Refuge Recovery, as shown by Buddha statue

Refuge Recovery: Proven Methods

Understanding Addiction Recovery

Addiction is a ruthless disease and can be extremely isolating for those who suffer from it. When it comes to receiving treatment for this condition, there are many people who may not have access to external resources or help in exploring recovery options.

However, as more research is done on substance abuse, old stigmatizations and misconceptions surrounding this illness are progressively coming undone. And, as a result, more treatment and recovery methods are steadily becoming available for these individuals.

One of these is the increasingly popular Refuge Recovery. 

What are Twelve-Step Recovery Alternatives?

When recovering from substance abuse, there are several alternative options to more traditional twelve-step programs that individuals may want to consider. Non 12-step rehab programs avoid defining addiction as something that is outside of an individual’s control. 

Instead, these programs actually make individual choice and self-empowerment the focus in recovering from substance abuse. These alternative programs are typically secular, encouraging individuals to rely on their own strength and will to achieve sobriety, rather than that of an external Higher Power.

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What is Refuge Recovery?

Refuge Recovery is Buddhist-based

Founded by Noah Levine, Refuge Recovery is one of several of these alternatives to more common Twelve-Step recovery programs (such as Alcoholics Anonymous (AA)).

While this recovery program is Buddhist-oriented, it is non-theistic. In other words, it does not ask those who choose to follow this path to adhere to any particular belief system. Rather, it simply asks that they trust the process, and be willing to put in the work to overcome their dependency. 

The Refuge Recovery program maintains the belief that individuals who struggle with alcohol and drug addiction are capable of making a full recovery. So long as the program’s systematic method and approach to treatment are sincerely practiced, participants are promised a lifelong sense of well-being and happiness. 


As defined by the Refuge Recovery program, addiction is the repeated choice to satisfy cravings, predominantly as a means of avoiding, changing, or controlling an individual’s seemingly unbearable conditions in a present moment.

Furthermore, the program emphasizes that these choices, while providing short-term gains or relief, ultimately only cause harm to the individual and those that care about them. 


When it comes to recovery from addiction, Refuge Recovery defines this as the process of healing the underlying issues that caused this affliction in the first place. This is done through establishing and maintaining the decision to not satisfy substance cravings or engage in addictive behaviors. 

Furthermore, recovery can manifest as the ability to sustainably inhabit any given environment, whether pleasant or unpleasant.


A refuge is a place that provides safety and protection for displaced or otherwise ‘lost’ individuals. For many individuals, this may very well take the form of the substances they abuse, or any other unhealthy behaviors they engage in as a means of escape.

However, the Refuge Recovery program aims to offer a means of escaping the endless suffering these habits cause. This is done through following the Buddhist practices of taking refuge, of which is usually found in three things:

  • Awakening (Buddha)
  • Truth (Dharma) 
  • Community (Sangha)

The Buddhist Path To Recovering

Refuge Recovery embraces the eightfold path

Refuge Recovery is not just a practice, but a process, a set of tools, a treatment, and a path to healing the suffering that is caused by addiction. The main inspirations and guiding philosophies, of which, were derived from the teachings of Siddhartha (Sid) Gautama.

Having lived 2,500 years ago in India, Sid was a psychologist who was considered to be radical in his beliefs. However, it was these very beliefs that ultimately led him to become a spiritual revolutionist. Through his own life experiences, he came to understand that the root cause of human suffering lay in the persistence of an “uncontrollable thirst or repetitive craving.” 

This “thirst” Sid spoke of could manifest in several forms, whether in relation to pleasure or as a craving to be rid of unpleasant experiences. This could also exist in the form of an addiction to people, places, things, or experiences. 

Eventually, Sid discovered a way of living that he found could end all of this suffering. This was achieved through the practice and process of meditation, wisdom, and compassion. After achieving his own freedom from this “thirst” that plagues all humans, Sid dedicated the remainder of his life to teaching others how to achieve this for themselves.  

Today, Sid is known as the Buddha and his teachings as Buddhism. And, in search of healing addiction throughout the world today, The Refuge Recovery program developed its systematic approach to addiction treatment under the guidance of his psychological insight.

The Four Noble Truths

When treating addiction, Refuge Recovery follows the Four Noble Truths of the traditional Buddhist system. These begin with four actions, and are as follows: 

  • First Truth: Addiction Creates Suffering. All of the suffering that has been caused, both to the addicted individual and those they have harmed as a result of their habit, must be accounted for. 
  • Second Truth: The Cause of Addiction is Repetitive Craving. Acknowledging the causes and circumstances that led to addiction must occur so that the process of letting go can begin. 
  • Third Truth: Recovery is Possible. The possibility of a full recovery from addiction is embraced, and thus begins the journey onto a path of refuge. 
  • Fourth Truth: The Path to Recovery is Available. The process of the Eightfold Path leading to recovery is engaged. 

