REFUGE RECOVERY

Dear Sangha,

We write to you with gratitude and excitement for the future of Refuge Recovery. We are aware and honor that the continued conflict between Refuge Recovery and Noah Levine has created stress and grief for many. (For more information about this issue within the sangha, click here). We extend our deepest compassion to all who have been affected.

THANK YOU for the integrity, compassion, and support you’ve demonstrated throughout this time of hardship and transition. You’ve built a strong foundation and an even stronger community, and it’s our continued intention to serve you with transparency, integrity, and wisdom, while providing you with a platform to be seen, heard, and supported as you safely seek refuge. We want you to know that we hear you, and see you, and are committed to supporting you as we continue to move forward together on this shared path to freedom from suffering.

Today, our intention is to share the momentum and solutions we’ve implemented to address the situation at hand and the ways we’re supporting you, our valued sangha. We’ve accomplished big things in the last five months!

  1. Instituted a policy on teachers. This policy establishes that as a peer-led organization, Refuge Recovery does not endorse or recognize the authority of any empowered Dharma teacher to speak for or direct the activities of Refuge Recovery. Empowered teachers may contribute to the mission of the organization by serving on the Board of Directors or in some other capacity as peers, but they may not use their position as teachers to assert authority over the direction of Refuge Recovery or their local community. Here’s the policy.
  2. Instituted a policy on community input. To encourage involvement and input by the broad Refuge Recovery community in the development of policy, action, and literature, the Board adopted a policy designed to solicit submissions of proposals or requests for action from the members of the Refuge Recovery community and to outline a method to ensure that such input is communicated to and acted upon by the Board. While the bylaws provide a method for the Board to adopt a policy, position, committee, or action, they do not provide a procedure for the submission of proposals or requests for action from members of the Refuge Recovery community. This policy is designed to define such a procedure. Here’s the policy.
  3. Removal of Noah Levine from the Board. In March of 2018, our Executive Committee (Jean Tuller, Chris Kavanaugh, and Don Westervelt) asked Noah Levine to step aside as a director and he agreed. Because Mr. Levine’s departure from the Board was done under the presumption that it might be temporary, it left his status as a director unclear. To resolve this ambiguity, during our May 4, 2019 Board of Directors meeting, the Refuge Recovery Board of Directors unanimously voted to remove Noah Levine from the Board.  Motion for removal lists cause as a) Mr. Levine is an adverse party in litigation with the Refuge Recovery organization b) Mr. Levine has violated his fiduciary duties as director and c) Mr. Levine’s rejection of the recommendations of the larger Buddhist community has caused harm to the standing and reputation of Refuge Recovery and violates our own ethical requirement of “causing no harm.” Read the motion in its entirety, as adopted by the Board.
  4. Field testing new works of the Literature Committee. A Beginners Guide and Inventories Guide are being field tested now and the next step is to finalize the drafts and submit them to a panel of critical readers. Our plan is to make these available to RefCon5 participants, with full distribution to the Refuge Recovery community shortly thereafter.
  5. Providing support to groups to make their own wise decisions about use or non-use of the Refuge Recovery text. We trust in the wisdom of each group to decide what is best for its own sangha and how best to support the recovery of its individuals. A great deal of helpful literature is published by others, and Refuge Recovery does not try to tell any individual sangha what they may or may not read or use in meetings. Refuge Recovery is based on the Four Noble Truths and the Eightfold Path and in order to ensure fidelity to the Refuge Recovery program, we ask that only Buddhist or Buddhist-inspired literature is used at meetings. Refuge Recovery does not rely on 12-Step material and we ask that Refuge meetings not use such material (e.g., One Breath at a Time, by Kevin Griffin).
  6. Addition of two new Board members and resignation of another. Madalyn Baker, from Los Angeles, and Amy Reed, from Asheville, have been added to the Board of Directors. Both are leaders in their home Refuge communities and bring a depth of practice and experience to our Board. John Tydlaska, one of our original Board members, has stepped down after two years of service.
  7. Planning for our annual international conference, RefCon5. Our theme this year is Wings to Awakening. The Planning Committee, comprised of Regional Representatives, is developing peer-led workshops including an entire strand devoted to process addictions. The agenda will be published on June 1st on our website.

