127 of 134 people found the following review helpful
on March 9, 2009
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. This book is for Buddhists, or others who are non-theistic, who are also addicts in recovery, and want to work a serious spiritual program.
Littlejohn pulls no punches. He is blunt, practical, and hard-core. For those in a program: he is one of us. The author notes that most Buddhist teachers do not know how to handle addicts or alcoholics (for those who make the distinction). Littlejohn has been there, and knows what it's like to bottom out, and also to go back out and return.
The reader may not agree with the approach in The 12 Step Buddhist. No problem. As both AA and the Buddha say, if you think something else will work better for you, please go try it. If it doesn't work, you are welcome back. Take what you need and leave the rest behind.
53 of 54 people found the following review helpful
on March 18, 2009
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. He explores the Buddhist concept of karma as part of Step 2, which is traditionally stated as "We came to believe that a power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity." He discusses the Buddhist idea of taking refuge in the context of Step 3 - "Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of our Higher Power as we understood our Higher Power."
Throughout each section, he helps readers to integrate the traditional 12-Step literature's use of the term 'higher power' with Buddhism's non-theistic approach, and addresses the question head-on in a sub-section entitled "Are You Sure There Isn't a God in Buddhism?" As the steps progress, and become explicitly more self-examining and spiritual in nature, the Buddhist lessons evolve also, within the Mahayana context of Zen and Tibetan Buddhism, and thus drawing heavily on Bodhisattva-based teachings on compassion and our connection to others.
The author is clear that this book is meant to be used in conjunction with 'working' a traditional 12-Step program. If you know an addict, or are a therapist or other type of practitioner working with them, this book will provide you with new insights into how to approach addiction recovery. And even if you're not, you may gain new insight into how to apply the Buddhist teachings you have studied over the years to your own life.
33 of 35 people found the following review helpful
on March 30, 2009
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.
16 of 18 people found the following review helpful
on November 16, 2009
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. Moreover, the underlying recovery process AA relies upon, via the fellowship, meetings, support, and community plays such a central role in most sober alcoholic/addict's lives that for many, simply attending meetings and maintaining a sense of identity as an AA member is sufficient to sustain recovery for sometimes great periods of time.
Darren Littlejohn's addition to the literature is of a larger piece that speaks to the twin problems a great many people in recovery struggle with: First, no matter how easy or hard it is to get sober, staying sober year in and year out is a very very difficult and in many ways different problem altogether, requiring efforts that transcend core AA understandings of recovery. Here, he firmly embraces the larger contribution psychiatry and therapy offer to anyone in need of help. And while he emphatically states in multiple ways the basic claim that these additional efforts do not serve as a substitute for 12 step work, he does so in a way that doesn't cast those larger efforts as "adjunct" remedies, but as central to and a core part of people's recovery discipline. This echoes the claim increasingly heard inside the fellowship itself, that recovery is bigger then meetings, step work, spirituality, and service.
The second problem Littlejohn addresses is the issue of spirituality. The simple truth is that belief in God and a sense of spirituality are NOT prerequisites for beginning or sustaining sobriety, nor should they be grounds for anyone not to feel uncomfortable in the fellowship. While this may be easier said then done, especially in places where more traditional AA predominates or where alternative meetings simply don't exist, it nevertheless is one of the bedrock foundational aspects of the recovery movement. And, while many many people do indeed experience such a profound sense of change through their successful recovery efforts in AA that they have little options BUT to rely on spiritual and religious language to describe it, there's no reason why anyone couldn't ascribe that kind of change to the sort proposed by Jung in the beginning, i.e., a profound psychic change. No matter. These are just words we deploy to describe experienc, not the experience itself.
Buddhism, with it's overt silence on the God issue (not to mention its wonderful resonating language, belief system, and practice which seems strangely calculated to address addict's alcoholic's experience)is becoming an increasingly fertile area of exploration for people in recovery. It's core ideas about suffering, attachment, and letting go fit squarely with the tenets of mainstream recovery. And that Buddhism places the locus of control for change squarely in the individual, on close inspection, doesn't run counter at all to the basic texts of AA itself, where the idea of finding an inner awakening, immanent notion of God, etc. are anything but footnotes.
Littlejohn's bio piece at the beginning of the text is reason enough to buy this book. The remainders of the chapters, covering a particular conjoining of Zen and Tibetan practice is invaluable. For anyone beginning recovery and interested in something other then normative western spirituality, for anyone struggling with sustaining recovery after the first few years,, and for those who have an awakening sense of spirituality but can't find the words to describe it, the 12 Step Buddhist is an invaluable book.
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on March 28, 2009
I just finished this gem. Darren Littlejohn has written a work of art from the heart. I found it not only very useful but very refreshing and stimulating. It really adds a dimension to the traditional 12 Step programs. It adds a twist by integrating Tibetan Buddhism and Zen into the steps.
Make no mistake this is not a book written by someone with a clinical removed philosophy but rather by an "addict" one who has truly been there, done that and has the scars to prove it. If you have a problem with addiction or have a friend, family member or just a curiosity about the disease of addiction then this is the book for you. I strongly encourage anyone in need to pick up a copy of this book, and then more importantly read and apply it!
