Refuge Recovery

Refuge Recovery

Struggling with a substance addiction alone can feel nearly impossible unless you seek help for working through it. This means you need to locate a recovery option that will work for you. Some of the most popular programs in the United States include the 12-Step Program, but there are alternative programs, including Refuge Recovery, which is gaining in popularity as more people are seeking programs that focus on non-theistic themes and veer away from similarity to the 12-Step Program. So, what exactly is Refuge Recovery and how can it be beneficial to you or a loved one who is struggling with addiction?

What Is Refuge Recovery?

Refuge Recovery is a nonprofit organization focusing on substance abuse through non-theistic and non-12-step methods. Similar to Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), Refuge Recovery is a program that offers assistance free of charge, meetings in group settings and lifestyle guidelines for members to use to get clean and sober.

Unlike AA, Refuge Recovery is based off a variety of Buddhist practices such as mindful living, mindfulness, and recovery. All of these practices are designed to focus on and treat the causes of the addiction as opposed to narrowly focusing on just the addiction itself. Many people find this approach appealing as Refuge Recovery is offering meetings around the United States and even internationally.

How Exactly Do These Addiction Services Work?

In addition to meetings and self-therapy groups, Refuge Recovery also offers traditional therapy. With all of this combined, the Refuge Recovery programs works to assist participants in moving toward a healthier lifestyle. Similar to AA, meeting-based therapy isn’t intended to replace medical treatment or other types of therapy. Instead, it is meant to supplement it to provide assistance and support for addicts in the recovering stage.

Refuge Recovery offers complete therapy. In certain areas of the U.S., there are transitional living options. In these areas, the program places a focus on a combination of Buddhist-based mindfulness techniques and science-based therapy like Mindfulness-Based Relapse Prevention, Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, attachment theory, somatic experience, motivational interviewing, yoga, internal family systems treatment and mindfulness-based living skills. As a whole, the program is designed to help recovering addicts as they withdraw from their substance use and learn new mental and physical skills that can help them to return to a normal life.

When you hear the words “Refuge Recovery,” you essentially hear the fundamentals of the program. It’s based off of the idea that most individuals use substances, like alcohol or drugs, as a refuge, or an escape from stress or their lives as a whole. Many behavioral studies show that individuals who are constantly stressed are far more likely to use substances to escape or self-medicate. As a result, this particular belief is backed by science.

To join Refuge Recovery, your first step is to simply agree to abstinence from any harmful substances and behaviors, such as alcohol and/or drugs.


The Refuge Recovery meetings are very similar to those of AA. During these meetings, however, there is a facilitator or a “secretary” of sorts who will guide the entire group through a list of topics, essentially encouraging group sharing and discussion. One way that Refuge Recovery meetings are different from AA meetings is that meditation and mindfulness are incorporated.

Generally, the meetings following the following format:

  1. Facilitator/Secretary reads the introduction
  2. Leader reads preamble
  3. Group volunteers reed additional information
  4. 20-minute meditation
  5. Weekly reading assignment

(often from Four Truths, EightFold Path of Refuge Recovery, or a section of the Refuge Recovery book)

  1. Speaker shares a personal experience with a self-chosen topic
  2. Group sharing

(This allows all individuals three to five minutes to share their thoughts and options or something related to the Speaker’s topic.)

  1. Group Leader closes the meeting with a short reading and a reminder about the importance of anonymity
  2. Facilitator/Secretary requests donations and cleanup assistance
  3. Announcements and a group dedication close the meeting

This is a loose structure that can vary based on the participants, but most Refuge Recovery meetings follow the aforementioned format.

The Four Noble Truths

Throughout Refuge Recovery, you are asked to live in line with The Four Noble Truths as follows:

  1. Take inventory of your suffering so that you can understand what you have previously experienced as well as what you have previously caused.
  2. Investigate the condition and causes of your suffering; begin to let all of that go.
  3. Understand that it is possible to enter the stages of recovery and take refuge in your recovery as opposed to addiction.
  4. Follow the Buddhist Eightfold Path.