We will also have time at RefCon5 to discuss next steps that we as a community will take to move towards a membership-elected organization. All of the Board members will be at RefCon5 and we look forward to starting the planning process with you.

Join Us For A Conversation – Live Video Calls

We are hosting two LIVE video calls, during which we’ll address Noah Levine’s role in Refuge Recovery and our process in supporting the community through this time of transition.

On this video call (via the platform Zoom), we’d love to hear from you! How can we support you in continuing to grow your local sanghas? How can we support you during this time of transition?

We’ll also discuss:

  1. The update on litigation, including our receipt of Noah’s counter-claims, and the work we’ll be doing to address that.
  2. Official removal of Noah from RR Board (and what this means for Refuge Recovery and the community)
  3. The potential impact on our community as these issues get resolved.  

To prepare for the Zoom call, please go to the bottom of the Board of Directors page to review material related to the lawsuit.

  1. Topic: Refuge Community Meeting
    Time: May 22, 2019 7:00 PM Pacific Time (US and Canada)Join Zoom Meeting
    https://zoom.us/j/473329921One tap mobile
    +16699006833,,473329921# US (San Jose)
    +16465588656,,473329921# US (New York)Dial by your location
    +1 669 900 6833 US (San Jose)
    +1 646 558 8656 US (New York)
    Meeting ID: 473 329 921
    Find your local number: https://zoom.us/u/ad74FQYypl
  2. Topic: Refuge Community Meeting
    Time: May 23, 2019 7:30 PM Eastern Time (US and Canada)Join Zoom Meeting
    https://zoom.us/j/318039171One tap mobile
    +16699006833,,318039171# US (San Jose)
    +16465588656,,318039171# US (New York)Dial by your location
    +1 669 900 6833 US (San Jose)
    +1 646 558 8656 US (New York)
    Meeting ID: 318 039 171
    Find your local number: https://zoom.us/u/ad74FQYypl

We are looking forward to this upcoming Zoom call, where we can come together as a community, discuss the important issues, decisions, and action steps at hand, and field your feedback and questions.

Together, we have built a worldwide community of over 700 meetings, and it is the passion, dedication, and service of our members that will help us continue to grow and offer a path of healing and recovery to all who seek it. Our organization is made strong by the compassion, resilience, accountability, and forgiveness each member of our community demonstrates in their personal recovery, and we will continue to uphold our singular vision and unity of purpose to support and empower all who hope to relieve the suffering of addiction.  

We understand that this is a lot of information, and that you may have questions or feedback. Please contact us and let us know. Also, please join us on one of the upcoming Zoom calls! We’re here for you.

Refuge Recovery Fort Worth

Refuge Recovery Fort Worth

Refuge Recovery Fort Worth was started in October of 2016. It began with a core group who relentlessly built it into the thriving Sangha that it is today. Per the guiding principles, we have recently implemented a rotation of leadership. The current Service Positions are excited to expand what has already been set in motion. Our mentorship model, for now, has naturally evolved into peer to peer connections and our service positions consistently practice servant leadership.

We currently have five meetings per week. Three are topic-oriented meetings on Thursday, Saturday, and Sunday. A Woman’s group on Monday, and Refuge Recovery book studies on Tuesday. We have tried to make our meetings as accessible, interesting, and beneficial for all participants.

Our Fellowship outside meetings is candid, based on true relationships. My counselor in I.O.P. would say “The opposite of addiction is genuine connection.” As a group we seek and encourage such connections and are creating real friendships. We are even developing a relationship with a local Yoga studio for combo meetings and may have satellite meetings soon!

