Recovery Dharma: How Buddhism Fits Into Recovery

There have been many types of faith and religion applied to addiction treatment programs, including Buddhism. So how does Buddhism fit into addiction treatment? Let’s take a closer look at Recovery Dharma.

Recovery is a complex process that differs from person to person. Everybody responds in his or her own way to the available treatments. A scientific approach in behavior therapy may suit some patients, but others respond better to the introduction of spirituality or religious faith into their treatment programs.

While some patients thrive in programs with a spiritual bent to them—like twelve-step recovery programs, such as Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous—others may not have the same experience. The ways that some programs contextualize and treat addiction can vary considerably, which is why there’s no single program that works for everyone.

For those to whom spirituality is important, programs like Recovery Dharma offer a spiritual framework. In this case, Recovery Dharma is based in Buddhism. The idea behind applying Buddhism to recovery is to enable new ways of treating addiction. So if you haven’t responded well to scientific or twelve-step programs, Buddhist recovery could be a solution.

What is Buddhism?

Buddhism is an eastern religion founded by Prince Siddhartha Gautama who traveled the world in search of understanding after a lifetime of indulgence. Ultimately, he decided that suffering was a key part of a person’s existence. After renouncing worldly possessions, he achieved enlightenment through meditation. It’s been said that Siddhartha Gautama figured out how to achieve salvation and be free from suffering. This epiphany earned him the name and title of the Buddha, which translates to “Enlightened One.”

Traveling across India, the Buddha taught about the Four Noble Truths. There is the First Noble Truth (dhukka), or suffering, and the Second Noble Truth, attachment or craving, which causes suffering. The Third Noble Truth, which is the cessation of suffering, is what’s known as Enlightenment. This can mean the end of suffering in earthly life, or it can refer to an end to spiritual suffering through the achievement of Nirvana. By definition, this is when a person transcends the worldly cycle of birth and rebirth. 

Finally, you have the Fourth Noble Truths. On the Noble Eightfold Path, the Fourth Noble Truth leads to the end of suffering and is divided into three themes: good moral conduct, meditation and mental development, and wisdom or insight. 

Mindfulness is a key part of the Noble Path, but it has also become relevant to recovery. In fact, it’s becoming quite common for drug rehabs to incorporate the tenets of Buddhism into addiction recovery, which we see in a number of important ways. The idea is that the most useful principles of Buddhism could potentially strengthen the foundation of substance abuse treatment programs.

[Pullquote: “The Buddha seems to have emphasized the avoidance of addictive substances by pointing out their consequences.”]

How are Recovery and Buddhism Related?

Although they’re not what you might refer to as “blood relatives,” recovery and Buddhism are unquestionably related in ways both ancient and modern. While Buddhism does not directly address recovery, the fifth precept of its guidelines for ethical behavior emphasizes abstinence from intoxicating substances. Anything that could cloud the mind should not be put into the body. In this way, the fact that the Buddha seemed to have been warning us of the potential consequences of addictive substances.

At one point, the Buddha treated an addiction to food using methods that echo modern behavioral techniques. For example, gradually weaning a king off of his addictive habits. While this story does not directly address substances like alcohol, the parallels are undeniable. 

Further relating the two subjects, Buddhist cosmology describes a realm called the preta, which is a hungry ghost realm and state of intense craving. Contemporary writers compare this to addiction. 

Buddhism’s connection to recovery is especially apparent today and is regularly used to treat addiction in Thailand and Japan. It’s also the basis of several Western programs that rely on the practice of mindfulness.

One of the most central practices of Buddhism, mindfulness is translated from the word sati. Mindfulness programs treat addiction by making the patient aware of his or her thought process, helping him or her to learn action plans with which to deal with difficult emotions that could lead to relapse. This requires a certain level of self-awareness and paying attention to one’s experience in the present moment. Interestingly, mindfulness is also effective in treating some of the mental health disorders that can co-occur with addiction. 

While there have been many modern programs to take inspiration from Buddhism, Recovery Dharma is showing us the full potential of Buddhism in recovery.

What is Recovery Dharma? 

Recovery Dharma is an organization dedicated to treating addiction through Buddhist teachings and practices. This program describes itself as a peer-led program that encourages us to: (1) renounce addictive substances in favor of the truth, (2) renounce violence and harm, and (3) achieve freedom from the suffering caused by addiction. 

There are small areas where Buddhism-based programs like Recovery Dharma overlap with twelve-step programs like Alcoholics Anonymous. In particular, you see the application of meditation in both. However, Recovery Dharma and other programs focus far more intensely on meditation than twelve-step programs. Rather than simply using meditation as just one technique toward sobriety, programs like Recovery Dharma encourage the incorporation of meditation into daily life for its own sake. This helps them provide a different, spiritual recovery experience for those who don’t connect with the Christian language of twelve-step programs.

Buddhist recovery, as laid out by the Recovery Dharma program, entails growing insight, understanding, and awareness. This means using the Four Noble Truths and the Eightfold Path as a guide to your recovery. It is a method of recovery that offers a greater, more holistic connection to the sensations of the mind and body.

Achieve Freedom From Addiction with Silicon Beach Sober Living

For some, Buddhism is the perfect path to recovery. With its focus on growth and earning a greater understanding of the world, there’s a lot to like about Buddhism and what it can offer your recovery. As patients become more mindful and aware of their bodies, they’ll be able to make better, healthier lifestyle choices..

At Silicon Beach Sober Living, there are a plethora of resources to treat addiction. If you are looking for sober living homes in Los Angeles or a Los Angeles IOP, Silicon Beach Sober Living has just what you need. Follow us on social media to learn more about our programs and our availability.

August 9, 2022

Adam Snyder


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