How Buddhism and Addiction Recovery Can Work Together

Many different avenues are available when you’re choosing a path of recovery. Addiction counseling is often a significant help for those looking for a long-term solution. Buddhism and addiction recovery can work together. And they go hand-in-hand more than most people might think.

It’s natural to wonder how Buddhism and addiction recovery connected. While many in the world practice Buddhism as a religion, in fact it is a philosophy and there are many people from other faiths who practice it as such. In the West, Buddhism in this practice is seen as a “life philosophy” or path to whole living. If you are familiar with the 12Steps and Alcoholics Anonymous the idea of a path to whole living may sound very familiar.

No matter how you look at it, though, the basic principals of Buddhism are centered in moderation, acceptance, gratitude, personal accountability and truth. Again, sound familiar?

Anyone can use these principals to address suffering and move from a life of mere existing into one that is spiritually rewarding. You only need to be open to how they work and how they can benefit you. And you do not need to abandon any faith tradition you already hold.

Let’s look at some of these principals to learn more about how Buddhism and addiction recovery work together.

Understanding the Four Noble Truths

At the core of Buddhism, there are “Four Noble Truths of Suffering.” Understanding these noble truths will make it easier to overcome them. In Buddhist teachings, these truths are critical because people who don’t master them will have to live a life repeating them over and over again.

The four noble truths are:

  • Suffering exists
  • Selfishness causes suffering
  • You can end your suffering
  • Following the noble eightfold path is the way to end suffering

When it comes to addiction, it’s safe to say that the ideas of Buddhism point to selfish choices causing you to suffer. But, you can overcome these decisions. It may seem like a harsh reality, and yet, sometimes, that’s what we need to jumpstart treatment.

Finding an End to Suffering and Addiction

The goal of Buddhism is to achieve enlightenment. You could keep the same goal in mind as you work toward addiction recovery. While you don’t necessarily need to reach “enlightenment,” you can reach a place that allows you to embrace freedom from it – so you can move forward in your life.

The eight steps Buddhism uses to end the cycle of suffering include:

  • Right understanding
  • Correct thought
  • Right speech
  • Right conduct
  • Right effort
  • Correct focus
  • Right mindfulness

These steps build off of one another until you enter a state where you can fully understand what you’ve been doing, why you got there, and what you can do to overcome it.

Correct understanding and thought give you the wisdom you need to wrap your mind around your addiction. What started it, what caused it to take over? Knowing the cause of, or what continues to sustain your addiction are significant keys to beginning to heal. These steps can help you to get there.

Right speech, conduct, and effort help you to improve your virtue and individual morality. Correct focus and right mindfulness allow you to remain in the present. These help to keep you from drifting back into old habits or worrying about what’s going to happen.

Buddhism helps you develop a discipline that you can use to fight against your addiction, damaging behaviors, and negative thoughts of the past.

Can I Try Buddhism for Addiction Recovery?

Again, you don’t necessarily have to be a Buddhist to link Buddhism and addiction recovery. Though the teachings can help you. Buddhism can start you on the right path toward beating your addiction once and for all. There are a lot of great books and podcasts available that can help you line these up and get you started. There is even a community support organization that uses the Buddhist 8 Fold Path in support of addiction recovery.

If you want to learn more about Buddhism or addiction recovery and how it can help you, feel free to contact me. Or, visit my page on addiction counseling to learn more about how I can help. On my resources page you can find links to various approaches to addiction recovery; secular, Christian, Buddhist and more.

I understand that practicing Buddhism might feel a little strange to someone who has never done it before. Thanks to the principals of the practice, however, it’s a great model for an addiction recovery program from which most addicts can benefit.