RR Fort Worth is excitingly eclectic. With a wide range of ages, genders, diverse personal and professional backgrounds, our meetings have a great deal of varied input. We find that this keeps everything fresh and the individual gets to do their own homework.  

Refuge Recovery Fort Worth is committed to the peer lead group model,  and wish all Sanghas find refuge in the Buddha, Dharma and Sangha.

Bee Sloan

These are my recommendations for books about the Refuge Recovery practice, the intersection of Twelve Steps and Buddhism, and how to meditate. They are not specifically endorsed by Refuge Recovery and are offered in the spirit of generosity to our sangha. Happy reading!

Reading to Change Your Mind

Bee’s Books, April 2019

Did you ever see “The Wizard of Oz?” Dorothy skipping down the Yellow Brick Road with the Straw Man, the Tin Man, the Cowardly Lion and her little dog Toto to find a way home? It wasn’t all singing We’re Off to See the Wizard. There was traveling through the dark forest, the witch slinking around threatening, “I’ll get you, my pretty! And your little dog, too!” Falling asleep in the poppy field, before Glinda the Good intervened and woke them up with a snowfall in spring.

So what do you do after the tornado has picked you up and dropped you into the Land Of Sobriety? This month and next month I’ll be talking about a couple of books that can help you with waking up, clearing out the underbrush, and finding the sunlit path home.

For me, using wasn’t about partying. I needed to manage my moods with booze and workaholism and codependency just to carry on a “normal” life. Of course, there were the drawbacks of feeling isolated emotionally from other people, experiencing random flashes of rage, the wreckage of getting into and out of toxic relationships and jobs, and having to avoid places and people that might remind me of anything I didn’t want to think about, which was a problem, since after a while I couldn’t go anywhere or see anybody.

And eventually I was drunk or hungover most of the time, so I couldn’t work, and then learning from my doctor that alcoholism could literally kill me. That was my tornado. I crashed. Entering recovery, I felt like Dorothy opening the door of her little black and white existence into an unfamiliar, colorful world, governed by rules I didn’t understand. But once the first excruciating six weeks or so was over, getting sober was a huge relief.  Connecting with a recovery community, working with a mentor, writing the inventories, and starting to wake up through a consistent meditation practice seemed to be part of creating a new, calmer self. Happy ending, right?

But then I had got chest pain taking down the Christmas tree. And while hiking on a trail where my ex-husband and I used to go, my hands started shaking too bad to open my water bottle. What the heck? I’m sober! I should be fine now!

When I asked my mentor what I was doing wrong, he said, “Nothing. You’re just dealing with old trauma. You should do some therapy to clear it out and get rid of it.” I said, “I don’t want to talk about that stuff.” Those memories were a dark forest that I just didn’t want to go into. But then he said that talk therapy doesn’t always help. That having an intellectual insight into why you react a certain way can’t heal a trauma that has become embedded in the body, where those memories are stored. There are new modalities of therapy, which allow us to process trauma and clear it from where it has become embedded in the body. This being me, I asked a therapist friend for what to read, and she recommended The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind and Body in the Healing of Trauma, by Bessel van der Kolk, M.D.

I opened it and read, “As long as we register emotions primarily in our heads, we can remain pretty much in control, but feeling as if our chest is caving in or we’ve been punched in the gut is unbearable. We’ll do anything to make these awful visceral sensations go away, whether it is clinging desperately to another human being…(or) rendering ourselves insensible with drugs or alcohol…the solution requires finding ways to help people alter the inner sensory landscape of their bodies.”

Yup, I thought, this guy gets it!

Luckily, Dr. van der Kolk didn’t leave me there. He’s got solutions. “…the rational brain cannot abolish emotions, sensations or thoughts…If we want to change posttraumatic reactions, we have to access the emotional brain and do “limbic system therapy.” After explaining how physiologically embedded trauma affects us, he goes on to explain how a diversity of body-based therapies, including meditation, EMDR, yoga, neurofeedback, and psychomotor therapy. There is even a chapter on how to find a good therapist.

