eight step recovery

Mindful awareness of what addiction is

Big old fishing hook (for sturgeon fish) isolated on whiteBefore we can move onto step 6, “Placing Positives Values at the Center of Our Lives,” we really need to come into “Mindful Awareness of What Addiction is.” It’s easy to delude ourselves when the scientists define 10 types of addictions, and our particular one does not come up on their list.

  1. Alcohol
  2. Tobacco
  3. Caffeine
  4. Marijuana
  5. Solvents
  6. Opiates ( like pain killers, heroine, morphine, ketamine)
  7. Anti Anxiety Sedatives
  8. Psycho Stimulants (like speed or cocaine)
  9. Amphetamine (like ecstasy)
  10. Hallucinogens (like LSD)

If you only want to believe what the scientists say then how about reflecting on this: Scientists state that for something to be an addiction it must have the following characteristics…

  • It must be a repeated behaviour that results in distress or negative impact
  • You continue to repeat the behaviour despite the fact it will cause distress
  • You have a state of physiological need such that physiological signs occur when you stop taking them, and these physiological signs also includes depression, anxiety disorder, anger
  • You experience stress when you try to stop
  • You exhibit behaviours of lying, or concealing behaviours (whenever you participate in the addictive behaviour and do not want others to see that you are concealing something)
  • You behaviour is persistent, and youhave not been able to cut back or stop
  • You may be able to stop the behaviour but relapse

Scientists also claim that before something can be considered addicting it must have the characteristic of a brain disorder. And because addiction is classified as a brain disorder, addiction can be cured.

While gambling has been added to the scientists’ list of addiction, we still have some way to go to have sugar, food, sex, internet, shopping and many other things included. Meanwhile these categories may not have been scientifically proved to be an addiction, but don’t kid yourselves—they can produce the above characteristics.

Addiction or not, what we can agree on that mindfulness has a lot to contribute to dis-ease. Statistics have proved that drug addiction and alcoholism has a profound impact on the frontal cortex in the brain, which is responsible for behaviour, shrinking it to the same size as that of someone with schizophrenia. And scientific evidence also proves that mindfulness has a profound impact on the frontal cortex. MRI scans on a brain that has been exposed to an 8 week mindfulness course show that the amygdala shrinks, which impacts the pre frontal cortex that is responsible for decision making, concentration and awareness.

The reality is that addiction is all the same, there is just different labels for them. The initial trigger that prompted us to turn towards a substance, was about us turning away from our present experience wether it be a negative or positive one.

Admittedly certain behaviours can be harmful, but not addictive. However if we repeat them over and over again, and act out some of the characteristics above, I think we have to accept that we do have an addiction that needs paying Mindful Awareness too.

Especially if it is at the center of your life. What I mean by that is;

What do you spend most of your time thinking about?
What thoughts frequent your mind?
What do you spend a lot of your time doing?
What do you spend your money on?

There is not one cure for substance abuse, substance misuse and I include sugar, food, sex, internet as substances. In fact it’s claimed that sugar is 8 times more addictive than cocaine. And it has as many harmful impacts like, diabetes, obesity and high blood pressure.

However I invite you to place Mindfulness at the center of your thoughts and be open to see what happens. Those of you who have had addictive behaviours, know very well what has been the material of your thoughts, what has occupied your mind.

What would it mean to put the breath at the center of your thoughts?
What would it mean to disappear into your breath rather than disappearing into your thoughts?

More on placing positive qualities at the center of your life next month.

I will be talking this month about how the weight we need to lose is of our minds – https://thepowerofdetox.com/ValerieMasonJohn

For a free sample of the book study and 21 meditations of Eight Step Recovery – Using The Buddha’s Teachings To Overcome Addiction please email: eightstepsrecovery@gmail.com

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Get over it

Vimalasara-790955So I have survived one month of mentorship through my own programme of ‘Eight Step Recovery.’ I’ve relapsed twice, and am back on track with three days of abstinence. I tried harm reduction and it didn’t work for me. Told myself I will eat a handful of raw cashews a day. I even left them out on the kitchen counter so my hosts could share them with me too. But once they were finished, I went out bought a 500 gram packet and proceeded to eat them for my lunch, during a period of three hours. Now you may think: ‘Get over it, you don’t have an addiction. It’s not a matter of life and death. You’re hardly going to wreck the family, or cause any great harm’.

