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The 12-Step Buddhist: Enhance Recovery from Any Addiction Paperback – March 10, 2009

4.5 out of 5 stars 95 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

According to the U.S. National Institute on Drug Abuse, almost 10 percent of people aged 12 or older needed treatment for drug or alcohol problems in 2006. That astonishing number suggests a need for books such as this, written by recovering drug and alcohol addict Littlejohn, who is also a student of Buddhism. The author, who has also studied psychology and research methods, has most definitely been there. Using the Buddhist idea of attachment as a key insight into addiction, Littlejohn correlates the 12 steps of recovery programs with Buddhist ideas and practices, drawing from both Zen and Tibetan traditions. This approach can especially benefit those who may have trouble with more conventional understandings of a Judeo-Christian God as a Higher Power, since 12-step programs depend on acceptance of such a power. Some of Littlejohn's practical exercises-certain Tibetan visualizations, for example-can be abstruse, and an appended glossary could provide more help with Buddhism, issues that more rigorous editing could have addressed. But the author has guts and clarity; this book is a welcome beacon on the troubling ocean of addiction.
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"The 12-Step Buddhist is one of those rare books that transcends genres by seamlessly integrating the 12-step approach, Buddhist principles, and a compelling personal struggle with addiction and a quest for spiritual awakening." -- Donald Altman, M.A., LPC, author of Living Kindness and Meal by Meal

"The 12-Step Buddhist is a unique synthesis of the traditional 12-Step model and the liberating wisdom of Dharma....This personal presentation of the tools Littlejohn used to find his own liberation from addiction is certainly never boring, and well worth reading." -- Mandala Magazine

"This book is written not based on theory or assumption, but by a person who actually went through the experience of recovery and from that experience has seen the benefits of this system as a way to help other people who are facing the same circumstances. This will be an important contribution to the literature of Buddhism and of recovery in the West." -- Yangsi Rinpoche, Tibetan Buddhist teacher and president of Maitripa Institute

"If the 12-Step program leads to recovery, Buddhist practice and philosophy can provide the spiritual underpinnings needed to stabilize that recovery. [Darren Littlejohn's] interpretation of the 12 Steps as seen through the lens of this wisdom tradition is fascinating and useful. A very practical and inspired guide." -- Susan Piver, author of How Not to Be Afraid of Your Own Life

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Atria Books/Beyond Words (March 10, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1582702233
  • ISBN-13: 978-1582702230
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.8 x 8.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (95 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #114,503 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Darren Littlejohn is a best selling author, retreat leader, Certified Yoga Teacher and a certified Reiki healing practitioner. A recovering addict and a practitioner of Zen and Tibetan Buddhism, as well as a former mental health specialist, he earned a BA in Psych in 1991 and worked in chemical dependency and acute psychiatric care facilities during college. Darren took 2 years of graduate school in Research Methods for Psychology. He has been a Buddhist practitioner since the mid 80's. A spiritual crisis led to a relapse in 1994 with 10 years of sobriety. After regaining sobriety in 1997, Darren worked on recovery with a new zeal, incorporating many years of psychotherapy, 12-Step work, Zen and Tibetan Buddhist practices. While relapse with long-term sobriety is common, returning for a sustained duration is extremely rare. Darren's program, which became the basis for the book the 12-Step Buddhist, is an integrated approach that is hard won over a span of more than twenty years. Darren, a jazz guitarist and dog lover, now lives in Portland, Oregon, with his life partner of 15 years, Tysa Fennern and their four dogs. He's been involved with many community projects, including the fight against smoking, creating dog parks, community television and a spiritually driven jazz program.

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

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Alcoholics Anonymous and other 12 step programs are emphatic that they are not aligned with any sect, denomination, or religion. AA is a spiritual program, not a religious program. The 12 step literature is quite clear that we are to use our own concept of a Higher Power, or "God as we understand Him."

Herein lies a problem: the very use of terms such as "God" and "Him" implies a patriarchal, creator God, the archetype of which is the God of Abraham, the God of Muslims, Christians, and Jews. But what of those members in a 12 step program who are atheists, agnostics, or of other beliefs in which there is no "Our Father" or a Creator? Even though the fellowship is fanatically tolerant of religious diversity, most members are white, middle class, middle aged men, who discuss spiritual matters in the terms most familiar to them.