I found reading this book to be a good first step toward getting me ready to begin the work of eradicating underlying trauma and solidifying my recovery. It may be helpful for you, too.

Next month – finding the sunlit path home to discovering and recovering joy.

Hannah is 29 years old from Syracuse, NY and mother of two awesome children. Hannah is a peer specialist at an Outpatient clinic in Syracuse and also facilitates Refuge Recovery meetings.

I am Hannah Mountain. After hitting my rock bottom I found Refuge Recovery. I am a recovering alcoholic and am also in recovery from anorexia and bulimia. When I was court ordered to go to meetings I tried the traditional 12 step meetings and couldn’t relate to the other people there or the higher power step. I knew if I was going to get sober I needed to heal the root issues and learn to deal with life in a better way. So I started reading the Refuge Recovery book and it spoke to me. I started meditating using the mindfulness of breath meditation, which is still the one I turn to the most when I am struggling. After studying and practicing myself for a year, I decided to start Refuge Recovery here in Syracuse NY. It was slow going at first but by six months in we grew to around 12 people at the meetings and started a second meeting, then a third, and fourth, and now we are up to five meetings a week. We have a few different facilitators and we all work together as a team to keep the meetings growing and working. I still hold a leadership role in all the meetings, promoting and doing educational meetings at outpatient facilities in the local area.

The RR meetings in Syracuse may look a little different than some of the other types of meetings (e.g. 12 Step). One way is that no one introduces themselves with anything other than their first name. I believe this helps reduce stigma and helps people realize they are not their addiction. Just as we don’t see people introducing themselves as “Hi, I am Jane and I am a diabetic.” We also read an opening statement, read a part in the book and the facilitators talk about what that part of the book means and we have open discussion. Our meetings normally end in meditation; I do this because sometimes topics bring up some shit we may of buried and it helps to always end the meeting with a way to clear our heads and bring mindfulness to what we talked about, instead of talking and running out the door. I find it helps to leave on a positive note in that way.

Refuge Recovery is a lot of my passion as I have seen the practice work and people recover using the practice. I also take my yoga practice very seriously and that is a huge part of my recovery. It teaches me to connect my breath to my body and mind.

I don’t know if I have a favorite part of the book, just as the we need all eight spokes in the Dharma wheel, the whole Eightfold Path, not just one part of it, so if I had to I would choose all of chapter 14, Breaking the Addiction. As far as what I continue to do for my recovery, I have a Teacher who teaches me the Dharma and meditation instruction, which I use for my own life but also to share with our Refuge Recovery. I am lucky to have found my passion in Refuge Recovery and using the Dharma to heal myself and help others heal themselves.
I believe the Buddha nature is in each and every one of us and we have the ability to heal and recover.

 

UnDude

Jeremy Bixler can be found playing live with UnDude March 22, 2019 at Twilight Café, Portland, OR Facebook/undude2000 and Soundcloud/undude2000

 

 

 

 

I’m sitting in a randomly hip Portland coffee shop trying to not continue procrastinating writing this article, sipping on coconut milk matcha latte, and the lyrics of the song playing overhead sing : “I love music… funky funky music…. It’s the universal language… spoken by every woman, man and child…”

And it’s undeniably true.  Music is magical; a wormhole that can transport us through time and space, reminding us of times forgotten, making us dance like a happy baby, or even move us to tears, somehow communicating with our hearts. Music affects us physically and mentally as well, firing off neurotransmitters like dopamine and serotonin, and that’s just from listening. When we play an instrument or sing, especially in a group, oxytocin can make us actually feel high, with no drugs or alcohol. “Free-lapse!” Oxytocin is often called the natural love drug, or the “connection hormone”. We get it from hugs, petting animals, and group meditation too!