While I do have a mild allergy to nuts, I can’t claim that if I carried on eating them that they would kill me, but I do know that consuming them stunts my emotional growth. Why? Because the nuts have replaced the cigarette I once used to put in my mouth, it has replaced the gum I used to chew obsessively, the food I used to binge on and purge, the substances I used to consume.

Although I’m not in the throes of a life threatening addiction and admittedly avoiding my direct experience has lessened, I still at times turn away from my direct experience enough to disturb my peace of mind. Every time I turn away or avoid, I am resisting and triggering the urges to pick up. These urges manifest into the mental proliferation and mental obsessing, multiplying my initial experience of discomfort several fold. ‘Now I must eat those cashews because it has become too overwhelming.’

I took the opportunity to reflect on my attachment to raw cashew nuts and I wrote this to my sponsor.

‘I’m on the bus licking my wounds and thought I could email you from my phone. As I walked today I realized I do not want to let go of cashews and that is my problem. I know I need to and that I should do as it is a neurotic behaviour that usurps my equilibrium. After that thought, I found myself buying cashews and ate them all over the next two hours not a huge amount but now I feel sick and wish I could turn the clocks back but I can’t. I can see I was turning away from the discomfort of knowing I don’t want to stop. So the question is how do I move from not wanting to let go or knowing I need to let go, to wanting to let go?’ I know eating them in small doses does not work as I end up bingeing as I did today’.

“What I recommend for you is to meditate and reflect on what you are believing about this behavior that is not true. Usually we are believing an untruth. And usually its a variation on ‘it will be ok this time’ (in spite of what has always happened in the past) or ‘even if it’s not ok, it will be worth it’. These are the lies that we most often keep on deluding ourselves with. Another common one is that: ‘I just can’t do this and I might as well give up’. It may be as simple as ‘it will make me feel better’, which of course is not true, because it never does. So there’s your challenge, to bring awareness to your unspoken beliefs, and then to investigate them for current validity. Uncover the lie that you’re believing. 

Most of these bad habits did actually have a valid coping function at one point in our lives, before they became debilitating addictions. They did help us cope. But now we have to uncover the dynamics, and ask ourselves ‘what did this do for me in the past?’, ‘what is it doing for me now?’, and ‘what is it doing TO me now?’. But mindfulness of the inner dynamics is a prerequisite. Then we can face our issues instead of having them ambush from behind.”

Great advice for somebody who has co-created Mindfulness Based Addiction Recovery MBAR course. While delivering the training the trainer MBAR course this weekend, I could not help realize, that I had few thoughts about eating cashews over the three days.

I realized that I have needed the dharma, the mindfulness teachings, rather than actually wanting them. It’s a subtle and gross difference. Nothing wrong in needing the teachings, but what does one do once they have been rescued by the teachings? Often go back to their ways.

If I want the dharma enough, I will wholeheartedly place positive values at the centre of my life moment by moment. I did this while delivering the training. I needed to, to deliver the course, but now the course is over, can I want the dharma enough to go for refuge to the Buddha, Dharma, Sangha, effectively and absolutely. This is step six. More about this step next month.

Meanwhile – check out the Detox Summit which I am one of the speakers, where I talk about weakening our attachment to those facilitative and or negative thoughts that can cause a slip and or relapse. Begins Tuesday May 5th for 3 weeks. Detox Summit

For a free sample of the book study and 21 meditations of Eight Step Recovery – Using The Buddha’s Teachings To Overcome Addiction please email: eightstepsrecovery@gmail.com

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Walking my talk

cashew nuts coated wasabiI decided it was about time I make some more effort at walking my talk. So what better opportunity do I have but to work through the 8 steps that I co-founded to take me out of my misery? Although many of the teachings I speak about in the book, were inspirations for me to change my life. I’ve not surrendered to a mentor/sponsor to take me systematically through the set of 8 steps.

While writing the notes on 8 step meetings, which I should say I attended daily while working in India for the month of January, and also writing on how to mentor someone in the program, I thought wouldn’t it be great for somebody to mentor me. So I wrote to my sponsor a long time 12 stepper in several programs and asked: ‘Will you sponsor me?’

He emailed me back: ‘Hahaha, interesting, you know. The idea of taking the woman who wrote the book through them is just kind of topsy-turvy. Anyway, sure I’d be glad to do that. It would be good for me too. I’ve been looking forward to an opportunity to do something like this with someone, to explore the steps myself with someone,  and you’re the first person to turn up. And naturally I’m confident that you won’t give up or do it on a shallow level.’

