Transcript: Recovery Dharma: How to Use Buddhist Practices to Heal The Suffering of Addiction

adinasilvestri.com atheists in recovery podcast transcript

Transcript: Recovery Dharma: How to Use Buddhist Practices to Heal The Suffering of Addiction

Adina Silvestri 0:27
Hello, everyone, and welcome to Episode 14 of the Atheists in Recovery podcast. And today’s show is all about Recovery Dharma. And so I’m pretty excited to share this episode with you. I’ve been interested in this program for a while now. And today, Amy and I talk about Recovery Dharma as an alternative to the 12 step program.

Recovery Dharma is definitely not your grandfather’s recovery program.

It is based on Buddhist principles. And Amy and I talked about how recovery Dharma is similar to AA.

But also how it’s different than AA. As you can imagine, there are probably more differences than similarities. But you can definitely utilize both programs at the same time. This is your recovery. So you do what works for you.

Okay, on to my guest, Amy reed. Amy reed is an Asheville, North Carolina based writer. She got sober in Oakland, California in 2008 in the rooms of Alcoholics Anonymous, and dabbed a little in Buddhism via Kevin Griffin and Spirit Rock, when she moved to Asheville with her family

2014 she found herself drifting away from the 12 steps and struggled to find a recovery community in her new town. Then she saw a flyer for refuge recovery in a cafe, went to her first meeting in the summer of 2016 and found exactly what she was looking for. She soon started a dedicated meditation practice became active in her local and regional refuge community, and was elected Asheville’s inter Sangha treasurer. In 2018, she was invited to join the refuge recovery literature committee and became part of the team that co wrote and would eventually become the Dharma Recovery, the first literature offering of the Recovery Dharma program. In February of 2019, she joined the refuge Recovery Board of Directors, and July 13 of 2019. Amy represented the newly formed organization recovery Dharma at the State of the State address at the refuge recovery Fifth Annual Conference in

Chicago, joining Noah Levine and outlining the two new organizations that have been born from the dissolving of refuge recovery. She is currently on the core transition team of recovery Dharma and has been busy behind the scenes helping to build this new grass works grass roots sorry movement using Buddhist practice and principles to end the suffering of addiction.

Okay, here we go. Amy Reed. Welcome to the show.

Amy Reed 3:29
Thank you.

Adina Silvestri 3:31
So I wanted to talk about, about your spiritual background, sort of how I like to start off my conversations and from childhood.

Amy Reed 3:42
Yeah, so I didn’t really have much of a spiritual background. I didn’t like grow up in a church or with any kind of dogma. My dad is a devout Atheist.

indefinitely, the kind who is very

judgmental of people who do have spiritual practice.

And so I grew up with that on one side. And then on the other side, my mom who grew up in like a Pentecostal Filipino church as a child and was very, very involved in the church and then sort of, I think, in her adult years,

kind of went away from that, but she’s still, she’s still had, like, a belief in something that wasn’t really super defined. But, like, I spent a little bit of time in an Episcopal Church as a child, because I sang and that was the best like choir. So I would go and go to like the choir practice and we would put on these fancy robes and go sing at the services, and I really loved it. Like I loved the ceremony and the beauty of it, and like, but there was like, really no kind


really spiritual understanding of anything. And then I also had, like these strange experiences where I kept having these friends who, who would try to save me, and like taking me to their churches and like, like, because I guess there are a lot of churches that

you know, want the kids to go out and save other kids that they think need saving. So that happened a few times. I never really bit I guess.

But I think that I kind of always had this sort of deep desire to like, have a deeper connection to something and

and I didn’t really know how to define that. And then I did end up getting sober in A.A.

and I and I wasn’t one of those people who had a problem with like,

the higher power concept even though I didn’t necessarily believe in like an omniscient sort of ever, like powerful

God who, like, had an opinion about anything, but I did kind of have an understanding that there was like that I wasn’t the center of the universe. And that was sort of all I needed to kind of get started in that program and that sort of form of recovery. And then later found Buddhism to kind of perfectly align to kind of my deeper sort of understanding and

kind of you of how things work and how to like live a life of integrity.