One last thing look for Darren on Facebook and check out his FREE Podcast on iTunes The 12 Step Buddhist, well worth it also check out The 12 Step Buddhist website [...]
The 12-Step Buddhist: Enhance Recovery from Any Addiction
10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
on September 3, 2009
This is more of a thank you letter than a review. Thank you, thank you, thank you for writing this book. It's a breath of fresh air blowing through the sometimes fusty air of traditional AA recovery. For most of my 35 years of sobriety I have battled with "the God part" of AA's program. I have "translated" the wonderful words of recovery in AA's "big book" into language I can accept in my head at meetings and in my reading. A relative newcomer to Buddhism, I have been amazed at how its principles parallel the 12 step programs, yet offers the freedom of really choosing my own Higher Power.
Thank you for saying that addicts need more than just the 12 steps. I believe we need and deserve all the help we can get. Recovery over many years needs the freedom to draw on an ever widening array of sources to meet our ever widening array of experiences. Thank you for talking about the "funnel." It is too easy to rest on the fact that you have experience with all 12 steps without really delving into their spiritual depths. When a drunk chicken thief gets sober, all you have is a sober chicken thief. Developing a practical spiritual life will move the chicken thief into another realm where stealing chickens is no longer an option. Meditation on stealing moves one to take full responsibility for the act of stealing and Buddhist principles take one to the level of being a help to all the chicken thieves past, present and future. Now that is a life of service.
And thank you for your honesty. Your book reads like a meeting or like one drunk talking to another, blunt, forthright and right on the money.
15 of 18 people found the following review helpful
on March 23, 2009
I am a Buddhist with Sangha/recovering Alcoholic/Addict with a home group and a sponsor. I have read this book and it is a fabulously laid out merging of the 12 Steps and Buddhism, which, to me, have always seemed like the perfect complement to one another. I have so much gratitude for this book because, though I am already a practicing Buddhist, I can never learn too much new information about my practice and how to fit it into my 12-Step recovery program. Darren Littlejohn shares his AA "experience, stregnth and hope" aspect of how he arrived at sobriety, and also shares his experiences leading him to becoming a Buddhist practitioner. His book provides a raw this-guy-is-for-real-an-alcoholic approach along with a soft, gentle and always patient Buddhist approach to working the steps with a strong dose of the, as he puts it, medecine of the Dharma. After having read the book, I consider him a member of my book Sangha, in which I also include, among several others, Charlotte Joko Beck, Lama Surya Das, and Thich Nhat Hanh. I appreciate the service work he has performed with this wonderfully insightful book, and the efforts he makes to show us all that happy, joyous and free is a day at a time, and then a moment at a time.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on January 29, 2010
I remember when this book was a pre-order. I'd been searching for something like it for years, and nothing ever quite fit the bill. I'd been sober for a while, had been a solo practicing Buddhist for almost as long, and wanted to find a community within my 12-step community that was going to speak to me in words I understood. I saw this book on Amazon and couldn't wait to read it. Thankfully, it was everything I'd been waiting for.
For a non-Christian in recovery, I was exhausted from applying the advice "Take what you need and leave the rest." I wanted to finally hear someone tell me that the way I'd chosen wasn't going to eventually get me drunk. Because the God of my understanding was really no God at all. And in most 12-step meetings, this idea didn't go over very well.
Not only does this book open up a space in 12-step recovery groups for Buddhists, it creates that tribe within a tribe, which is the difference for many people between life and death. It offers us a place to belong, and a way to create it in our lives and 12-step groups.
The best part about the book is that it gives concrete ways to apply to principles of Buddhism to your 12-step practice. It's not esoteric. It's practical application.
And Littlejohn is clear to state that it's not just Buddhism or just the 12-steps, but a healthy combination of each that will be the most successful for a Buddhist who wants to maintain their spiritual condition in recovery. And I appreciate this most of all. He's not selling it as his way or the highway. He's providing tools for each person to find their own path, and putting forth what worked for him.
It's a beautiful book. And if you want to practice Buddhism as a person in recovery, this is where you should begin.
11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
on August 12, 2009
I first found this book at the public library, read it, then bought it. Mindfulness has been found (empirically) to help with anxiety disorders. Buddhism does mindfulness so beautifully and this author has found a way to coordinate with traditional 12 step and other approaches so it is readable and understandable. Some people do not "get" 12 step or cognitive-behavioral language as it can feel judgmental, blaming. This books moves beyond blaming in a good, rational way, still allowing for the mystical and higher power parts of recovery.
Not just for the recovery community. In fact, I work with anxiety disorder mostly.
NC female therapist over 60
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on September 6, 2009
This is the first review I've ever written on Amazon, and I'm doing it because this book really helped me.
I had the opportunity to do a short workshop with Darren and decided based on that to buy his book. At the time I was really struggling with some old demons, and his approach to "aspects of self" helped me turn a corner and return to some semblance of serenity. I have found his style and tone to be both deep and accessible. It's clear he put a lot of love into this book. I can't say enough how happy I am that this book exists.
Sabbe satta sukhi hontu. For real.