To 12-Steppers

“The world’s libraries and places of worship are a treasure trove for all seekers. It is to be hoped that every A.A. who has a religious connection which emphasizes meditation will return to the practice of that devotion as never before.”  – Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions, page 98

“Meditation is something which can always be further developed. It has no boundaries, either of width or height. Aided by such instruction and example as we can find, it is essentially an individual adventure, something which each one of us works out in his own way.”  – Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions, page 101

Many of us are drawn to Buddhism from 12-step recovery programs and the deeper we go into this spiritual tradition, the more we realize that the Four Noble Truths and the Eightfold Path is its own complete system for recovery from addiction, a system that predates Alcoholics Anonymous by two dozen centuries. For most of us, this revelation does not create a conflict because we learn that in Buddhism there are parallels for each and every one of the 12 steps. In fact, the realization that the actions recommended by A.A. and the other 12-step programs are mirrored in such an ancient tradition can be very affirming.

Roughly a dozen books have been written about these parallels (try One Breath at a Time: Buddhism and the Twelve Steps, by Kevin Griffin, 2004) and we encourage you to study the topic. However, in Refuge Recovery, Buddhism is presented as a complete system of recovery to those suffering from addiction, an alternative path to 12-step recovery. Without a doubt, some in 12-step programs will bristle at this. It might surprise them to learn that the idea of presenting Buddhism as an alternative approach to the 12-steps first appears in some of the earliest AA literature.

In a pamphlet entitled “Spiritual Milestones in Alcoholics Anonymous,” published by the very first AA group in Akron, Ohio in the 1940s, and edited by Dr. Bob (AA’s co-founder), is this remarkable passage: “Consider the eight-part program laid down in Buddhism: Right view, right aim, right speech, right action, right living, right effort, right mindedness and right contemplation. The Buddhist philosophy, as exemplified by these eight points, could be literally adopted by AA as a substitute for or addition to the Twelve Steps. Generosity, universal love and welfare of others rather than considerations of self are basic to Buddhism.”  Essentially, Dr. Bob endorsed Refuge Recovery some seventy years before it began.

Anyone who has been around a 12-step recovery program for any length of time has witnessed multiple examples of people who are unable for any of a variety of reasons to follow the 12-step path. The need for a viable alternative to the 12 steps is clearly evident. And if it helps just one person to recover who would not have otherwise made it, the effort will be justified.

If you are wondering how to relate to people that choose to work the Refuge Recovery program instead of the 12-steps, we hope that you will heed the advice offered by the A.A. Big Book in the chapter Working With Others:

“If he thinks he can do the job in some other way, or prefers some other spiritual approach, encourage him to follow his own conscience. We have no monopoly on God; we merely have an approach that worked with us. But point out that we alcoholics have much in common and that you would like, in any case, to be friendly. Let it go at that.”  – Alcoholics Anonymous (Fourth Edition), page 95.

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