Adina Silvestri 6:36
Yeah. So I do want us to talk about Recovery Dharma. That is why you’re you’re here today. And but I was wondering if you could talk a little bit about your recovery journey, just to kind of give us a little bit more background.

Amy Reed 6:52
Yeah, so I I first went to rehab when I was 16 years old.

I started using when I was around 13. And just like kind of was one of those people who was immediately an addict, I think that I was, you know, like, so many of us, had some trauma had dysfunctional family had like, all of those ingredients to just kind of set me up to kind of go straight into it, you know, like I found the solution for my pain, or so I thought, and then, you know, that solution quickly became its own problem. And I was sober for about a year and a half as a teenager. But, you know, I guess I hadn’t gotten to the point where I felt like,

I had done enough research.

And so I spent the next you know, 10 years or so doing some more research, and got to the point where like, it just was not working for me anymore, I did everything I could to do sort of like harm control and sort of manage my life the best I could. And I got to a point where like, Okay, so I’ve done all the managing, and I still can’t quit, yeah. And then I ended up going to treatment again, at age 29. And luckily, it stuck that time. And I became very involved in A.A. in Oakland, California, and developed like a incredible group of friends in recovery. And it was a really special place to get sober, I think I was really lucky. In that, the kind of culture that I found in AA, there was a niche there for people like me who like, we weren’t super into like, a traditional sense of the higher power, we were like, critically thinking, you know, a lot of us identified as Atheist or Agnostic. And we just sort of like made that program work for us. And the most powerful thing for me, and for you, I know for a lot of people is just the community and like not being alone anymore. And more than anything, I think that’s what really got me sober, and like learning how to trust people again, and learning how to like, be in relationship and be honest, and all of those kinds of things. And then, at around five years later, I moved to North Carolina, and tried to kind of do A.A. and it just didn’t click for me, I was not finding my people. And I wasn’t, I wasn’t hearing the things that resonated. For me, I think I kind of reached a plateau in my personal growth and my emotional sobriety. And I felt like there was more, and I just wasn’t getting it in that program. And so I started kind of drifting away, I didn’t really have a recovery community and then saw a flyer for Refuge Recovery, which is a Buddhist based program of recovery. And I started going to those meetings and really found, like, this sort of Buddhist approach to dealing with craving and just like being human, that was really,

it just felt like truth to me.

And so that was sort of my introduction to like, Buddhist recovery. And then over the next few years, there was, you know, a lot of transition in that program. I was on the board of directors for a brief time. And then that program dissolved and two new programs came out of it Refuge Recovery, world services. And then Recovery Dharma, which I’m on the sort of temporary transition team of that until we elect our first board of directors. And so that’s my primary program now is Recovery Dharma. Yeah. Okay. Yeah. So

Adina Silvestri 10:53
I just want to highlight a point that you said a little bit ago where you talked about being in Oakland, California, and going to AA, and even though you didn’t subscribe to a higher power, necessarily, you still found your your people and it worked for you. And I and I hear that often, that it’s not even so much about the principles behind it. It’s just about finding the people that that work for you.

Amy Reed 11:24
Yeah, yeah, I really, that’s definitely been my experience. And I think, for a lot of people, they go to A.A. meetings or N.A. meetings, and they’re not finding their people. And that makes such a huge difference. Because I think like, even though I think for a lot of folks who don’t necessarily have a belief in a higher power, you can kind of suspend that part if it if it feels right for you, like socially. And that’s where you kind of put your attention and, and focus on the things that work. And so the things that may be don’t work for you. But if you don’t have that foundation, like the Community Foundation, it’s a lot harder to really feel like you have a place there.

Adina Silvestri 12:09
Yeah, thank you for that.

