All About Refuge Recovery

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I have been talking about going to a Refuge Recovery meeting for months and months. Maybe a year. Sometimes I do something just because I’m so sick of hearing myself TALK about doing it so I finally DID!

I was all jazzed up after listening to an interview with the Refuge Recovery founder Noah Levine on the SINCE RIGHT NOW podcast (episode 4.01 if anyone is interested, it’s a great interview and you will love Noah). But leafing through the Refuge Recovery handbook was less than inspiring. Some of the language reminded me of the 12-step program and I’m beyond sick of constantly looking for character defects. I grew up Catholic so I’m hyper-sensitive to anything that feels like I’m beating my chest and chanting MEA CULPA MEA CULPA. Give me an approach that emphasizes self-love and self-care please.

As it turns out, Refuge Recovery IS all about love. It IS all about being kind and gentle to self and to others. Yes, some elements of the handbook or “the path” sound like 12-stepping, because Noah integrated a few of those basic pieces into a Buddhist approach to freeing ourselves, not only from addiction but from all needless pain and suffering. But I’m finding that actually working with the Refuge Recovery handbook feels fine, nothing about it makes me want to throw up on my shoes.

The atmosphere in the meetings is absolutely warm, gentle, accepting, and loving. And so are the people. We spend 20 minutes of the hour in a group meditation and our last five minutes in a silent meditation, we do a brief reading from the book, and we spend a little time sharing. I love the idea of having everyone on equal footing, it’s all peer-led, no sobriety milestones tracked/celebrated although you could share a victory if you want to, no program or self-imposed labels, no debates about addiction being a disease or not, no exclusions because you aren’t dealing with the same addiction we are so you have to find another group.

Right now I’m visiting Flagstaff, a much smaller city than metropolitan Phoenix, and this town already has Refuge meetings four times a week. Two are for women, two are coed, and one is expressly for bringing handbook journals for more intimate sharing with the group. During my last visit, they were talking about launching a mentoring program because so many newcomers are asking for that help in moving through their handbooks. They only started Refuge here last January but it’s taken off like crazy. They can’t keep handbooks in stock for newcomers to purchase at the meetings because the local bookstore can’t keep them in stock!

Just wanted to share my experiences in case it sounds like a great support along your own path. Tonight I’m going to be saying “bye for now” to my Flagstaff Refuge community and today I’m giddily happy to be alcohol free. Clear-headed, open-hearted, focused on staying in touch with my miraculous animal body and its natural wisdom, focused on being present to the gifts and the beauty and the unique experience of every moment.

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