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Buddhist Approach to Recovery Offers 12-Step Alternative

Author Noah Levine presents an alternative recovery method for the non-Christian set.

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By Victoria Kim

08/01/14

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Alcoholics Anonymous and the 12-step program have assisted millions of people on the path to recovery, but an alternative approach is gaining popularity in communities across the U.S.

Buddhist writer, teacher, and author of Dharma Punx Noah Levine’s latest book, Refuge Recovery, addresses addiction treatment based on fundamental Buddhist practices including the Four Noble Truths.

“There is an educational component to it,” Levine said. “People want to know what Buddhism has to offer…this is a clear and detailed map out of addiction.”

Levine has said that as transcending suffering is the center of Buddhist philosophy, Buddhism is a natural way to address addiction treatment. His Buddhist approach, which developed from his own struggles with addiction, emphasizes self-honesty, abstinence, and community.

Despite presenting an alternative to the 12-step program, which is based on Christianity, Levine has “a lot of gratitude” for 12-step. “I have nothing bad to say about that approach,” he said. “But it is a theistic spiritual system that depends on an external higher power. Now, that resonates to the core of a lot of people. A God-based philosophy is particularly great for Christian-minded people. But what about the people who don’t believe in God?”

As the Buddhist approach to treating addiction is spreading from Los Angeles to Atlanta, Levine is a firm believer in the program remaining decentralized. “I have no intention to control this in any way,” he said. “It’s a peer-led process. People change the format to fit their own communities. People are taking ownership of it, and it’s led to quite a bit of excitement.”

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