Well it’s kinda topsy turvy for me too. Surrendering to my own work. But I realize more and more as I mentor people through this program, and read the emails sent to me, that I need to keep on walking my talk. Those of you who are familiar with food addiction will know, that it is non stop work, and if we are not mindful grey areas do arise.

So I thought I would work on my relationship to cashew nuts, You may laugh, everybody else does, or they tell me: ‘It’s healthy, you’re a vegan—eat away’. But I can’t kid myself, I know that I have a neurotic relationship with them. I know that, because if you told me today I could never eat cashews again, I would cry (metaphorically), and find it incredibly challenging. It’s not so much the behaviour it is the volition behind the behaviour. Still holding to a past that can drive a behaviour.

My trip to India put me in my uncomfortable zone, I was powerless over the foods I could eat. I had no choice but forced into renunciation of my green smoothies, my marmite and tahini, my rice cakes, for a diet of rice and oily vegetable curries three times a day. While I loved the food, I knew I could not keep such a diet. I was shocked to realize that I had a huge fear of becoming bigger. This fear was behind my neurotic eating of cashews, the only food I could cling onto, while away from my familiar environment.

While working with people who are struggling in their addictions, I often say: ‘You have to be abstinent’. I’ve forgotten how painful it is to let go and be abstinent, as there are so many things I have chosen to live without in my life. And I also remember that harm reduction can be a way to go, if abstinence is the place we truly want to land upon, and even that at times may not be perfect.

So I wanted to investigate, why is it so hard to let go of a habit, a behaviour that causes us stress, unsatisfactoriness and can never be permanent in our lives?

So I’m in the hot house. Join me in doing one meditation a day from the 21 meditations for recovery. Check in daily. Email for a copy of the 8 step book study, mentoring and meetings.

For a free sample of the book study and 21 meditations of Eight Step Recovery – Using The Buddha’s Teachings To Overcome Addiction please email: eightstepsrecovery@gmail.com

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Step five – transforming our speech, actions and livelihood

Anyone who has worked a set of steps either in the 12 step tradition or the 8 step model, will know how long it can take to complete a set of steps. There are places where people get stuck, or just drop out.

Eight Step Recovery

This fith step transforming our speech, actions and livelihood, is one of those steps that can feel overwhelming. ‘What! I have to transform my livelihood? How will I earn my living?’

The reality is if we want change in our lives we do have to begin a moral inventory and reflect on our behaviours. We put speech first, because most people can relate to the fact that their communication could be improved upon or even transformed.

However if we focused on transforming our actions, transformation of our speech and livelihood would follow us like a shadow. It has been said that: ‘The only thing we own are our actions.’ Hence our actions create our karma, because our actions will always have a consequence. The Buddha’s teaching on karma has been explained by Dhivan Thomas Jones and Sagaraghosa in their book This Being, That Becomes ‘Actions lead to habits lead to character leads to destiny.’

Picking up a drink after a hard day at work can lead to us doing this every day, until it has become a habit without us even being aware of it. This habit can impair our judgements, and we create a drunken character. And for many people that drunken character has created some miserable destinies.

The Buddhist teachings are quite clear about this ‘If with an impure mind a person speaks or acts suffering follows him/her like the wheel that follows the foot of the ox. If with a pure mind a person speaks or acts happiness follows him/her like the wheel that follows the foot of the ox.’

We offer exercises and reflections in this step to help guide you through a possible radical change. It could be as simple as taking up the five training principles to help train the mind. When we begin to live a more ethical life, there can be hope. A strong practise of ethics can give rise to much joy and happiness. A strong practise of loving kindness can lead to a softening of the heart and much joy. Transform yourself and you will transform everything around you.

[Eight Step Recovery, pages 117-142.]

For a free sample chapter of Eight Step Recovery – Using The Buddha’s Teachings To Overcome Addiction please email: eightstepsrecovery@gmail.com

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Mentorship and meetings

Sleeping BuddhaIt has been one year since the first edition was launched, and Eight Step Recovery meetings have begun to spring up. I’ve just spent the last month in India talking about 12 step programs, and how the only requirement to attend them is the desire not to indulge in the substance or behaviour of that meeting. However for many Buddhists in India, the word God, has some negative connotations. And so it was a delight to introduce people to another meeting format that may help with their recovery.

Some of you who read my blog regularly will remember I posted a meeting format a few months ago, well now that I have had the opportunity to be in Eight Step Recovery Meetings daily for the past month, they have been refined.

