refuge recovery: an article and my experience

Here is an article on the Huffington Post written by the founder of the recovery program I have been attending:

Here Noah writes about addiction and I think we can all relate to these words:

What usually starts as a search for happiness and pleasure almost always ends in tremendous sorrow, loss, confusion, and suffering. Very often it leads us to suicidal thoughts, despondency, and shame. For the addict in the midst of addiction, life is often a downward spiral that ends in incarceration, institutionalization, violence, loss, and death. Some may continue to function in seemingly normal ways–working,
parenting, and participating in society–but an internal death occurs, a numbness arises, and they start to disconnect from themselves and from others. A wall of denial and suppression, too high and too thick to scale or break through, keeps others out and keeps the addict in, trapped by his or her own defenses, prisoner to his or her addictions.

The article also discusses how the foundation of recovery is acceptance of the ways that addiction is causing suffering in one’s life. This Buddhist approach uses the Four Noble Truths and the Eightfold Path as a means to recovery. The program doesn’t ask you to believe in a higher power (not that there is anything wrong with that, but it’s not for everyone) and has the following suggestion for a program-

Of course, like every path, you can only get to your destination by moving forward, one foot in front of the other. The path is gradual and comprehensive, a map of the inner terrain that must be traversed in the process of recovery. The path includes daily meditation practices, written investigations of the causes and conditions of your addictions, and how to find or create the community you will need in order to heal and awaken.

My experience of this program has been very positive. The people I have met have been like-minded and down to earth. I like the way this program and Buddhism seems to be more of a psychology or philosophy of living rather than a religion. There is no worshipping of gods (not that there is anything wrong with that), no heaven or hell or sins. But at the same time it teaches about morality, compassion, and kindness for yourself and others.

At the same time, I feel myself rebelling! The more I am getting involved, the more I am doubting and questioning. I am questioning if I want to become a buddhist (not necessary) or live by any kind of set out principles, I’m doubting that meditation really works and my commitment to my own practice is wavering, and I’m wondering if going down this peaceful path will make me a dull and passive person. I’m afraid of dedicating myself to a program because what if I decide I want to change or it’s not the right fit for me anymore? I said to a sober penpal this week that I feel like I’m in limbo- I don’t want to commit further to my recovery program and change my life more, but at the same time I need to to stay sober.

All of those are I think the big question I’ve been dealing with is- what happens if I decide I want to drink again?

I struggled a lot in the last week or so. It was really difficult for me to be around booze. I was visiting with my brother and his family and my SIL made a couple of comments about how she missed drinking wine with me. It’s not that she is not supportive, but I get that a person gets used to indulging in a certain activity with a companion, and then it’s weird for them not to be able to do it anymore. I used to be a huge wine drinker- when we would go there it was all about making delicious food and trying out different wines. So, I understand that she was only voicing what she notices an absence of.

I said goodbye to my car this week. It needed more work than it was worth. I can’t really afford to go into more debt for a new car with the amount of student debt that I have but I am a fairly car dependant person. So I’ll go further into debt. This is stressful, but being able to go into debt, in a weird way, is a privilege. I am fortunate that I have a good job and a good credit rating that people trust me with borrowed money. I will pay it off eventually, it just sucks.

I miss my party friends. I miss hanging out with them. We’re going to a friends place today- a former big drinking buddy. I need to see people and socialize and feel connected. I need to get out of my head. I get why I used to drink all the time- it numbed that inner voice, the stress or anxiety. It worked, until, of course, it stopped working. And then it turned on me.

Last night I was close to ordering a drink with dinner. Thank the universe for my partner who was able to talk me out of it. There must be something in the air because I’ve noticed that a few bloggers with a good amount of sobriety have slipped or relapsed in the last little while.

I need to focus on my recovery and my spiritual practice. I need to learn how to balance that with regular life. I have this sort of either/or mentality- like I can’t be both spiritual/in recovery and also participate in areas my old life with old friends etc. Part of me just wants to take the booze out and keep on with my old life but that doesn’t work. I am scared to change but I don’t really know why.