So recovery, Dharma, tell me a little bit more tell the listeners a little bit more about recovery, Dharma, I don’t know a ton about it. And and when we were talking a few minutes ago, before we hit record, we talked about the Four Noble Truths. And maybe you could talk about some of the principles behind it.

Amy Reed 12:35
Yeah, so

it’s basically it’s a program of recovery that’s based on the Buddha’s teachings, like the kind of basic Buddhist teachings that really are accessible to anybody. You don’t have to be a Buddhist, there are a lot of Atheists and Agnostics who follow a Buddhist path, because it’s incredibly practical, and based on like, a sort of psychological understanding of like, the motivations we have for being human. And the basic idea that like, in this life, there is suffering, and that suffering occurs because of craving, essentially, because we we want to attach to pleasure, and we want to want to run away from pain. And like, that’s basically the definition of addiction, right. And it’s also the definition of being human, even if you don’t necessarily have substances as part of your struggle. we all struggle with craving, and we all struggle with like, not wanting to feel our feelings and doing whatever behaviors we can to kind of numb out or, you know, surround ourselves with pleasurable things that end up being temporary and leaving us again, with that space of like, Oh, I’m empty, what do I do now. And so really like, the pack that we find is just based on the Four Noble Truths, which are that one, there is suffering. And suffering is caused by, you know, aversion to pain and attachment to pleasure, and that there is a solution to the suffering. And the solution is in this path, which is the Eightfold Path. And basically, like, that path is just all about, like, wisdom, and it’s about like being conscious of your intentions and compassion and generosity and speaking wisely and kindly. And, and a big part of that is meditation and learning how to just sort of sit with yourself and actually just like, be with your feelings and pausing so that you can, you know, wisely respond to them, rather than like, reacting and your habitual sort of behaviors. And so it’s really just like, it’s a path for integrity, and self compassion and compassion towards others, and honesty. And we have a book that you can find on Amazon, it’s also available for free on our website for download. Because it’s really important to us as, as a organization, that it’s accessible to everybody, and that nobody, like no person is making a profit that this is truly, you know, a grassroots peer lead, community oriented program.

Adina Silvestri 15:44
Yeah, yeah.

So that sounds, that sounds really good. And what, what would you say to the people that don’t have any idea how to how to meditate? or where to start? I mean, is that something that you’ve have to have knowledge of prior to go into a meeting?

Amy Reed 16:03
No, not at all. There is like, no prior knowledge of anything required. A lot of people find us who have never, like even heard of Buddhism, they’re just, they just want something besides those traditional fellowships that they just don’t quite fit in. And also, I just want to add to that, like, a lot of people in Recovery Dharma are also part of other fellowships. And then they find, you know, this path is like, how they practice the 11th step. And, and so yeah, like, when you go to a meeting, there will be a guided meditation, you don’t have to, like know how to do anything, there will be instruction, and there’s so many great resources online to just like, how do you start meditating, and there’s so many apps that, like, have guided meditations, and it’s really just, you know, like, I think we can make it really complicated. And we can have, like, all these expectations of like, how you’re supposed to do it, right. And really, it’s just about making space to just like, be quiet and still and listen, and be with yourself, you know, and stop chasing for just, you know, a few minutes a day, and then maybe a few more minutes next week. And just like giving yourself that gift of stillness,

Adina Silvestri 17:26
that might be the only time a person stops and is still in their entire day. I can imagine that to be true.

Amy Reed 17:36
Yeah, especially in our culture, which is so built around, running, running, running, running, being busy all the time, like, addiction is built into our culture, it’s in everything we do, the way we relate to media and like all of those things. And so it’s, it’s really, it’s a great part of what I love to about recovery Dharma is that it’s very inclusive and holistic, and how we approach like, how we think about addiction, like, we don’t compartmentalize, you know, alcoholics go over here, drug addicts go over here, eating disorder, people go to this other meeting, like, it’s inclusive of all people who want to end the suffering of their habitual behavior. And so we have people at meetings, you know, who struggle with addictions and who struggle with eating disorders, or struggle with codependency or just anxiety in general and like obsessive thinking, and so it’s really a place that’s there for anybody who wants support and community around, you know, healing from whatever they need healing from.

