Refuge Recovery: A Buddhist Approach to Recovery

From guest blogger: Sarah

This is the final piece in a series on recovery support options.

One of my stated reasons for not seeking help for my addiction to alcohol was that AA’s emphasis on powerlessness and surrendering to a Higher Power did not work for me, and it seemed to be the only support that was readily and widely available. Ultimately, my physical addiction to alcohol reached a lethal point so I ended up in treatment in the Pacific Northwest. I have come to believe this is one of the best locations on the planet to land if you are in early recovery.  Seattle is a kind of recovery “jackpot” where you can access any modality of addiction treatment available and almost every kind of recovery support community out there - and this is where I first learned about Refuge Recovery meetings.    


Refuge Recovery is an abstinence-based program and addiction recovery community that practices and utilizes Buddhist philosophy as the foundation of the recovery process. Drawing inspiration from the core teachings of the Four Noble Truths, emphasis is placed on both knowledge and empathy as a means for overcoming addiction and its causes.  Meetings are peer-led and begin with a meditation, followed by a reading and then shared reflections from members of the group about the reading and how it relates to their own recovery, in the present moment.  Unlike 12-step meetings, people only identify themselves by their name, not as an addict or alcoholic.   

There are a growing number of Refuge Recovery meetings throughout the world, and in many locations in the US.  They have meetings both in person and by phone, and a searchable website to help you find one near you.  And if you don’t find one in your area, you can easily start one. You will also find a wealth of resources on their website including suggestions for meeting formats, inventory worksheets, podcasts and other resources.  

My first thought after learning about Refuge Recovery was “I wish I had known about this sooner.” I can’t help but wonder if I would have had a chance at sustaining sobriety sooner, had more recovery support options been readily available to me.  Who knows.  I do know that I’m happy to know about it now.  I know I’m happy that I got treatment.  I know I’m happy I learned how to make the 12-step program work for me through the course of that treatment (and am eternally grateful for it!). And I’m happy that my recovery can continue to deepen and expand into other communities like this one.