovery meeting is not dissimilar to an AA meeting, in that a topic or reading is presented and there is a discussion and sharing portion. Uniquely, Refuge Recovery meetings also include a 20-minute meditation. Meditation has been clinically proven to reduce stress, increase positive feelings, and help create a sense of serenity and peace in those who are working on overcoming addictions. Refuge Recovery attendees and members struggle with a variety of addictions, including sex, spending, food, and love--not just addiction to chemical substances. All are welcome!
Refuge Recovery uses a main text, like the Big Book. The book that is the basis for the recovery program includes detailed guidance of how to recover using the Buddhist practice of The Four Truths and Eightfold Path of Refuge Recovery, written investigations that explore the causes and conditions of addictions, daily meditation practices, personal stories of recovery, advice and inspiration for finding or creating community and a format for Refuge Recovery meetings. The book was written by the founder of Refuge Recovery; Noah Levine. Although Refuge Recovery is indeed founded on Buddhist principles, the program makes it clear that there is no required spiritual or religious aspect to it--Buddhist principles can be followed as a philosophy, not a religion. So there are many secular members of Refuge Recovery.
A possible downside to Refuge Recovery is that there simply aren’t as many Refuge Recovery meetings as there are AA meetings. An AA meeting, especially in a city like Austin, can be found anywhere at any time of day. Refuge Recovery meetings are fewer. In fact, and quite unfortunately, there are currently no in-person Refuge Recovery meetings offered in Austin, although there are some in Houston and San Antonio. Luckily, though, there are many online meetings that you can attend. And, as with any recovery program, you can always work to start your own meeting, which is a very rewarding experience!
This blogger considers himself a Buddhist and has found great comfort in Buddhist teachings and practices throughout his recovery journey. I enjoy going to Austin’s Zen Center for their recovery meditation meeting every Sunday at 6 PM, where meditation is practiced and a non-AA reading is discussed. Meditation is a wonderful way to calm down, and for some reason doing it with a like-minded group of meditators in recovery is very powerful and meaningful. The Four Noble Truths--primarily, that excess desire leads to suffering--is applicable to all humans and perhaps especially to addicts. And, of course, Buddhism is a beautiful and ancient religion filled with deep culture, art, and lore--it is exciting to explore and get to know. As with any recovery program, there is a constellation of activities and practices that should be done in order to achieve serene and joyful sobriety--social connection, meeting attendance, daily practices, accountability, and usually clinical support. Refuge Recovery can be a wonderful piece in your recovery tapestry. Or should I say mandala? If you’re interested, be sure to check out refugerecovery.org or find a copy of their book read it over!