I’ve played music all my life—starting first with saxophone in school orchestra, jazz and marching bands, which later evolved into the electric guitar, which had me forming bands off-and-on (depending how strong my depression and/or addiction was at the time) and writing songs. When I was deep in my addiction I continued to play and write, sometimes even suicidal songs; in isolation and sad drunkenness, I found comfort in those songs.  It made me feel less alone.  Maybe the oxytocin kept me from going over the edge and helped me survive. One of the last songs I wrote before getting sober was called “Sick of Being Sick.”

More than 15 years of self-sabotage and three DUIs on my resume, in late 2015 I was finally ready to admit I had to stop for good. I flew from my parent’s house in LA to a treatment center in Battle Creek, Michigan, and luckily for me they had an acoustic guitar I could use.  I wrote soothing instrumental songs in a new tuning I figured out, and performed one of them, “Good Morning,” as my final speech in front of my peers. It was a CBT-based program, but I chose the aforementioned treatment center because it had a holistic “track” where monks from the local Soto-Zen Temple Monastery, Sokukoji, actually came in and taught those willing to meditate, answer questions, and attend services, including all-day sesshins.  I was finally able to marry my love of music with spirituality—something I definitely wasn’t able to do on my own, getting loaded. It took me drying up, and a compassionate community.

After graduating from the treatment program, I moved into Sokukoji’s converted VA Hall monastery for a couple of weeks, writing songs on my teacher Sokuzan’s ancient guitar, lulling myself to sleep before waking at 5am for a two and a half hour sit every morning. I still have a recording on my phone of “Emptiness” that was written while we were studying Dzogchen.

Rock to Recovery

Wes Geer, founder of Rock To Recovery; Jeremy Bixler, NW Program Administrator; Constance Scharff, PhD, Board of Directors

 

From there I moved to Portland, OR, and found Refuge Recovery, where I also found musician friends and started a grunge band, UnDude (a nod to The Big Lebowski). With the aid of Refuge Recovery, I started exploring career options, in line with right livelihood, taking the eightfold path to heart. Fuck being a barista! My friend and mentor Gary Sanders (who started one of the very first RR meetings in LA) now lived in Portland also. And through him, met someone connected to Rock To Recovery, a company that brings a specialized music therapy into treatment centers. The Program Administrators of this company are genuine rock stars! Had record deals! Toured the world! And, importantly, had found sobriety, spreading the joy of music to those healing from years of self-abuse, just like I was only 3 short years ago. After intense training with the bona fide rock stars that comprise Rock to Recovery down in LA, and my experience playing “mindful grunge” around PDX for a couple years, I’ve now joined the Rock to Recovery family, leading sessions as the flagship NW Program Administrator. The foundation I unknowingly laid way back in elementary school with music allowed me to survive my addiction, propelling me through treatment, stumbling onto the path—and buoyed by the collective strength of my Refuge Recovery sangha—has allowed me to connect to clients with a presence I’d never have been capable of alone.

Although all sessions are unique, the basic flow is similar. We do check-ins at the beginning of groups to establish a feel and theme, often gratitude-based in nature, and I share about my recovery process, always tying music and mindfulness together. We write a brand new song every time, as a group, and divvy up roles and instruments forming a band that’s never existed. Concept to completion takes 90 minutes, during which time we finalize the song and record it to be uploaded online for all perpetuity! It’s an amazing phenomenon being in the moment all together, speaking that universal language, and is truly transformative how anyone just days from being dope-sick can be singing, smiling, laughing, and most importantly, singing their new song! I’m privileged to be a part of that interconnected process.

Refuge in rocking, and rocking in Refuge…. Recovery is possible! 

For more information on Rock to Recovery please visit: www.RockToRecovery.org or email directly: [email protected]

Bee Sloan

Bee Sloan

Reading to Change Your Mind

These are my recommendations for books about the Refuge Recovery practice, the intersection of Twelve Steps and Buddhism, and how to meditate. They are not specifically endorsed by Refuge Recovery and are offered in the spirit of generosity to our sangha. Happy reading!