Below we suggest a meeting format that has been tried and tested. Many people have benefited from these meetings and we hope you will too. We have suggested several types of meeting, while always including the Welcome, Meeting Guidelines, the Preamble, and reciting the five training principles in negative and positive form in call and response and the eight steps in unison. We would suggest you have the above printed out on cards – so that different people can read them out aloud.
Decide which meeting format will work for you. We also include suggestions of how to mentor people through the eight step model.

MEETING FORMAT

Welcome

Welcome my name is …….. and I will lead the 3 minute breathing space (AGE) this evening:
Become Aware of your body… Aware of sensation in the body… Aware of thoughts… Aware of emotions…
Gather your breath on the upper lip – in the abdomen – and let the contact of the breath calm your thoughts…
Expand the breath throughout the whole body. Let me hear everyone take a deep breath and expand it throughout the body.

I would like to remind all of us of our suggested meeting guidelines:

  • If there is more than one person there are enough people for a meeting.
  • The only requirement to attend this meeting is the desire to live your life by the five precepts, or training principles to train the mind.
  • Please respect people’s personal sharing – let what you hear stay here.
  • Be kind to yourself, and in turn be kind to others.
  • Enjoy your recovery.
  • We invite you to introduce yourself – and why you are here this evening. Please take one minute maximum – thank you. It is also okay for you not to say anything too.
    After introductions, ask if there are any newcomers, and please welcome them.

    Will somebody please read the preamble?

    Preamble
    This Eight Steps meeting explores recovery through the lens of the Buddhist teachings, and Buddhism through the lens of recovery. (If you are attending a 12 step meeting, this can be your expression of your 11th step and if you are not in a 12 step program, it can be another way to approach your recovery.) This is an extra meeting to compliment your recovery whatever that looks like.

    For the next 1 and half hours or 2 hours we are temporarily going for refuge to the three jewels. What we mean by that, is as best we can we are placing the Buddha (not the person, but what he attained), the dharma (the  teachings of the Buddha) and the sangha (the spiritual community, which is us) at the centre of our thoughts. Those of us in recovery know too well that our addiction has often been at the centre of our thoughts.
    So we begin with our moral inventory. (If a 12 step person is leading, you can say, just as in step three we turn our life and our will over to a god of our understanding, we are turning our life over temporarily to these three jewels.)

    If you are Buddhist practitioner then please do the Pali first and let people know if it feels strange they can just listen. If you are not a Buddhist practitioner then please just recite the English as noted below.

    Always do the negatives and positives as couplets in English, as it is valuable to reflect on what we are moving away from as well as what we are moving towards.

    I undertake to abstain from harming life – with deeds of loving kindness I purify my body.
    I undertake to abstain from taking the not given – with deeds of loving kindness I purify my body.
    I undertake to abstain from sexual misconduct – with open handed generosity I purify my body.
    I undertake to abstain from false speech – with truthful communication I purify my speech.
    I undertake to abstain from taking intoxicants – with mindfulness clear and radiant I purify my mind.

    We will now say the Eight Steps together

    Step One: Accepting that this human life will bring suffering.
    Step Two: Seeing how we create extra suffering in our lives.
    Step Three: Recognizing impermanence shows us that our suffering can end.
    Step Four: Being willing to step onto the path of recovery, and discover freedom.
    Step Five: Transforming our speech, actions, and livelihood.
    Step Six: Placing positive values at the center of our lives.
    Step Seven: Making every effort to stay on the path of recovery.
    Step Eight: Helping others to share the benefits I have gained.

    Here are several formats that can take place after the precepts and steps have been recited.
    Format 1 (if you only have an hour – or you have a lot of people – we suggest you work through the steps weekly in the following way).

    This evening we will focus on Step One: Accepting that this human life will bring suffering.
    What does it mean for you to accept that this human life will bring about suffering, in the context of your dis-ease?

    This evening we will focus on Step Two: Seeing how we create extra suffering in our lives.
    How do I create extra suffering in my life?

    This evening we will focus on Step Three: Recognizing impermanence shows us that our suffering can end.
    What do I need to let go of in my life today?

    This evening we will focus on Step Four: Being willing to step onto the path of recovery, and discover freedom.
    How willing am I to step onto the path of recovery today? or What is one aspect of freedom I have discovered since being on the path of recovery?

    This evening we will focus on Step Five: Transforming our speech, actions, and livelihood.
    How can I begin transforming or continue to transform my speech, or actions, or livelihood? Just choose one to focus on.

    This evening we will focus on Step Six: Placing positive values at the center of our lives.
    What are some of the things that tend to occupy my thoughts ? What is the impact of having these thoughts at the center of my life?

