Many people will read the headline above and think, “I’m not a Buddhist. I’ve got enough things to think about, so please don’t push religion on me.” That’s a normal reaction here in South Florida and across the United States, because many people grew up going to church or synagogue, or may have no religion at all. But if you or someone you know is struggling with drug and alcohol addiction, keeping an open mind about alternative treatment programs could be a lifesaver.

“All individuals have the power and potential to free themselves from the suffering that is caused by addiction.”

Refuge Recovery

What Is Refuge Recovery and Its Relationship with Buddhism?

Refuge Recovery, a national non-profit organization, is one of a new breed of spiritual (drug/alcohol) treatment programs and support groups that is much more about an approach to life than it is religion. It is based on the idea that “All individuals have the power and potential to free themselves from the suffering that is caused by addiction.” With more than 600 meetings conducted internationally, this systematic approach leverages Eastern thinking and “The Four Truths of Refuge Recovery:”

  • One: Addiction creates suffering.
  • Two:The cause of addiction is repetitive craving.
  • Three: Recovery is possible
  • Four: The path to recovery is available

This alternative treatment program is often used in conjunction with other more traditional programs (e.g., 12-Step Program). But unlike linear programs, the Refuge Recovery approach is not sequential, which may be counter-intuitive to many. Participants are asked to be patient and have faith in following “The Eightfold Path to Recovery,” which simultaneously deals with the following eight actions:

  • Understanding
  • Intention
  • Communication/Community
  • Action
  • Livelihood/Service
  • Effort
  • Mindfulness/Meditations
  • Concentration/Meditations

Many people who may not be comfortable with the approach of organizations like Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), which introduce God into the equation, often find what they’re looking for in Refuge Recovery.

Refuge Recovery in South Florida

Refuge Recovery was first introduced to South Florida—and Cornerstone Recovery Center—by a small group of recovering addicts who had been attracted to the program following a week-long retreat lead by one of the founders of Refuge Recovery. National Board Member Don Westervelt, who had already been in recovery for some time when Refuge Recovery was first introduced to the Fort Lauderdale area in 2015, explained that the program began slowly, with one meeting a week. Refuge Recovery has expanded quickly to more than 10 meetings a week in multiple locations throughout South Florida.  In addition to the tri-county area, meetings are also held in the Naples, Tampa, Jupiter, and Jacksonville areas.

Cornerstone Recovery Center, a drug treatment program/center, has adopted Refuge Recovery as an alternative recovery support group. It works alongside drug and alcohol addiction programs such as SMART Recovery®, our 12-Step Recovery Program and our Co-Occurring (Dual Diagnosis) Services Program. We not only take our clients to Refuge Recovery meetings, we host meetings at Cornerstone every Monday night. In fact, many Refuge Recovery members are Cornerstone alumni.

A Night in the Life of Refuge Recovery

Here’s what happens at a typical Refuge Recovery meeting:

  • The meeting is generally comprised of a maximum of 40 members, who are identified only by their first names, never as an alcoholic or an addict.
  •  The members take part in 15-20 guided meditations.
  • Meditation is followed by a reading from the Refuge Recovery book, followed by a discussion.
  • Meetings are based on the Four Truths and the Eight-Fold Path (as described above).
  • This approach to Buddhism is not religious, so “God” is not discussed

There is generally an influx of new people every week, many of whom have come as a group from a treatment center such as Cornerstone, or according to Don Westervelt, “They’ve heard of it and are open to trying it out. In Florida, most members have been exposed to a 12-Step Recovery Program and are looking for something different. Some combine the two.”

“Refuge Recovery is about our own accountability.”
— Don Westervelt, National Board of Directors for Fort Lauderdale

Not a Religion…A Practical Behavioral Approach

Mr. Westervelt stresses that religion is not what Refuge Recovery is all about, when he says, “You don’t have to be a Buddhist. We don’t talk about Buddha. We take a non-theistic approach to Buddhism.” In fact, this program is not about a higher power – it’s about an inner power. Again, as Mr. Westervelt attests, “Refuge Recovery is about our own accountability. It contains a set of ethical and practical principles to incorporate in our lives to learn how to cope with things the way they are – your behaviors and what changes you can make. We all have the power to recover regardless of what’s going on around us.”

“My goal is when people leave treatment, they have an intro to a recovery support group that works for them.”
— Don Westervelt, National Board of Directors for Fort Lauderdale

At Cornerstone Recovery Center, we provide you with strategies and alternative (drug/alcohol) programs that help you make good choices for life. If you or a loved one is struggling with drug and alcohol addiction, please contact our admissions counselor online or call 888-711-0354 today. All communications with our staff are confidential.