When I got sober almost four years ago, the challenges were pretty basic. How do I stay sober another hour? How do I deal with panic attacks and depression without self-medicating? After a few weeks, the challenges of sobriety got a little more nuanced.  If I can’t hang out with my drinking friends without wanting to drink with them, who’ll I hang out with? I might stay sober long enough to want to rebuild my health. What does that look like? After awhile, I started hearing, “Don’t change anything for a year.”  Well, nobody told the universe about that, because in that first year, my husband filed for divorce, which meant I had to move, change jobs, and deal with crushing grief while getting used to a whole new personality after getting sober and establishing a Buddhist practice. In other words, everything changed that first year. Everything. And here I was, with no experience of being able to deal with change or strong emotions, and with no skill in treating myself kindly.

Yeah, I went to meetings and meditated the hell out of everything. But that wasn’t not enough to help me live with my hurricane of reactions to the world-as-it-is. I needed instruction.

So I took direction in the wisdom of old-timers and my meditation teachers. And in a collection of talks Pema Chodron gave during a one-month practice period in 1989, published as The Wisdom of No Escape and the Path of Loving-Kindness. These talks were intended to encourage the participants to remain awake to their lives, and to use daily life as their primary teacher and guide. It is basic instruction on how to love yourself and the world you find yourself living in.

I don’t think I can overstate how helpful I find this book, and how strongly I recommend it. It’s a short book but it is absolutely packed with wisdom. While I would like to quote the whole thing, it will save space in the newsletter if you just go get a copy and read it yourself. In the meantime, here a few choice bits to entice you:

“If we’re committed to comfort at any cost, as soon as we come up against the least edge of pain, we’re going to run; we’ll never know what’s beyond that particular barrier or wall or fearful thing…Life is a whole journey of meeting your edge again and again.”

“Our emotions capture and blind us. When we start getting angry or denigrating ourselves or craving things in a way that makes us miserable, we begin to shut down, shut out, as if we were sitting on the edge of the Grand Canyon but we had put a big black bag over our heads.”

“The first noble truth says simply that it’s part of being human to feel discomfort. We don’t even have to call it suffering anymore…It’s simply coming to know the fieriness of fire, the wildness of wind, the turbulence of water…as well as the warmth of fire, the coolness and smoothness of water, the gentleness of the breezes…sometimes they manifest in one form and sometimes in another. If we resist it, the reality and vitality of life become misery, a hell. Hell is just resistance to life.”

“Renunciation is realizing that our nostalgia for wanting to stay in a protected, limited, petty world is insane.”

And, to me, perhaps the most challenging and promising statement, “You can connect with the joy in your heart.”

Like I said, the book is packed. It helps, when reading it, to realize that she would give one of these talks and then the listeners would have a full day to meditate on what she’d said. Take your time. Read and reflect.

And as always, may you be happy. May you be at ease. May you be free from suffering.

Dear Sangha,

Today, we filed suit against Noah Levine and three of his business entities in the United States District Court for the Central District of California. At the same time, we learned that Mr. Levine had filed suit for trademark infringement against our non-profit organization in the same jurisdiction. Our lawsuit is a public record and you can read it here. We expect both of these suits will be consolidated into one action. We know that you may have questions about this and we have scheduled two Zoom conference calls, on Wednesday at 5:00 pm Pacific, and Thursday 7:00 pm Pacific, so that the community can discuss this at length with Jean Tuller, our Executive Director, and Chris Kavanaugh, our Board Chair (you can find Zoom details at the bottom of this email).

Based on feedback we’ve received from our earlier statements about our part of this legal action, we’ve written this document to address the four most common questions we’ve encountered from the community.