    This evening we will focus on Step Seven: Making every effort to stay on the path of recovery.
    How can I make more effort to stay on the path of recovery?

    This evening we will focus on Step Eight: Helping others to share the benefits I have gained.
    What could I do this week to help share the benefits I have gained?

    Format 2 – for longer meetings of 90 minutes to two hours.

    For the next few weeks we will be exploring Step One. We will discuss every exercise, one exercise a week, and when a meditation or reflection comes up, we do the practice and discuss it after. We will work through each step in this way, until we get to the end of the book, and then begin again.

    Format 3 – can be done in the shorter meeting and the longer meeting.

    Format 4 – Book Study meeting:

    Participants begin from the beginning of the book. They read a section for 15 to 20 minutes, and then discuss the text. When a reflection or meditation comes up, either listen to it from the book website or somebody lead it – and then discuss. Mark the page you finish on at each meeting, so you can begin from the correct page at the next meeting.

    There are several ways of doing this. You can work through the book chronologically, beginning with the foreword, or you can ask someone to select a text that they would like to focus on. If the group is closed then it is appropriate to ask people to do reading at home and come prepared. However, there will be meetings that are open and people will drop in or not turn up every week, which is perfectly fine. Both kinds of groups can work. If it’s the latter we advise each week someone will need to read a piece of the book out, or as a group you can pass the book around and read from it for ten to fifteen minutes and then discuss the topic.

    You can be creative with the formats – although every meeting needs to begin with the AGE, the welcome, the introductions, the preamble, and reciting the training principles and the Eight Steps. Some meetings you may like to introduce a speaker, by asking someone to tell their story of recovery, abstinence, sobriety and their connection to the Buddhist teachings.

    ENDING THE MEETINGS

    We ask the meetings are ended in the following way:

    Transference of merit said in unison. We offer a couple of versions, and of course you may know other Buddhist versions of this text.

    Version 1
    May the merit gained
    in my acting thus
    go to the alleviation of the suffering
    of all beings.
    My personality
    throughout my existences,
    my posessions,
    and my merit in all three ways
    I give up without regard
    to myself
    for the benefit of all beings.
    Just as the earth
    and other elements
    are servicable in many ways
    to the infinite number of beings
    inhabiting limitless space,
    so may I become
    that which maintains all beings
    situated throughout space
    so long as all have not attained
    to peace.

    Version 2

    We come together in fellowship,learning to recognize and let go of our unskilled words, thoughts and deeds,quieting our minds through meditation and supporting each other on our path to freedom from suffering.
    May the merit gained in my acting thus,go to the alleviationof the suffering of all beings.

    Three minute breathing space, AGE (ask someone to lead this).

    Ask for Dana (voluntary financial contribution) – nobody is paid. Dana is an act of generosity, showing an appreciation of the Buddhist Teachings. However there is no suggested fee, and nobody is turned away. There is no price to attend a meeting. And nobody should be made to feel uncomfortable if they don’t put into the pot. Just as recovery is a process, so is the act of generosity. Dana will pay for your meeting space, for materials, books, non-alcoholic drinks, and anything else you need. If you have a surplus, you might wish to give money to a participant who wants to attend a recovery retreat.

    Notes on how to run meetings:

    We ask that all meetings conduct abstinence of not having food, at meetings. Of course we welcome non-alcoholic beverages.
    Meetings are peer led. Each group will decide on perhaps someone taking on responsibility for doing the welcome and asking people to read the preamble and lead the AGE, for a month or two. Make sure responsibility is shared.
    You may want to close your meeting – this is the group’s decision. You may want to set up Eight Step Meetings for specific addictions, or more generally for substance abuse. This again is the decision of the people who set up the group.

    Mentorship

    The book lends itself for people to be mentored through the Eight Step Recovery. We suggest if you want to mentor someone through the book, that you have read the book and have worked through every exercise and reflection on your own or in a book study. If you take on a mentee, then it would be expected you take the mentee through every exercise and reflection, and discuss the answers. We suggest that all mentees, do the 21 meditations for recovery, which are free and available on our website. We recommend requesting that they do one every day for three weeks.
    We also suggest that mentees are attending meetings. Meetings can include Eight Step Recovery, 12 step meetings or SMART recovery meetings. Additional meetings can include attending a Buddhist centre weekly, but not as an alternative while working the steps.
    Here are some – questions for mentees to answer before beginning the step work:

  • Are you prepared to go to any lengths to get your recovery? If someone asks what you mean by this, then you can say are they prepared to do every
    exercise and reflection in the book. Are they prepared to give what you may suggest a go?
  • What does addiction look life in your life today?
  • What does Recovery mean to you?
  • Share your personal story of addiction. In terms of your conditioning, what you have struggled with? What are the events that have marked your addiction?
  • Remember there are also meditations attached to the book, so for some meetings you could choose to listen to a meditation and then discuss how the meditation was for you. There is a website listed at the back of the book where you can download all the meditations in the book for free.

