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Buddhism and the 12-Step Recovery Process

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I received a question on the voice mail hotline last week (at 937-660-4949) which asked how to adapt Buddhist beliefs to the famous 12-step program. I know virtually nothing about the Program, so I asked Darren Littlejohn, an expert and author of an upcoming book on the subject, to help. He explains:

Darren Littlejohn 12-Step BuddhistMy name is Darren and I am a 12-Step Buddhist. I got hooked on drugs when I was about 16, got sober at 22 and stayed that way until 32. Then something happened and I found it necessary to get loaded again. I returned to sobriety in 1997 and have been clean and sober since. The way I work my recovery program integrates Zen and Tibetan Buddhism, psychotherapy and the 12 Steps.

Buddhism is a supplement to my program, not a substitute for recovery meetings. In my book, the 12-Step Buddhist, I tell the whole story, outline the depth and severity of the problem of addiction borne out by the latest research, give an overview of 12-Step programs and Buddhism and finally, practical exercises on each of the 12 Steps. Each step is then treated in detail by introducing several levels of meditation practices from beginning to advanced practices. There are even ways to create Buddhist oriented recovery meetings, called 12-Step Sangha, as I discuss in a recent How-to article on the website.

From the book, “…spiritual principles defined in AA literature show that the purpose of the 12-Step program goes further than “to dispel the obsession to drink.” The point is to “enable the sufferer to become happily and usefully whole.” It also says, “We feel that elimination of our drinking is but a beginning. A much more important demonstration of our principles lies before us in our respective homes, occupations, and affairs.”

The 12-Step program does afford the opportunity to move beyond

such a static, rigid, and otherwise unhappy experience in sobriety, yet many are at a loss for how to make it happen within the confines of the

program. The practicing of Buddhism along with the 12 Steps is powerful and can help you work through these difficulties. It helped me after my relapse, and I credit my Buddhist practices as the reason for my second ten years of sobriety. It is why I wrote this book.”

By understanding the principles of Buddhism along with the principles of recovery, we can create a spiritual life that is beyond imagination. Using ideas from Buddhism for our higher power, we can see that the Judeo-Christian view of the 12-Steps is not the only approach. In fact, the 12-Step Buddhist approach allows us to take the mere beginning of a spiritual awakening all the way to complete enlightenment.

The 12-Step Buddhist is available for pre-order at Please visit for articles, resources, podcast with guided meditations and more.

Copyright 2008 Darren LittlejohnAtriaBeyond Words Publishing. All Rights Reserved.

Pre-order Darren’s book at Amazon

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