I’m from Los Angeles originally but I moved around a lot growing up. I hit the streets at 13 and spent most of my teens and 20’s living nomadically. Now I live in New Orleans and spend my time working for social change, being involved in the recovery community, and doing photo & film projects. Also, I go to a lot of punk shows.
Finding Refuge was a circuitous route. I kicked dope for the last time while in jail in Portland Oregon a little over 13 years ago. When they let me out I found a good 6-month inpatient treatment center in Oklahoma of all places. While there, they let me do a work-study program. After treatment, I moved back home to Los Angeles to restart my life. I threw myself into service work and that felt good for a while, but then I started to get burnt out. It took me some time because I’m stubborn and a slow learner, but eventually I discovered there are better ways to stay clean than working 100 hours a week. So I decided to work on myself. During this time I engaged in a lot of study and self-help type stuff. Eventually, I found myself doing a 12 step program in earnest, not just going to meetings and going through the motions. I found a sponsor who came from a pretty great lineage, with more of a Buddhist lens on the steps than a Judeo-Christian one. But I still struggled with the “prayer & meditation” part. Not being particularly religious myself, and not subscribing to a god or deity type of higher power, I found a lot of the language of the big book quite challenging. Especially the capital “H” “Him” parts. Then one day, about 3 years ago, while I was in L.A. visiting family, a dear friend recommended I check out some of the “meditation meetings” they have at the ATS center. I hoped to learn about incorporating meditation into my recovery. So I went to my first Refuge Recovery meeting. That night they did the equanimity meditation, which really resonated with me. After that, I guess you could say I was “hooked.”
I’m still involved in, and fond of, the 12 step program, but Refuge Recovery is my main focus these days. A fellow Sangha member and I brought Refuge Recovery to New Orleans, starting Louisiana’s first meeting in the summer of 2015 and it’s been a tremendously rewarding experience ever since. The 4 truths and 8 fold path has helped to shine so much light in my life and has given me a huge amount of agency over my own addiction/suffering, as it has for countless others.
In regard to which part of the book resonates most deeply, I can really get down with Chapter 2: The Cause Of Addiction Is Repetitive Craving. I see a lot of effort out in the world to pathologize certain aspects of the human experience, and while I can see the usefulness in that at times, I find it limited and often very isolating when it comes to recovery. The “disease model” is not the only way to contextualize and understand all the ways we suffer from addiction. I like that the second noble truth reminds us how we all crave pleasure and seek to avoid pain, that our survival instincts & nervous systems demand it. It’s not a disease, it’s just being human. Reading about this is always very de-stigmatizing for me. I feel like my struggles are universal and relatable, it’s not just drunks & junkies like me who suffer from this.
If attending a Refuge Recovery meeting in NOLA you can expect to find a community that is open and accessible to all who seek refuge, in other words, you can expect some southern sangha hospitality. Besides using the sangha to practice and cultivate skillfulness with the 8 fold path in my own life, I want to help the New Orleans Refuge Recovery community continue to grow and be available, accessible, and workable to anyone in the area who wants it. To that aim, I do pretty much anything I can. I work on supporting and encouraging all my fellows in RR to sit regularly, study the book, and get through the inventories. Sometimes I facilitate meetings, sometimes I host inventory groups, and often I work with folks one-on-one. Often, the most helpful thing I can personally do for the Sangha is to take a big step back. I really appreciate that our little community values group decision making and keeping things non-hierarchical, it’s not always easy but sometimes the manner in which we do things is more important than the things we do.