    Finally one breath at a time – with your recovery.

    For a free sample chapter of Eight Step Recovery – Using The Buddha’s Teachings To Overcome Addiction please email: eightstepsrecovery@gmail.com

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    Just another day

    Just another day, a new moment. How liberating is that? This new moment can shape the next moment. This new moment can change our lives. We don’t have to wait for a new year to arrive to make changes. Although it is an opportunity to remind us to reflect on our lives, let go of regrets and live wisely in the moment.

    So in the spirit of this old year coming to completion and the new year coming into fruition. Here is a new year message from the London Buddhist Centre. I couldn’t say it any better.

    I have much gratitude for London Buddhist Centre, every time I am there, it is like a new year. I hope today when you read this, it can be like a new year. Here are some free meditations to help mark this new year, that can begin on any day you choose.

    Thank you for all your support. May it continue – may every day be a happy new year. May we have the capacity to wake up every day. We can do this by placing positive values at the center of our lives.

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    Step four: Being willing to step onto the path of recovery and discover freedom

    My Way or The Highway or the direct path to the four noble truths, the noble 8 fold pathIn this 8 step recovery program – we speak about being willing. We use this word because if one wants recovery, they have to be willing to step onto the path. Too many of us bargain with our recovery. We want it, but we don’t want to do the work it takes to get the recovery. It’s my way or the high way. There is only one path in the Buddhist tradition to recovery, and that is the direct path of the four noble truths and the noble eightfold path. Of course this path comes in many different formulations and lists.

    Last month, I heard the The Dalai Lama say: ‘The Mahayana teachings are an extrapolation of the four noble truths’. First we must understand the first truth of suffering. The second truth, a path that leads to more suffering, is the understanding of the 3 lakasana’s, suffering, impermanence, and self view. The third truth, the cessation of suffering, is the understanding of the emptiness teachings, and the fourth truth, a path leading us away from suffering, is the illumination of all the teachings.

     Eight Step Recovery - The 2014 USA Best Book Awards - winner of the category - self help: motivational.

    The 2014 USA Best Book Awards – winner of the category, self help: motivational.
    Order now

    The good news is, that we could focus on just one of the teachings, and one teaching alone will help us discover a new freedom. It could be as simple as cultivating loving kindness and compassion for oneself. Cultivating compassion inevitably includes the five traditional training principles, of non harm, not taking the not given, sexual misconduct, false speech and abstaining from intoxicants. We need kindness and community to help us step onto the path of recovery.

    But we can have all of this and still continue to relapse. Why? Because we have not wholeheartedly connected to the vision of recovery. We have not connected to something that we want more than our addiction, more than the thing we turn to ease our suffering. We have to want recovery more than our choice of drug in that split second before picking up.

    ‘The moment we decide to pick up our drug of choice, we are blocking out what is at stake. That choice may mean losing our families, our jobs, our relationships……This can be uncomfortable to accept. But every time we reach for our addiction we are making a choice. To recover, we must find or be inspired by something that we want more than our addiction. We need vision.’ Eight Step Recovery – Using The Buddha’s Teachings to Overcome Addiction

    You may still be saying I have vision. But are you willing to transform and change? Vision becomes redundant if we are not willing to step onto the path of transformation. Our vision of recovery will be realized when we have the courage to step on to the path and transform ourselves.

    • What is there in life that you would like more than your addiction?
    • What path do you need to be on to bring about this thing in life that you want more than your addiction?
    • Is it my way? The Highway? Or the direct path to the four noble truths, the noble eightfold path?
    [Eight Step Recovery, pages 95-115.]

    For a free sample chapter of Eight Step Recovery – Using The Buddha’s Teachings To Overcome Addiction please email: eightstepsrecovery@gmail.com

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    Step three: Embracing impermanence to show us that our suffering can end

    sand in handsAs I reflect on this step, I can’t but help say a prayer for my dear friend, who hung herself last month, because as she wrote in her note, ‘life was too painful’. Sadly my friend is not unique in thinking this, many people have these thoughts, and some of these people eventually take their lives.