1. What is this lawsuit about? Is it related to the sexual misconduct allegations?

The lawsuit filed by the board has nothing to do with the allegations of sexual misconduct against Mr. Levine. The topic is only briefly mentioned in our pleading to provide context. Long before we became aware of any allegations of sexual misconduct, the board of Refuge Recovery was deeply concerned about several conflicts of interest caused by Mr. Levine having copyrighted the book personally and having registered the name and logo for Refuge Recovery through his for-profit treatment center business. Under federal and state laws, a non-profit business cannot benefit (the legal term is “inure”) any one individual person or business entity, if they in any way control the nonprofit. The consequences for this could be fines and/or potential loss of non-profit status.

In addition, pushback from the community over Mr. Levine having taken on the position of the sole spokesperson and author of the text began almost immediately after the book’s publication in 2014, as this YouTube video from the first Refuge Recovery Annual Conference clearly demonstrates (https://youtu.be/c9VC6nWX7uw?t=2333). The criticism was driven by the concern that associating the Refuge Recovery movement too closely to any one individual exposes it to the risk that future damage to that person’s reputation might harm the community as a whole. A large percentage of the Refuge Recovery community has a 12-step recovery background, and this issue is one of the main justifications for their Tradition 12, which advises to always place principles before personalities. As seen on this video, Mr. Levine’s response to these concerns was to treat his role as a temporary one, even conceding that eventually his name needed to come off the book.

Shortly after the board was formed, we created the Asset Sharing Committee, which was tasked with resolving these issues contractually with Mr. Levine. At first, Mr. Levine was cooperative and he made assurances that these issues could be resolved to everyone’s satisfaction. When the sexual misconduct allegations surfaced, the Executive Committee of our board asked him to step down as a director to protect the non-profit as much as possible under the circumstances, and he reluctantly agreed. The work of the Asset Sharing Committee then took on a sense of urgency.

Mr. Levine then started a new business called Refuge Recovery Retreats, and at the same time he began articulating a new vision for Refuge Recovery. His idea was that he would decide who could and could not offer retreats to our community.  For those that wanted to but weren’t qualified, Mr. Levine would offer them teacher-training. In effect, this would create a Refuge Recovery lineage of teachers. This new vision of Mr. Levine’s created another enormous conflict of interest and directly contradicted a number of earlier statements he’d made to the Refuge Recovery board. In fact, Mr. Levine participated a few weeks prior in a meeting of our Teacher Committee to share his thoughts on how the non-profit should manage retreats and never once said he planned to unilaterally do the work himself for profit. We believe Mr. Levine’s action threatened the very existence of the non-profit. We explained our concern to Mr. Levine in July, and told him that if he didn’t reconsider using the Refuge Recovery name in this manner that we felt we had no choice but to take legal action to protect the non-profit. We gave him every opportunity to change his mind, but talks broke down in October.

The board is very sad that it has come to this. We very much would have preferred to resolve this dispute without litigation.

2. Who gave you the authority to make these decisions for the community? Shouldn’t you have asked our permission first?

Organizationally, Refuge Recovery is set up to be like AA and other 12-step recovery programs. AA is governed by its General Service Board. When Refuge Recovery became completely separate from Against the Stream Buddhist Meditation Society (ATS) in 2017, Mr. Levine asked two people to join him on the board, Jean Tuller and Chris Kavanaugh. At that time, Mr. Levine also hired Jean as the Executive Director. A few months later, the board was greatly expanded through a solicitation and application process much like AA’s, and today there are nine members. We have not added any additional board members since Mr. Levine left our board, so all nine of our current board were selected by Mr. Levine.  Mr. Levine’s lawsuit against the Refuge Recovery non-profit is his attempt to delegitimize a board, consisting of nine people he hand-picked for the job, simply because he disagrees with them.

The board is a very diverse group of professionals, which includes:

  • A major network producer in New York who was an editor for Random House,
  • A treatment center CEO,
  • An IT professional and past president of a Zen community,
  • A manufacturer’s rep for the largest cosmetics company in the world,
  • A theatrical production specialist for Blue Man Group,
  • A tech entrepreneur and MBA with experience in intellectual property law,
  • A retired CFO and Internal Auditor, who practiced law for 25 years,
  • A government planner with a law degree from UC Berkeley,
  • And Jean Tuller, our Executive Director, has a Master Degree in Public Policy, 35 years of management experience in nonprofits as well as state and federal government, and advanced business training from Harvard.

