Zen and Recovery

Chris Hoff, PhD
10 min readAug 12, 2019

How Might Zen Buddhism Support and Sustain Addiction Recovery?

Photo by Jed Adan on Unsplash

This is a piece on how the practice of Zen Buddhism can support and sustain a person on the journey of recovery.

So to begin, how might we define recovery? The term “recovery” is increasingly used in connection with healing from mental illness, but it is perhaps most commonly associated with overcoming addiction to Alcohol and other drugs, as in my case. I hope to relate recovery to not just overcoming addiction to substances, sex, food, etc. but to overcoming anything that may be pulling you away from your life as it is in this present moment.

In approaching this subject I wasn’t sure what course to take. I thought it would be easy to start at the original turning of the wheel of Dharma. When the historical Buddha first taught the Four Noble truths and the Eightfold Path. It would jive nicely for those readers that might be 12 steppers. Four Noble Truths, an Eightfold Path? Equals 12 too! But than the other consideration was how do I express how this practice has enhanced my own recovery. How has it supported and sustained me in the journey of recovery. And why a religious practice has much to offer in our contemporary times.

I will try and do both.

So let’s start with the other 12 steps:

In his first sermon, the Buddha said, “I teach one thing and one thing only: suffering and the end of suffering,” He then went on to outline the Four Noble Truths. Shorthand these are:

  1. There is suffering. (Dukkha)
  2. Suffering has an origin.
  3. The cessation of suffering is attainable.
  4. The path to the cessation of suffering.

According to Kevin Griffin who wrote one of the seminal books on Buddhism and Recovery titled One Breath at a Time, writes these Noble Truths can be translated as such:

  1. While some elements of life are inevitably painful, like getting sick, getting old, and dying;
  2. Many of the difficulties we experience are created by our own tendency to crave pleasure, avoid pain, and cling to that which can’t be held.. (impermanence)
  3. Nonetheless, if we see these Truths and how they work, it’s possible to break pattern…
Chris Hoff, PhD

Host of The Radical Therapist Podcast & YouTube channel. Curator of Ideas. Linking Lives. Social Entrepreneur. Zen Buddhist. Bruno Latour fanboy & Vygotskian.

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