28 thoughts on “refuge recovery: an article and my experience

  1. I hear ya. The very last thing I want is to lose myself to a program. I don’t want to be an AA fanatic. AA is helpful in many ways, but if it becomes one’s life, I think that is an addiction in and of itself. I lost myself for years to alcoholism. Now I am unwilling to risk losing one more bit.

  2. There have been quite a few bloggers who have decided to drink. I wish them well, but I unfollow them immediately. I have made my choice. Sobriety has brought do much positive change to my life.

    I think questioning your path is normal and good. I also like Buddhism, but I don’t have an actually program available to me, so I use bits and pieces. It compliments yoga well.

    Think about what is prompting you to reach for the drink. Are you looking to rebel? Avoid?

    There’s nothing magical in the drink. It won’t fulfill you.

    Stay true to yourself . Remember why you are doing this! You have made some great changes. You don’t need to decide everything today.

    • I am definitely looking to rebel! That is part of my problem and the kind of thinking that got me into this mess in the first place. What I like about Noah’s approach is that he addresses that. He has one book called Against the Stream. It’s about how the path of buddhism and mindfulness is actually rebellious because it goes against what mainstream society in our culture is. That’s why his program appeals to punks and rebels- another way to go against the mainstream. If I keep reminding myself of that, that i am allowing myself to rebel but it’s actually in a positive, healthy way, I feel better. Oh the mind. What a funny place.

      • I’m going to get that book
        I think that’s very true
        I feel like im constantly judging myself because I believe in mindfulness, stillness and doing less but have been so programmed to believe no pain no gain.
        But that all or nothing approach really never helped me at all. It got me into addiction and a nervous breakdown.

        I am truly happy with my path. Most of the time. Lol

  3. I’d like this option – Refuge Recovery – here in the UK as it sounds like my kind of approach. Stick with it Clear Lee – you’ll find a way through without requiring picking up again 🙂

  4. I’d love to have something wise and illuminating to say Clear Lee but I too find myself questioning at the moment and not able to grasp the answers. I love the comments above and agree especially with not needing to decide everything today. Sit a while with me Clear Lee! xx

  5. sitting with you too…..holding space for you.

    “I’m afraid of dedicating myself to a program because what if I decide I want to change or it’s not the right fit for me anymore?”….then you make a change. It’s simple. Life IS change, constant change. Except I remember when I was drinking and every day was exactly the same, or at least felt like that. Now I have, and make choices all the time.

    “I need to focus on my recovery and my spiritual practice. I need to learn how to balance that with regular life. I have this sort of either/or mentality- like I can’t be both spiritual/in recovery and also participate in areas my old life with old friends etc.”….
    yes, you do need some focus, maybe not on what you are missing but on what you are gaining, or at least NOT missing. There is a balance that needs to be gotten to and it doesn’t happen over night, it can take a while, even if the desire to drink has gone. And the old feelings call to us because, in our minds, they feel comfortable. But if you really look underneath I think you might see that these are just growing pains, that a change does need to happen but not one that includes a drink. When others who we admire drink again, it can be triggering. And that’s when we have to pull back and re-examine why WE don’t drink. We reflect on those consequences, we look at the life we have that is so much better, and we are grateful that we don;t have to go out and test the waters because we know. And we remember that what others do or think is none of our business and we move ahead.

    Don’t look to those who started drinking again. My sponsor says “stick with the winners”. I hope you stick around here with us.

    • Thanks Mish. Your sponsees are sure lucky. You have some really wise things to say. You’re completely right. It’s fine if I change down the road- like you say we are always changing. I don’t need to fear that. Talk about future tripping! I am just going to put one foot in front of the other. I do need to re-committ to my spiritual and meditation practice though. I think that’s where I have started to go off course.
      I like what you say about growing pains. You’re right. I am changing. It’s hard and scary sometimes. But in the big picture it’s all for the better. xo

  6. Just keep moving forward. “look back but don’t stare”. You are growing, that’s why you feel restless. It’s a process. I think it’s normal and healthy to question whatever program you’re in. That way you’re not vulnerable but more aware of what going on around you. Good luck with your drinking buddies. Remember you’ve made a powerful choice and have become the master of your own destiny! I won’t throw any more cliches at you – you’re doing great! Peace x

