Tag Archives: Judith Ragir

The Buddhism and Addiction Series (Part III of III)

PART III:

Religious Dilemmas and Spiritual Solutions

Religion as a Barrier to Recovery

At first glance, it would seem that gay men with substance use disorder would be ideally matched to AA for post-treatment recovery maintenance or aftercare.  As previously noted, gay men are especially vulnerable to the development of a narcissistic personality structure.  The philosophy of the AA program is that addiction is essentially a “disorder of the self” characterized by narcissistic traits.  The AA program is unique in that it addresses both the underlying pathological personality structure, and the substance use disorder, by way of spiritual transformation.  However, when spirituality gives way to overt religiosity – as it often does in AA – the program becomes inaccessible and exclusive, and more foreboding than welcoming.

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Killing Buddha: Reflections from Clouds in Water

Last December, when I learned that Clouds in Water Zen Center in St. Paul, Minnesota would host the 6th Annual Buddhism and 12-Step Retreat, I immediately began making plans to attend.  It was with great anticipation that I boarded a plane on March 7 and flew to the Land of 10,000 Lakes for the 3-day retreat.  What follows are my initial thoughts and reflections from this remarkable event; but first, some background information is in order…

A panoramic shot of the zendo at Clouds in Water

Upon reaching the 8th Step last summer, I had made substantial progress in freeing myself of the closed-mindedness towards spiritual matters that had previously blocked my recovery.  Leading up to that point, while working the 3rd Step, I had come across Lao Tzu’s Tao Te Ching and for the first time felt that I could honestly trust the process of recovery — an experience which I wrote about in an essay entitled An Appeal for Pantheism.  However, as I moved forward with the work of Steps 4 through 7, further spiritual investigation was forestalled in favor of Albert Ellis’ rational approach to cognitive restructuring.  Ellis’ techniques proved practical and effective.  But as I began to consider the 8th Step, I was drawn back to the search for a spiritual underpinning from which I could make sense of the amends process which I was about to undertake.  It was time for me to face, once and for all, the deep-seeded shame and resentment which had fueled my addiction.  And so, the search for a spiritual antidote to these problems resurfaced.

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Taking Steps 8 & 9

Those who work the 12 Steps are promised to have a spiritual awakening — a notion which, at first, seemed to me to be unattainable if not outright fanciful.  After all, how could someone like me, with all of my prejudices, ever become awakened to the mystery and beauty of this life?  Looking through the prism of active addiction, life appeared bleak, purposeless, and vacuous.  However, faced with no other alternative than to surrender or die, I set aside my prejudices and opened my mind to new possibilities.  Now, having undertaken the work of the 8th and 9th Steps, I have no doubt that a spiritual awakening is not only possible for me, but that it has been happening all along.

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