Adina Silvestri 18:46

Yeah, I love that.

Amy Reed 18:49
Because, I mean, I don’t know about you, but like, I don’t have just like one addiction, right, especially in long term recovery. Like, I don’t, I don’t deal with cravings was for substances anymore, but like, Oh my gosh, like, so many other things pop up. Like, you know, social media and stuff with food and stuff with relationships. It’s like, you know, our brains are designed, attached to something constantly and so it’s, it’s really, it’s great to, like, have this sort of broader understanding of like, how am I really dealing with the suffering of my, my mind? And, and really, like, enhancing my, my spiritual growth and my image, my emotional sobriety, and like, all of these, like, really deep and like, intricate ways that like, I wasn’t really getting in programs that like, all we talked about was drinking. Because at a certain point, like drinking isn’t my problem anymore, but my mind is my problem.

Adina Silvestri 19:56
Yeah. And so, did we go over all four noble truths?

Amy Reed 20:04
Um, yeah,

Adina Silvestri 20:05
like, I feel like I may have skipped a couple.

Amy Reed 20:07
Okay. Yeah. So that it’s basically like: one there is suffering. Two, suffering is caused by craving. Three, there’s an end to suffering. And four, the end to suffering is the Eightfold Path. And then I think I kind of breezed through the Eightfold Path. But basically, it’s wise view, which is just sort of like seeing clearly like seeing the truth. Kind of, you know, how do we get out of delusion? And then wise intention, wise speech wise action, wise livelihood, wise effort. And then wise mindfulness and wise concentration so like that those last two kind of deal with meditation, like, you know, mindfulness and concentration and meditation, but also in how we approach life in general right, like, Can we be mindful in as many moments as possible. And can we focus our intention on what is true and important. So they’re all practices, right? They’re not like commandments. They’re not like, Thou shalt not do this, because it is a sin, or whatever it’s like, it’s like, here are tools to like, live a good life and to like, wake up. And so there’s no like, there’s no like dogma or judgment or shame. It’s just like, this stuff is really, really useful. And like, if you do it, you’ll probably like improve your life a lot.

Yes, yeah. So there’s like a lot of hope there.

Adina Silvestri 21:40
Yeah. And also,

with AA, you, you’re not working the steps concurrently? And like you, or in conjunction with like, I can’t, I’m not going to work steps one through three at the same time. And so it so it sounds like with Recovery, Dharma, you can be working on multiple pathways to recovery, or you should be.

Amy Reed 22:09
Yeah, it’s not a linear, there’s no linear sort of thing or like, do don’t, graduate, you know, it’s and actually like, the symbol of the eightfold path is a wheel with eight spokes. So it’s, you know, it’s a, it’s a circular thing, like you’re kind of doing all of them at every moment. And and when you like, can truly feel balanced is when you’re putting the same energy to all the eight spokes. And of course, that’s a very tall order. Right. But that’s kind of the intention, right, is to find that balance and to find that the middle path in how we approach things.

Adina Silvestri 22:56
Yeah, I love the idea of the spokes on the We’ll then if you stop attending to the spokes, the wheel falls off the car people.

Amy Reed 23:08
Love that bridge.

Adina Silvestri 23:09

yeah. Um, yeah, I love that. Okay.

So I want to

talk, maybe you can sort of lead us through what a Recovery Dharma meeting looks like. So I know, you said in the beginning, there’s a meditation, and it may be different for everyone, for every meeting, but maybe just like, generalizations.