    • Thank you – more wise words! It’s always such a great idea to post when I’m feeling all over the place. So much great advice. I will keep moving forward. And I will probably always question things.
      I did have fun with my old buddies last night. Couldn’t stay for too long. It was good to be with them and catch up and laugh and hug. There is an intimacy with them that I miss elsewhere in my life. But I am so glad that I didn’t and don’t drink. xo

  7. I think there are some great comments here – change is hard and it feels so uncomfortable, as it always does when there are different selves inside of us pulling in different directions. I am not involved in refuge recovery but have become very interested in Buddhism of late, and can see the the amazing fit, the way that Buddhist practices can help us in recovery. I heard an analogy the other day – the context was different, but I think it works with recovery too. Imagine you are on a river bank (addiction) and want to cross a deep wide river to the other side (recovery). There is a raft you can use to help get you to the other side. For you, this raft is refuge recovery, for others it might be different. Some people will stay trapped on the river bank, pointing out all of the flaws in the raft and criticising it, never even getting in to start the journey. Others, and this is less common but sounds like something you fear, make the mistake of becoming too attached to the raft itself. It becomes all about the raft and they forget why they wanted to get to the other side of the river. They get to the other bank, but don’t want to get off the raft.
    I don’t think you’re signing your life away to Buddhism – you can use the practices and see how they work for you. It is going well so far, so stick with it for a bit. As mishedup says, life is change, you are always able to make decisions. And for you and me and lots of people, being sober puts us in a much better place for making those decisions, for being in control of our lives.
    I hope you find some answers with this … I enjoy your blog and its insights, and I look forward to reading more about your journey 🙂 xx

    • I love that analogy, MTM, thanks for sharing it. It’s funny using it with buddhism because the whole idea within buddhism is that attachment creates suffering- so definitely want to avoid becoming too attached to buddhism 😉
      I think you nailed it- change can be uncomfortable. I am actually changing my life in a huge way. I’ve been used to living a certain way for a very long time- in many ways it is all I know as an adult to drink and socialize. I’m still a newbie in sobriety. And I think I’m doing pretty good actually! I went our last night and it is getting easier for me to be sober around people- I actually like myself better. I can’t stay for too long in those situations but I still get some needs met there. Thanks for stopping by, always love to hear from you xo

  8. One thing is for certain, alcoholics never seem to be short on “over thinking” things. Life presents itself, but to us we want to know if there is just a little more. Never satisfied to just accept what is.

    I have learned that alcoholism is a fatal illness. I also learned (the hard way) that if you’re an alcoholic, and still drinking, things will always get worse…never better! I had to experience that process until the pain and suffering got to a point where I couldn’t handle it anymore.

    My solution was alcohol. It was my solution until I drank the value out of drinking. And then, of course, I had a gorilla size problem to deal with. When I survived my addiction and got sober, the bigger problem that I have had my entire life was still there. Life itself!

    My program in sobriety is AA. I don’t go to AA because I have a drinking problem. I took care of that. I go to AA because I have a sober problem. Learning how to live life on life’s terms has been a challenge. Learning how to stop fighting everything and everyone has been a challenge. Learning how to become free from the bondage of self, the stifling self-centeredness that consumes alcoholics, that has been a challenge. But eight years into my sober journey, I can tell you that it has been that most rewarding experience of my life.

    The last two years of my life have been amazing. And it keeps getting better each day. And it’s all due to the fact that I became willing to take a hard look at myself and change. I finally could see clearly that all of my problems had one common denominator…ME!

    None of these admissions, and then taking corrective actions toward change is easy. In fact, most people don’t. I guess they find it too tough. But for those of us that do make that change, it’s hard to put into words just how great life becomes.

    AA is not my life. AA has become my way of life!

    • Thanks for sharing your thoughts and experience. I do agree that getting sober is not the same as being well or recovery. There is a lot of work that needs to be done to look at the issues that allowed the addiction to flourish. I need to dig in!