    Is there anything we can do to help someone who expresses such pain?

    Whatever we do it has to be unconditional. That said, the Buddhist teachings can be so optimistic, so liberating if we are ready for the teachings to appear in our lives. Living with the truth of impermanence can help us to find freedom. Even if our life is in chaos, if our life is full of suffering, we can hold onto the hope that things change. Anyone who is feeling suicidal needs to be revitalized by hope, needs to be pointed to the future. And this step can help point us in this direction.

    ‘Sometimes our lives feel stuck. When we are facing painful times, it can feel as though the pain will never end. …In survival mode, our mind is taken up with the pain and seems unable to look beyond it.’ Eight Step Recovery – Using The Buddha’s Teachings to Overcome Addiction

    We hear of people who have been chronically depressed, and begin to feel better, and at this point they take their life. This is often because they have not been able to accept change. Some people relapse when change occurs, because similarly they have not been able to cope with change. Change can be scary. Embracing impermanence can be scary too. But when we resist it we create more suffering in our lives. This is what we need to understand. We need to understand on an emotional level step two; ‘Seeing how we can create extra suffering in our lives’. If we can really see how we create this in our lives, it will help us to embrace this third step.

    The path of recovery can be tough. But know when we step on to it with all of our hearts, when we place our hearts upon the path of recovery suffering begins to change, and recovery begins to flourish.

    The most important message in this step, is that we can change. Everything around us is changing and we too are changing. We can lean into change by nurturing our helpful habits and starving our unhelpful ones.

    I remember the hell of my addiction. But in that hell, there was a glimmer of hope. I knew things changed. However I wanted somebody to do the change for me, or something external to initiate the change. I wanted the magic pill to make me sober. The magic cure. I had not totally embraced impermanence. I was partly in denial. I was angry, and when I wasn’t angry I was bargaining with change. I wanted change on my terms. I also wanted to control the outcome.

    When we embrace impermanence we come out of denial, and accept how much we have changed throughout our lives. We accept that if we have a lapse that the next moment is a new moment and something new can possibly happen. We accept the truth of the Buddhist teachings, that there is no fixed self. That the thoughts that have fixed us, constructed us, judged us are empty. There is nothing for these thoughts to stick too. Embracing impermanence helps us to detach from the stories we tell ourselves, and that nothing is fixed. This teaching is so optimistic, if we can see the truth of it. Yes accepting change can be tough, and it is inevitable that we may need to grieve and have the sadness, over the loss of something that has been in our lives for years. But then we must move swiftly on.

    To help us accept change in our lives, we ask these questions on page 92 of the book.

    • What has changed in your life during the past ten years?
    • What has changed in your life during the past five years?
    • What has changed in your life during the past year?
    • What has changed in your life today?
    • What has changed in our life in the past hour?

    Now can you accept change? If not go back to these questions above and see that in this past hour the time of day has changed, the focus of your mind has changed.

    If there was an end to suffering, what would it look like in your life today?

    Now disappear into your breath, and then look deeply into your thoughts and see if you you can truly find the validity or solidity of them.

    Step three pages 79 to 93

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    Step two – seeing how we can create extra suffering in our lives

    Stick with the first dartThe Buddha was asked, what is the difference between how an ordinary person and a wise person responds to pain? He replied with the analogy of the two darts. All of us experience pain – whether that is physical pain like catching your finger in the door or mental pain such as when someone rejects you. This is the first dart, which we could call primary suffering.

    An ordinary person then gets caught up in trying to push away or avoid the pain; in blaming themselves or others, or feeling self-pity. This has the effect of making matters worse: the second dart, which we can call secondary suffering. A wise person just has the first dart. They don’t get stuck in avoidance or obsessing about the pain. Instead they mindfully accept it for what it is, without making it worse with secondary suffering.’ Extract from Eight Step Recovery – Using The Buddha’s teachings to Overcome Addiction

    The question is how do we become like the wise person?

    The ordinary person takes refuge in distractions to help move away from the pain or suffering. The ordinary person seeks refuge in self pity, blame, and or distraction through addictions. Every time the ordinary person reacts to suffering or pain by distraction, self pity and or blame, they are re-creating a habit. Recreating a pattern of behavior that can in the end result in a matter of life and death.

    Every time we turn away from the pain and or suffering, we are just delaying the inevitable. Know that turning away in the moment will create momentary release from the suffering, perhaps even pleasure, but know that misery is swiftly upon our heels.