Amy Reed 23:36
Yeah. So I think, you know, every meeting is autonomous. And so they all have their own sort of personality. But in general, I think they’ll usually start with, you know, kind of intro announcements and readings, like, they’re kind of standard readings that we have that are like, this is the path and this is what we do here. And then there will usually be at the beginning, like a 20 minute guided meditation. And we have some, some meditations as part of our practice our program that folks use at various meetings, like, you know, like just a basic breath meditation, or, like a meta or loving kindness meditation, where you’re sending out, you know, friendly, kind thoughts, to yourself and to others, to kind of build up that feeling. And there’s like compassion meditation, and equanimity, meditation, and like, appreciative joy meditation. And then there are other ones like mindfulness of the body, or mindfulness of, you know, feelings. And so there are there are a bunch of different meditations that people kind of cycle through. And then some meetings after that will have, like a speaker speak on a topic for like 10 or 15 minutes, or a meeting that I love that we have in Asheville is a Dharma study meeting. So we’ll play like 15 or 20 minutes of a Dharma talk, which is, in the Buddhist world, that’s kind of like, it’s like our version of a sermon.

Although that word, you know, is really problematic for a lot of people. So try to let that go.

So it’s like, you know, like, a Buddhist teacher will give like a, like a lecture on a concept. And so, like, we will play like 20 minutes of one of those lectures, and then we’ll have a discussion about that afterwards, where people can talk about that topic, or they can talk about what’s going on in their recovery, or whatever. What are some other ones that I’ve heard of? There are meetings who are like, it’s an inquiry study, so we part of the program is working on inquiry. So I guess like the, it’s like, it’s like when I think of doing like a fourth step, or like, you know, that kind of like inventory work. But I think in our program, it’s a lot. It’s a lot more holistic, like, we’re really looking at how we’ve created suffering in our lives through our, our behaviors, and how can we apply the Four Noble Truths and eightfold path to relieve that suffering? And so some meetings will kind of like, focus on a certain inquiry question or something like that.

Adina Silvestri 26:28
And so they’re like, there are, you know,

Amy Reed 26:30
different sort of,

like formats, but they generally follow that like, you know, announcements, meditation, some sort of, like starting kind of share or something, and then open for discussion, just like you would find at most recovery meetings. Yeah. And so it should feel like somewhat familiar to people who are used to like,A.A or N.A., the only differences. There’s a meditation.

Adina Silvestri 27:03
Yeah, yeah. And you’re not hearing just about one substance. And you could be hearing about several different substances, or maybe there are several different obsessive thoughts that people are having, or Yeah, yeah. So it’s interesting that in Recovery Dharma, it seems like addiction isn’t linked to a specific thing. It could be anything, which I find really…which I like, yeah,

Amy Reed 27:32
yeah. Because the source, the source is the same for all of it, right? It’s always about like, how are we trying to avoid pain? And how are we trying to chase pleasure in and we do that in different ways, like I find now in kind of long term recovery. My, my main addiction is control and like, how do I like, what are all the behaviors I attached to like trying to be in control. And so I find a lot of wisdom and hearing from people who have had like, restrictive eating disorders, because I like really relate to that approach to like, I find pleasure in feeling control and like, so I really get a lot of wisdom from people who have struggled with that, in that like particular way, which is not something I necessarily would have expected. But so yeah, like it’s and I find it, it’s just a beautiful thing to like, create this community that’s so wide in it’s support and where we can learn from each other in ways that we might not have expected. And that it just it feels like the inclusivity is is really, really powerful. And the fact that we’re, we don’t define ourselves by like, our one substance that was maybe our favorite one, that we are part of a lot, your community and a larger human experience that has room for everybody.

Adina Silvestri 29:06
Yeah, I love that inclusion piece as well. And that’s how the Recovery Dharma Well, I think it was called something else. But that’s how it started. Correct? It was, because Noah Levine didn’t want to walk into a meeting with a bunch of people that looked like old white therapists.

I read that somewhere. And I thought, Oh, that makes sense.


Amy Reed 29:31
So we do have some old white therapists in our meetings, and we love them.