      • “I need to dig in”. You already are “digging in”! When you become aware, you’re already into the solution. Awareness comes first, then Acceptance and then Action. And, it’s ok to have a parking lot, so to speak. You can’t work on everything at the same time that you’ve become aware of or have moved into acceptance on. There’s only so much time. What we’ve found the courage and motivation to work on is generally some pretty heavy stuff. We often don’t realize that “that stuff” takes a lot of energy. So we need to pause and be kind to ourselves in this process. Give yourself a high five and then remove the “need” word from digging in.

        “Let go or be dragged”. This is yet another form of awareness, acceptance and action that I have come to understand but have a long way to go in terms of mastering. It’s the pursuit of this understanding and practice that has been very rewarding. Even in my early stages of understanding. What it means to me is that my role in the spiritual path that I’ve chosen is just to do my best. After all, that is all you can do. I no longer spend any time and energy on trying to control to outcome. Nor do I spend anytime reflecting backwards after the fact. Letting go of expectations, results and backward reflection has truly given me that “new found freedom and happiness”. And, because all my energy and focus was applied to just doing my best, the rewards have been stunning. And, even more rewarding is that others pick up on your energy and they help you. They help you because they want to. It makes them feel good too. And why not, we’re all in this life thing together. Community and connection is so much more fulfilling than going it only.

  9. lots of wonderful thoughts and comments here! your posts as always help me reflect on this journey and how we are walking it, so thank you.

    a few more from me: firstly, that Huffington Post article was so interesting and really useful to me. that phrase ‘a wall of denial and suppression’ made me shudder in recognition. I’m so glad you’ve found a recovery programme that resonates with you. like Lou it sounds very much up my street too.

    and the Buddhist philosophy is so interesting! I’m starting to read a wonderful book, based loosely on the Buddhist tenets, called ‘How to Wake Up’ by Toni Bernhard. I think you might enjoy it – Rick Hanson loves it 😉 preview here:

    lastly that I’m sorry you’ve been having a tough time recently around others and alcohol. particularly with your sister in law. I’m sure she’d be aghast if she knew what anguish her remarks have put you through. I think that even those closest to us don’t understand how hard it still is for us. I remember reading somewhere that if our loved ones had spent as much time reading recovery blogs, recovery literature, and in meetings as we had while we were immersing ourselves in them in the early days of recovery, they might have a better insight into what it was like for us. that really helped me ‘get’ why other people don’t ‘get’ it and gives me more compassion and forgiveness of them, if that makes any sense?

    and I still need to consciously exercise those compassion and forgiveness muscles frequently, believe you me! because as I’ve posted on my blog, though I feel I have achieved an amicable divorce from Wolfie, he and I still have joint custody of all my family and friends. and I think we all need to learn to live peacefully in that joint custody: because the only alternative is of returning to be in that abusive relationship, which is unthinkable.

    hoping you are getting over this bump in the road and seeing around new corners of the path! much love, Prim xxx

    • Hey Prim, thanks, as always, for your awesomely insightful comments. It is such a good point you make about our loved ones not getting it because they haven’t spent the time we have on recovery. makes so much sense to see it this way. The comments don’t bother me when I’m not feeling sensitive, and lately there’s been a few triggers that have me feeling a little more vulnerable. I think, like you say, it’s a bump in the road… there’s ebbs and flows, right? But it’s a good reminder to me that I need to put in the work- or rather, when I put in the work, I do better. The work being meditation/contemplation practice, reading, connecting to what moves and inspires me etc. I guess I can’t say the divorce with wolf has been finalized… we’re getting there but still working out the details 😉

  10. One drink (in my case) always leads to another and then to another… and another. I am one of those people who need more than one drink. One drink is never enough. Kudos to your partner for talking you out, and kudos to you for not having that one drink.

  11. Somehow you are able to articulate everything I am feeling! I think the spiritual connection and getting in touch with your inner-most self is a big key to staying sober and being happy with sobriety. We must remember we are doing this for ourselves and nobody else. ❤

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s