I have been in recovery for over 3 years. Throughout that time, I have attended and supported many meetings highlighting 12 step principles. Consequently, as my recovery has evolved, I have sought more spiritual models of recovery, building on the AA principle that addiction is a “spiritual malady” (Alcoholics Anonymous, 2001). As a result of this quest, I have studied various religions, including Buddhism, with Buddhism being the religion I most identify with. Therefore, as a result of my spiritual growth and transcendent pursuits in Alcoholics Anonymous, I decided to attend two Buddhist Recovery meetings.
Before attending Dharma & Recovery, I explored the principles, focus and meeting format of Buddhist recovery. While Dharma & Recovery does not present itself as a 12 step meditation meeting, it does welcome those in 12 step programs. However, it is not allied with any 12 step program. According to buddhistrecovery.com, Buddhist recovery advocates the beliefs that “Buddhist teachings, traditions and practices…help people recover from the suffering caused by addictive behaviors,” is “open to people of all backgrounds, and respectful of all recovery paths, the organization promotes mindfulness and meditation, and is grounded in Buddhist principles of non-harming, compassion and interdependence” and “seeks to serve an international audience through teaching, training, treatment, research, publication, advocacy and community-building initiatives” (Welcome, 2013). The focus of Buddhist recovery is meditation, during which “meditators observe and analyze the workings of their own mind” (Stephens, n.d.). The meeting format consists of a 20 minute meditation, a reading from a dharma teacher, a discussion of the reading, and a 10 minute final mediation.
There were several questions I had about Buddhist recovery before the meeting: Do you have to be Buddhist to attend? What type of commitment is required for Buddhist recovery? Are the 12 steps used?
As I walked into the meeting, I was met with a practice quite different than any 12 step meeting I have attended, silence. Everyone appeared to be preparing for meditation, settling into their seats and applying deep breathing techniques. After a brief introduction, where we all stated our names and addictions, 20 minutes were spent in meditation while the leader periodically reminded us to clear our minds of all outside thoughts and concentrate on the here and now. We then listened to a reading from “12 Steps on Buddha's Path: Bill, Buddha, and We” by Laura S., the story of a woman whose recovery was transformed due to her discovery of Buddhism and her personal assimilation of Buddhism and the 12 steps. After the reading, there was an open discussion based on the reading, followed by another short meditation.
Although the practices of the 12 step/medical theory of recovery were perceptible in the meeting, the overwhelming majority, particularly the open discussion, appeared to be guided by the...