Adina Silvestri 29:34
Yeah, I would be considered one of them.

And I definitely want to come to a meeting.

Amy Reed 29:44
Or you’re in Virginia, I think there’s Yeah, there’s a few meetings up there.

Adina Silvestri 29:48
There are?

Amy Reed 29:49
Yeah, I forget.

Yeah. We’ll talk later. Okay.

I was just going to say that

we have a meeting directory online, on our website, recoverydharma.org. And I think we’re like around 400 meetings now, all around the US, Canada, UK, southern Australia. And then we have an online community also that does online meetings, which is really, really great for people in like, especially like rural communities who we might not have a presence there yet. And our online community is really, really strong. And so yeah, like you can you can look on the website and look at the directory and see where your closest meeting is.

Adina Silvestri 30:31
Yeah. So if you couldn’t get to a meeting, maybe you would go to something like an A.A. meeting, and if you felt comfortable doing that, and just to kind of get you through and then jump on an online meeting. So you could kind of work with both of them.

Amy Reed 30:47
Yeah, that would be a lot of people do that.

Adina Silvestri 30:50
Okay, yeah. Yeah, that’s good.

Great. Well, Miss Amy, any other final thoughts as we, as we wrap up today? Anything else that you want us to know?

Amy Reed 31:07
Oh, just I think that like the, I don’t know, I’ve said a lot about what I love about our program. And I think one of the other things that I want to mention is that we’re really trying to be intentional about being trauma informed and being inclusive of different identities that traditionally haven’t felt safe in A.A. and N.A. and other fellowships. Because, I don’t know, I don’t want to like trash talk those because they, I mean, I got sober in them and they saved my life, But yeah, they’ve, they’ve saved so many people’s lives, but I think like, because they are so much so based on very, very old, a very old Foundation, and that hasn’t really caught up with the needs of certain communities, there are certain communities that just don’t feel comfy, well, there. And so we’re really, really trying to make an effort to create safe spaces, and to really understand trauma as part of addiction. Because obviously, like, you’re a therapist, like everybody knows that, like, trauma is the root of addiction for so many of us. And, and that isn’t something that I really felt was addressed in 12 steps for me, and that I’ve found so much healing and like, growth, now, like kind of integrating that into my recovery. And just like, you know, attachment issues, and like all of those things, and how that affects how I relate to other people and, and so that’s something that I am very, very passionate about, and very excited about in that like, we really are trying to make that central to our program.

So that we can create a safe healing space for anybody who needs it. Yeah.

Adina Silvestri 33:06
Yeah, that’s a great place to stop.

So Amy, where are some of the best places to reach you? And or Recovery Dharma? How can people find out more?

Amy Reed 33:20
I would start with our website, which is recoverydharma.org. Its recovery. Dharma is spelled DHAR ma. So recoverydharma.org. And then we have really active a really active Facebook group. So I think if you just type in recovery, Dharma, you’ll find the group and there’s a lot of really great conversations happening there and a lot of support there. You can kind of see what the news is and

what else?

I think those are the main places to get information. You could, if you have like specific questions, I would first kind of try to ask them on the Facebook page. Or you could also email us at [email protected] dharma.org. But the Facebook, the Facebook group is a great place to start conversation and build community. And there’s a lot of folks who are active on there. And yeah, like check out a meeting there. You don’t have to know anything, you don’t even have to identify as necessarily an addict. They are places that are really open to anybody. And, and our book is available on Amazon. You can also like I said, download it for free from the website.

Adina Silvestri 34:47
Okay, well, thank you so much for coming on. I taken notes like crazy and yeah, I really appreciate it. Thank you.

Amy Reed 34:57
Yeah, thank you so

much. It was great talking to you. Okay,

Adina Silvestri 35:00

Amy Reed 35:01

  • Update as of 10/10/19: The book mentioned in Amy’s bio is called: Recovery Dharma, not The Dharma Recovery



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