    We can become a wise person by recognizing our patterns of behavior. By seeing how we habitually turn away from our suffering and pain. However we do not become wise, until we take action and do something different.

    The good news is; that it is possible to be free of psychological, existential pain and suffering. Yes we will always experience some form of physical pain, but know too that if we react, turn away from it, it will multiply it.

    It’s said that the Buddha experienced chronic back and stomach pain due to the extreme austerities that he practiced during the six years before he became enlightened. In fact some say that the dyspepsia that culminated into his last serious illness of dysentery, was caused by his unhealthy eating habits during his ascetic life. He was a human being and like all of us was subject to sickness, ageing and dying. Although there is reference to this physical pain, we never hear of the Buddha complaining.

    Sometimes when we clean up from addictions, and step onto the path of recovery, we become resentful of the ailments we are left with, creating more suffering in our lives. If we are to become wise, we have to learn that we have the potential to change our lives in the present moment. The present moment is what we have, and in it we can create a life of misery or a life of peace.

    Becoming wise can be as simple as realizing we are not our thoughts. As simple as realizing that our thinking is not true. As simple as learning to pause. And yes I hear you. It’s not easy. But was your addiction easy? Was taking refuge in your addiction to deal with what life presented to you easy? I say that acting on these simple realizations is easier than living with any addiction, compulsive or obsessive behaviour.

    Step two – pages 43 – 78

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    Accepting that this human life will bring suffering

    Standing Buddha statue, ThailandStep one – Accepting that this human life will bring suffering – is pointing us in the direction of truth. Ask yourself what are you avoiding? What are you hiding from? Most human beings are avoiding suffering. Most human beings are hiding from suffering underneath a veneer of coping mechanisms.

    This step acknowledges the different types of suffering we can experience. Most commonly the suffering of ageing, sickness and death. We can not avoid any of these truths, we can not hide from these truths either. So we may as well face them gracefully.

    How we may ask? We do this with kindly acceptance. Acceptance is in the present moment. When suffering arises; if we can be present with it, if we can face it, if we can welcome it as a good friend, there will be no suffering. Just acceptance of whatever is arising. ‘All truth passes through three stages. First, it is ridiculed. Second, it is violently opposed. Third, it is accepted as being self-evident’ says Arthur Schopenhauer. Sadly many of us are violently opposing it with our addictions, habitual behaviour of blame, self pity and distraction.

    Many of us are too impatient. We want to run from the sensation of suffering. And when we do, we create mental suffering. We self medicate. We give ourselves misguided compassion. But in the end this duct taping over suffering peels off and we can spiral down into a deeper pit of suffering.

    When we understand that suffering is just a physical sensation and not a mental event, we can begin to liberate ourselves. Once we give suffering form, we give rise to blame, self pity or distraction (which are all aspects of addiction) we give it life, and become a prisoner of our mind.

    Suffering is universal, nobody can escape it. It is the first noble truth: ‘The truth of dukkha (suffering, anxiety, unsatisfactoriness). ‘Oh this is so pessimistic’ you may be saying. Beware, you have just gone into hiding, you are avoiding this universal truth. Be aware of what you do after reading this blog. Have awareness of wanting to distract yourself with a stimulant, some food, a drug, or by turning on the tv. I’m not judging this behaviour, just reminding you that no matter how many times you distract yourself from the truth, ageing, sickness and death will haunt you. It’s not going away. So if you want to wake up to the truth. Explore this first step in detail. With vigilance, and patience. You will discover the joys of life, while accepting that nothing will give you everlasting satisfaction. Not even your addiction of choice to help cope with the woes of life.

    It’s possible to be free of addictions with out a struggle. When we practice diligently, second by second, moment by moment, it’s possible for disinterest to arise in things that once gripped us in the hell of addiction. We do not always have to identify as the alcoholic, the addict, the gambler or by any other label. We can, if we practice this first step, begin to loosen the bondage of addiction. If you are in the throes of addiction, you are hiding from the truth, the truth of how things really are. You are avoiding seeing things as they really are. We all need to come out of hiding whether addicted or not, and face the truth of this life. We do it with metta (loving kindness), ksanti (patience) and mudita (compassion).

    Where there is faith there is no fear. Be well. Here are some questions to help you make friends with the truth.

    • How does physical suffering manifest in my life?
    • How does psychological suffering manifest in my life?
    • How does existential suffering manifest in my life?
    • What type of suffering am I hiding from?
    • What am I avoiding in my life?

    Step one pages 25 to 42.

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