The Eightfold Path

Refuge Recovery follows The Eightfold Path of Buddhism in helping individuals on their journey to addiction recovery. This proven and systematic approach follows Buddhist recovery practices in achieving liberation, through completing a painful cycle of rebirth. 

The Eight Steps in this path are as follows:

  1. Understanding
  2. Intentions
  3. Speech/community
  4. Actions
  5. Livelihood/service
  6. Effort
  7. Mindfulness
  8. Concentration


Once individuals have an understanding of the Four Noble Truths, as well as the program’s eight-step recovery approach, they will then begin to practice achieving wisdom. This is done through practicing mindfulness meditation. 

The purpose of these daily meditation practices serves to allow individuals to recognize the root causes of their addiction, as well as to learn how to appreciate being in the present moment. This meditative awareness is also achieved through Heart Practice and Forgiveness meditation practices.

Noah Levine and his Personal Experience with Addiction

Before discovering Buddhism and subsequently developing his Buddhist path to recovering from addiction, Levine struggled with his own substance abuse problems. 

Having had a troubled childhood, Levine shows in his novel, Dharma Punx, how his search for rebellion through drugs, drinking, and punk rock did not ease suffering; rather, it only caused him more. 

Dharma Punx documents how Levine made the choice to dedicate his life to helping others in recovering from addiction as he did: through guided meditation, sincerely practiced recovery Dharma and faith in Buddhist principles. 

Now a Buddhist teacher himself, Levine has dedicated his life to spreading the knowledge of Buddhism and helping to guide those back from the destructive behaviors that once consumed them.

What is Required to Join the Refuge Recovery Program?

While every individual has their own personal experience with and ways of viewing addiction, this disease more often than not will alienate people, both from themselves and others. Refuge Recovery seeks to end this isolation, by building a community of individuals from all walks of life. 

As a nontheistic recovery program, individuals are not required to have any previous experience or knowledge of Buddhism. As long as a person is willing to put in the work towards recovering, and are open to following Buddhist principles to do so, they are welcome to join the program.

How do Refuge Recovery Meetings Work?

A Refuge Recovery meditation session

When attending Refuge Recovery meetings, individuals will participate in group sharing sessions, in which individuals can talk about their experiences with addiction, as well as their progress and achievements in their path to sobriety. 

They may also engage in a short reading of as well as guided meditation sessions from the Refuge Recovery book: Refuge Recovery: A Buddhist Path to Recovery from Addiction.

Offering meetings both online and in-person, individuals can follow this Buddhist-oriented approach to recovery in whatever way is most convenient to them. 

To find out more about the dates, times, and locations of these meetings, click here.

Other Twelve-Step Alternative Recovery Programs

For those who may not be interested in following a Buddhist path to recovery, there are several other programs that do not adhere to the more traditional AA model’s focus on following religious tenets in treating addiction.

One of these indispensable alternative options is a program called SMART Recovery, which incorporates systematic, method-based addiction education and counseling psychology. 

The SMART Recovery program differs from others not just in the sense that it follows a non-theistic approach, but because it is not intended to be a long-term option. Rather, individuals recovering from addiction are meant to graduate from this program and begin new lives dedicated to maintaining their well-being. 

There are several other Twelve-Step alternatives available to recovering individuals, including those such as LifeRing Secular Recovery, Women for Sobriety, Secular Organizations for Sobriety (S.O.S.), and more. 

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Find Effective Addiction Treatment Methods

Whether following Buddhist teachings in achieving sobriety, or choosing a more clinically-proven practice that integrates scientific methods into its recovery approach, these should always be used in addition to a medical method of overcoming addiction. 

Because recovering from substance abuse can have severe, and at times lethal consequences, receiving professional addiction treatment services is crucial. 

Whether this is through seeking out inpatient, outpatient, or other forms of rehabilitative care, individuals should always have some sort of professional supervision as they overcome their dependency. 

Finding the Right Treatment Options for You

If you or a loved one is struggling with addiction, know that you are not alone, and help is available. Here at Find Addiction Rehabs, we understand how hard it can be to find substance abuse resources and treatment options. 

That’s why our hotline is available 24/7, so that we can offer people who are suffering from addiction the support and assistance they need. So make the right choice, and call today so that we can help you get connected with addiction treatment centers that will get you started on a path to a happier, healthier, and sober you!

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