AA has some work-arounds, in which people who do not believe in a deity can use GOD as an acronym, such as Good Orderly Direction, as their Higher Power. However, it is a bit a stretch to pray for improved conscious contact with a Good Orderly Direction. (For those who can do it, our hats are off to them.)

One of the non-theistic spiritual practices of people in recovery is Buddhism. Buddha was not a god, just a man who discovered how to relieve suffering. When asked if he were a god, Buddha replied "No." When asked what he was, then, Buddha said "I am awake." "Buddha" means the one who woke up.

The 12 Step Buddhist is a guide for integrating and using Buddhist practice in a 12 step program. This book does not explain the steps -- the reader is referred to the Big Book and other approved literature for that.
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This book is a guide for addicts of any type on how to incorporate Buddhist philosophy and practices into a traditional 12-Step program. The author is himself a recovering addict who has practiced both Zen and Tibetan Vajrayana Buddhism, and has a BA in psychology. Although he believes in the value of 12-step programs, he found that in recovering from his own addictions he needed more of a certain type of inner work, and Buddhism provided that. This book is based on how he integrated his Buddhist practice with a traditional 12-step program.

Although I am not an addict, I was drawn to this book because I believe Buddhist teachings have value for almost anyone, regardless of their religious beliefs (or lack thereof.) In that sense, I found this book personally relevant, even though I am not fighting a traditional addiction.

However, this book is designed primarily for addicts, and for anyone who knows or works with them. The author begins with his personal story, which lays the groundwork for him to explain later on why he feels certain practices have particular value. He then provides a basic overview of Buddhism, and of his primary paths, Zen and Tibetan Buddhism. Then, he covers the reality of addiction in the U.S., including statistics on how many people suffer from addiction, and on research into addiction as a 'brain disease.'

The main part of the book then walks through the traditional 12 Steps - one chapter each - and provides concrete practices drawn from Buddhism that can help an individual to work with that step in a new way. For example, he outlines a Meditation on Acceptance as part of Step 1, admitting 'powerlessness' over the addiction.
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Comment 55 of 56 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
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I believe that an addiction is in part, about loosing your way spiritually. I am also a huge believer in the 12 step programs and in the voice of the buddha.

I was therefore thrilled to discover this book which, in essence, incorporates two of the most powerful tools against addiction - the 12 steps and the Buddha way of life.

What I liked, for the beginning of this book is that the author does not trash either forms of belief - rather he constructed his book on the fact that one belief ties in and compliments the other one beautifully.

This book is loaded with personal experiences - those of the author and how he has looked to both 12 step and the Buddha to help him find his way.

This book is definitely about belief in a more spiritual way of living and it is about understanding your limitations as a human being.

I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book and found it to be encouraging and supportive.
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Before AA, conventional wisdom was that the vast majority of alcoholics and addicts wee hopelessly embedded in their active disease/ malady/process. Medicine couldn't fix them. Psychology and Psychiatry didn't work. Religion didn't work. Nothing seemed to work. AA changed that, for the simple reason that it really worked. Not for everyone, not perfectly, and most certainly not without ups and downs by its members. AA signaled a more humane and compassionate understanding of addiction, triggered the development of addiction medicine, and launched a worldwide movement that addresses addictive processes of all types and flavors, designed to attend to the roughly 10% of the population that suffers from alcoholism.

Over the decades, the 12 Step movement has evolved considerably. Recognition has arisen, in particular, that recovery for the vast majority of sufferers involves far more than the relatively simple and task/behavioral focus of the Big Book, a text written primarily by AA's chief founder in the early years of his recovery and AAs existence.

And say what you want about the god talk, white male voice, and limited understanding of the longer term issues of sobriety, the core truths of the 12 Step program continue to resonate. The simple idea that alcoholics have to face the fact they have a malady/disease/illness/allergy/whatever that renders them incompetent, very very ill, and dangerous to themselves and others if they drink any alcohol at all, that only a profound psychological change in their inner reality will allow them the opportunity to recover meaningful sober lives, and the very basic step-by-step procedure for beginning to learn and manifest that reality continues to hold ring true to this day.
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