A refuge is a safe place, a place of protection. A place that we go to in times of need, it’s a shelter. We are always taking refuge in something. Drugs, alcohol, food, sex, money and people were a refuge for many of us. Before we became addicted, they provided feelings of comfort and safety. But at some point we crossed the line into addiction. And the substances or behaviors that were once a refuge became a dark and lonely repetitive cycle of wandering lost through an empty life.
Active addiction is a hell realm; it is like being a hungry ghost, wandering through life in constant craving and the suffering of addiction. This process, this Buddhist inspired approach to overcoming addiction offers a refuge from the suffering of addiction. Traditionally Buddhists commit to the path of awakening, by taking refuge in three things, Awakening, Truth and Community. (Buddha, Dharma, Sangha). If the teachings and practices offered here resonate with you as true and useful, we invite you to take refuge in this process of awakening, truth and community. Practicing these principles and developing these skills will lead to safe place, a place that is free from addiction, to a full recovery.
Refuge Recovery is a practice, a process, set of tools and a path to healing the suffering caused by addiction. The main inspiration and guiding philosophy for the Refuge Recovery program are the teachings of Siddhartha (Sid) Gautama, a man who lived in India twenty-five hundred years ago and is often referred to as the Buddha. Sid was a radical psychologist and a spiritual revolutionary. Through his own efforts and practices he came to understand why and how human beings experience and cause so much suffering. He referred to the root cause of suffering as “an uncontrollable thirst or craving”. This ‘thirst’ tends to arise in relationship to pleasure. We all crave pleasant experiences, which come in wide variety of forms, and on the flip side we also experience craving for unpleasant experience to go away. This pattern manifests in addiction to people, places, things, substances or experience. This is the same thirst of the alcoholic, the same craving as the addict and same attachment as the co-dependent. Sid came to understand and experience a way of living that ended all forms of suffering. He did this through a practice and process that includes meditation, wise actions and compassion. He recovered from the suffering that craving causes and then spent the rest of his life teaching others to live in a way that would end addictions and lead to a life of well-being and freedom. Sid became known as the Buddha, his teachings became known as Buddhism. This program has adapted the core teachings of the Buddha as applicable to overcoming addiction.
You are entering a way of life that may be familiar to some and foreign to others. This Buddhist recovery program is a systematic approach to training our minds to see clearly and respond to our lives with understanding and non-harming. In the beginning some of it may seem confusing or counter-instinctual, and some of it is. But you will find that with time, familiarity and experience, it will all make perfect sense and will gradually become a more and more natural way of being. There are four major components that will need to be developed, sustained and maintained.
- Process – There is a process to recovery that needs to be understood; the four truths.
- Practice – There is a practice to be cultivated; mindfulness and heart practice meditation.
- Principle – Understanding and applying the principle of cause and effect; changing the behaviors that cause suffering.
- Power – Each individual has to do the work themselves. No one can recover for you.
The Four Truths of Refuge Recovery come from a Buddhist perspective that says “All beings have the power and potential to free themselves from suffering.” We feel confident in the Buddha’s teachings to relieve suffering of all kinds, including the suffering of addiction.
1. Addiction creates suffering.
We come to understand, acknowledge, admit and accept all of the ways that our addictions or addictive behaviors have caused suffering in our lives.
-Action- Write an in-depth and detailed inventory of the suffering you have experienced in association with your addictions.
2. The cause of addiction is repetitive craving.
We come to understand that all forms of addiction have their roots in the natural human tendency to crave for life to be more pleasurable and less painful than it actually is. The addict is not at fault for the root causes and conditions that lead to addiction only for the habitual reactive patterns that perpetuated it.
-Action- Investigate, analyze and share the inventory with your mentor or teacher and come to understand the nature of your addiction/suffering.
3. Recovery is possible.
Freedom from the suffering caused by addiction is attainable, If we are ready and willing to take responsibility for our actions and to follow the 8-Fold path.
-Action- Take refuge in the community, practice and potential of your own recovery. Study and apply the principles of the eight-fold path and eventually you will come to a verified faith in the path of recovery/awakening through the actions you take on the path.
4. The Eight-Fold Path to recovery.
This is an abstinence based path and philosophy, we believe that the recovery process begins when abstinence begins. The Eight factors or folds of the path are to be developed, experienced and penetrated. This is not a linear path, it does not have to be taken in order, rather all of the factors will need to be developed and applied simultaneously. This is a guide to having a life that is free from addiction, the eight-folds of recovery will have to be maintained throughout ones life.
- Understanding – We understand that recovery begins when we renounce and abstain from all substances or addictive behaviors regardless of specific substances we have become addicted to. Forgiveness, non-harming actions, service and generosity are a necessary part of the recovery process. We can’t do it alone, community support and wise guidance are an integral part of the path to recovery.
- Intention – We intend to meet all pain with compassion and all pleasure with non-attached appreciation, to forgive and ask for forgiveness toward all people we have harmed or been harmed by, including ourselves, to be generous and kind to all living beings, to be honest, humble, to live with integrity and to practice non-harming.
- Communication/Community – We take refuge in the community as a place to practice wise communication and to support others on their path. We practice being honest, wise and careful with our communications, asking for help from the community, allowing others to guide us through the process. Practicing openness, honesty and humility about the difficulties and successes we experience.
- Action/Engagement – We abstain from all substances and behaviors that could lead to suffering. We practice forgiveness toward all people we have harmed or been harmed by, including ourselves, through both meditative training and direct amends. Compassion, non-attached appreciation, generosity, kindness, honesty, integrity and service are our guiding principles.
- Livelihood/Service – We try to be of service to others when ever possible, using our time and energy and resources to help create positive change. We try to secure a source of income/livelihood that causes no harm.
- Effort/Energy – We commit to the daily disciplined practices of meditation, yoga, exercise, wise actions, kindness, forgiveness, generosity, compassion, appreciation and moment to moment mindfulness of feelings, emotions, thoughts and sensations. Developing the skillful means of knowing how to apply the appropriate meditation or action to the given circumstance.
- Mindfulness/Meditations – We develop wisdom through practicing formal mindfulness meditation. This leads to seeing clearly and healing the root causes and conditions that lead to the suffering of addiction. We practice present-time awareness in all aspects of our life. We take refuge in the present.
- Concentration/Meditations – We develop the capacity to focus the mind on a single object, such as the breath or a phrase, training the mind through the practices of loving-kindness, compassion and forgiveness to focus on the positive qualities we seek to uncover and we utilize concentration at times of temptation or craving in order to abstain from acting unwisely.
This is the path of Awakening, the path of Recovering from the addictions and delusions that have created so much suffering in our lives and in this world. All living beings have the ability to live life along these lines, there is no-one that lacks ability only those who lack the willingness to take on such an radical task of transformation. Addicts who do not recover are not broken or lost, they just have not yet found the willingness to take the path of Wisdom and Compassion. We believe in the human capacity for change. We understand it from direct experience. If we can you can.
[Source: Against the Stream Nashville.]