The Four Truths of Recovery is a work in process, not a tested practice. These are preliminary thoughts on how to offer a Buddhist-oriented approach to healing addiction.
There are many places where these Four Truths and the Twelve Steps overlap and share common spiritual themes. Having spent the last twenty-one years as a sober member of Twelve Step programs, I still draw on some of those perspectives. The most obvious difference between the Steps and the Dharma is that there is no “God” concept in Buddhism. From a Buddhist perspective all beings have the power and potential to free themselves from suffering.
I feel confident in the Buddha’s teachings, yet I also have to admit that the idea of a “loving God,” however delusional it may be, is a very comforting concept, one that Buddhism does not offer.
I welcome your feedback and critical observations. I plan to work on this with the participation of those who are interested and begin to test it out with addicts.
Understand, acknowledge, admit and accept all of the ways drugs, alcohol, etc., have caused suffering in your life.
Action: Write an in-depth and detailed inventory of the suffering you have experienced in association with your addictions.
Understand that all forms of addiction have their roots in the natural human tendency to crave for life to be more pleasurable and less painful than it actually is. The substances you have craved and become addicted to must be abandoned and renounced.
Action: Investigate, analyze and share the inventory with your mentor or teacher and come to understand the cause of your addiction/suffering.
Freedom from the suffering caused by addiction is attainable if you are ready and willing to follow the Eightfold Path.
Action: Study and apply the Buddhist teachings on awakening, and eventually you will come to a verified faith in the path of recovery/awakening through the actions you take on the path.
The eight factors or folds of the path are to be developed, experienced and penetrated. This is a path of action, not blind faith; recovery will only come from taking the right actions. This is not a linear path; it does not have to be taken in order. Rather, all of the factors will need to be developed and applied simultaneously. This is a guide to having a life that is free from addiction, not a process that one goes through once or twice; the eight folds of recovery will have to be maintained throughout your life.
1 Understanding: It is crucial to have at least an intellectual understanding of the factors in one’s life that may have led to addiction.
Understand and accept that pain is unavoidable but also impermanent. Learn to tolerate pain and move toward meeting all unpleasant experiences with compassion.
Understand that happiness is not the presence of pleasure but rather the absence of suffering. See that pleasure is also impermanent, that chasing and clinging to substances that create temporary pleasure and temporarily relieve pain got you into this mess in the first place.
Understand that it is time to renounce recreational drugs, etc., in all forms regardless of specific substances you have become addicted to. (Accept that alcoholics can’t smoke crack or weed, crack heads can’t drink booze, etc.)
Understand that forgiveness is a necessary part of the recovery process.
Understand the importance of service and generosity.
Understand the necessity of nonharming; harmful actions often lead to relapse.
Understand that you don’t have to do it alone, that a mentor will be there to help you.
2 Intention: Understanding what is true and important is not enough; it must be followed up with intentional actions and goals.
Intend to abstain from all substances that could lead to suffering.
Intend to meet all pain with compassion and all pleasure with nonattached appreciation.
Intend to forgive and ask for forgiveness of all people you have harmed or been harmed by, including yourself.
Intend to be generous and kind to all living beings.
Intend to be honest and humble and to live with integrity.
Intend to practice nonharming.
Practice being honest, wise and careful with your communications.
Ask for help from the community.
Get a mentor to guide you through the process. (If one is not readily available in your community, start by phone or email.)
Get involved in community as a place to practice wise communication and to support others on their path.
Practice openness and humility about the difficulties and successes you experience.
Abstain from all substances that could lead to suffering.
Try to meet all pain with compassion and all pleasure with nonattached appreciation.
Be wise and careful with your sexuality.
Through both meditative training and direct amends, ask forgiveness and seek to forgive all people you have harmed or been harmed by, including yourself.
Practice generosity and kindness toward all living beings.
Practice honesty and attempt to live with integrity.
Develop a nonharming approach to life.
Dedicate your life’s energy to service. Become a mentor for others when your own recovery is substantially under way.
Move toward securing a livelihood that causes no harm.
Use your time and energy to help create positive change.
Commit daily to disciplined meditation and wise actions.
Strive for moment-to-moment mindfulness of feelings, emotions, thoughts and sensations.
Make the effort to respond with compassion when experience is unpleasant and nonattached appreciation when experience is pleasant.
Make the effort to bring kindness, forgiveness and generosity to others and yourself.
Use skillful means to apply the appropriate meditation or action to the given circumstance.
Develop wisdom through practicing the Four Foundations of Mindfulness.
See clearly and heal the root causes and conditions that lead to the suffering of addiction.
Practice present-time awareness in all aspects of your life.
Develop the capacity to focus the mind on a single object, such as the breath or a phrase.
Utilize concentration during times of temptation or craving in order to abstain from acting unwisely.
Train the mind through the practices of lovingkindness, compassion and forgiveness to focus on the positive qualities you seek to uncover.
This is the path of awakening, the path of recovering from the addictions and delusions that have created so much suffering in our lives and in this world. All living beings have the ability to live life along these lines; there is no one who lacks ability, only those who lack the willingness to take on such a radical task of transformation. Addicts who do not recover are not broken or lost; they simply have not yet found the willingness to take the path of wisdom and compassion. We believe in the human capacity for change. We understand it from direct experience. If we can, you can.