Recovery and The Eightfold Path

The Buddhist Eightfold Path is used in Refuge Recovery as an essential part of the overall recovery process. The path is as follows:

  1. Understand that recovery only begins when you abstain from any and all substances, acknowledge that you need help, and work towards forgiveness so that you are able to take responsibility for not only yourself but also for your impact on other individuals.
  2. Build the intention to build a healthy lifestyle that is rooted in not only unattached appreciation but also compassion.
  3. Take refuge in practice and community.
  4. Abstain from all substance and incorporate a variety of Buddhist principles into your life.
  5. Give back to other individuals and attempt to be of service to them
  6. Put effort into developing a daily practice of yoga, meditation, exercise, kindness, compassion, and actions.
  7. Practice mindfulness on a daily basis.
  8. Practice focusing the mind through meditation.

Unlike the 12 steps, which are considered a linear path, the Eightfold Path used in Refuge Recovery is a basic guideline of principles that should be integrated into your daily life.

Mindfulness and Meditation

Refuge Recovery is known as one of the only recovery programs to incorporate mindfulness and meditation in each of its group meetings as well as recovery as a whole. The group meetings offer an assortment of mindfulness and meditation practices with the end goal being to reach the Four Mindfulness Foundations as follows:

  • Mindfulness of Body/Breath
  • Mindfulness Feelings
  • Mindfulness of Mind States
  • Mindfulness of Truth

These foundations are essentially accomplished through the daily practice of both mindfulness and meditation. Guided meditation is offered through the Refuge Recovery program during group sessions (generally about 20 minutes), throughout the participant’s detox programs and assistance for when the participant returns home, such as yoga, meditation, and other mindfulness practices.

Is This Recovery Program Effective?

Refuge Recovery is a relatively new program. It was founded in 2014 by Noah Levine, a Buddhist teacher, and renowned counselor. Based on Buddhist practices and science, Levine founded the program and authored a book to accompany it. He has a master’s degree in Counseling Psychology, but perhaps his most relevant credential is that he was an addict at one time himself. Though Refuge Recovery is somewhat new, the methods that this program uses are 100 percent backed by science.

  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy – Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, along with other types of therapy, is offered through the Refuge Recovery program to assist with the recovery of addiction. CBT is a treatment that is backed by science and is used to help recovering addicts alter their behaviors and thought patterns. By exploring harmful and destructive thoughts and behaviors, CBT assists in preventing relapse, particularly over the long run.
  • Mindfulness and Recovery – Studies have shown that mindfulness has the ability to be incredibly effective in reducing cravings, stress, and relapse, so long as the recovering addict continues to stick to his or her mindfulness practices. When one stops practicing mindfulness, the aforementioned benefits will diminish over time.
  • Buddhism and Recovery – Refuge Recovery is not the first program based off of Buddhism, and there are several studies that have found that Buddhist lifestyles are ideal for beneficial for recovering addicts. This is because they boost spirituality and self-awareness, which ultimately minimizes risk behavior.
  • Meetings and Recovery – Over the years, it has been shown that there is a positive correlation between self-help meetings and abstinence and continuous recovery through the combination of peer pressure, accountability, and an outlet. Though there aren’t any specific studies of Refuge Recovery, there is a 16-year review of attendees of AA that found that the more meetings that a participant attended on a regular basis, the more likely it was that the participant would stay clean/sober.

A Non-Theistic Method for Recovery

While Refuge Recovery is based on the teachings of Buddhism, it is still non-theistic. It doesn’t involve God or any kind of higher power. This is ideal for individuals who are seeking to reach out and get in touch with spirituality without desiring to follow a certain religion or for those who don’t care to partake in a traditional Christian-based program of recovery.

Refuge Recovery may be newer than other programs, but it has a lot of science that backs it up and offers a variety of mindfulness-based techniques for recovery—all of which are designed to assist in improving your life, lifestyle, and way of thinking. This holistic approach with Refuge Recovery helps to deal with the causes that are behind your addiction so that you, as a recovering addict, can change your life for the better.

If treatment options like 12 step don’t sound appealing to you, or you’re wanting to find a new option that is non-holistic, Refuge Recovery could be a good fit for you or a loved one who is struggling with addiction. If you would like to learn more about Refuge Recovery, give us a call at: 855-572-7814, or you can send us an email

If you or a loved one is suffering from any type of substance abuse disorder, it is crucial that you get help as soon as possible. Contact us at Shadow Mountain Recovery Center to get assistance in overcoming your physical addiction and tackling your mental addiction.

Don’t wait another day to get the help you or a loved one needs. Call us now.