Non-profits are very different from for-profit businesses. Whereas for-profit boards usually serve the company’s shareholders, non-profit boards serve the general public. Being a director of a non-profit is a public trust. There are very strict laws about what directors of a non-profit can and cannot do (legally speaking these are “fiduciary duties”). These laws are usually enforced by either the IRS or the Attorney General’s office of the state where the non-profit operates. When an officer or director of a non-profit breaches their fiduciary duty, it can result in fines and the revocation of the charity’s non-profit status. Our lawsuit against Mr. Levine and his business entities details a lengthy history of Mr. Levine treating the non-profit like a personal business, and several acts that we believe were illegal breaches of one or more of his fiduciary duties.

As fiduciaries ourselves, once we became aware of these transgressions, it became our duty to use whatever resources we have available to remedy them. Initially, we hoped this could be done contractually, with Mr. Levine’s full cooperation. However, once Mr. Levine refused to cooperate, he put us in a position where we had no choice but to pursue judicial intervention. If we had not, this would be a breach of our fiduciary duty to protect the rights and assets of the non-profit. It not only would have been morally and ethically wrong, arguably we might have exposed ourselves to legal liability.

This is why we did not go to the community and ask permission before filing our lawsuit. We believe our duties as directors require us to proceed with this lawsuit.

3. Why not rebrand? Wouldn’t we be better off using these resources to just start over?

The problem with rebranding is that, upon investigation, we believe that under state and federal law, our non-profit organization has always been the rightful owner of the Refuge Recovery brand. Knowing that it is an asset of the non-profit, we are legally and ethically obligated to protect it.

Hundreds of individuals in our community have invested time, resources, and energy into creating value in the Refuge Recovery brand and name. In the relatively short time it has existed, the name and program of Refuge Recovery has become widely recognized, and we have a very real presence in the recovery field. It is our belief that rebranding would undo this progress; in fact, the basis of the lawsuit rests on the principle that the “brand” has value in and of itself, which is being diminished by the for-profit actions being undertaken by companies with the same name.

In addition, the legal issues that we are seeking to resolve don’t disappear with rebranding. They get more complex.

Say we decide we want to change our name to Rebrand Recovery, and we reach out to all the groups and encourage them to follow our lead. The hub of our community today is the web domain refugerecovery.org. Our communications with the community are via emails from that domain and web pages hosted at that domain. Mr. Levine’s lawsuit against us is meant to stop us from using that domain name on the grounds that we are infringing his company’s trademark.

If that went unchallenged, there would be two recovery programs: “Rebrand” Recovery, made up of all the groups that went with the rebrand, and Refuge Recovery, made of up all the groups that didn’t and all the future groups.

Consider the mission statement in our Articles of Incorporation, which reads that the purpose of our non-profit is:

“…to provide support for people suffering from all forms of addiction by facilitating an extensive and comprehensive network of Refuge Recovery groups. Support may include, but is not limited to, meetings, classes, conferences, and social networking.”

Notice it specifically says Refuge Recovery groups. In the rebrand scenario, is our legal and ethical duty limited to the community that goes with the rebrand? Or, does It extend to the future community of Refuge Recovery groups as well? Who are we obligated to serve? For all these reasons, and more, we believe that rebranding should only be considered as a very last resort.

4. Why should I care? I just want to go to a meeting with like-minded people. All this doesn’t affect me one way or the other.

The board of Refuge Recovery serves a vital purpose: quality control. The same is true for AA’s General Service Board. For example, if you go to an AA meeting in Belfast or Beijing, you expect certain things about it to be true. If a group claims they’re having an AA meeting, but the basic elements of an AA meeting aren’t present, someone will complain and the meeting will be delisted. For this to happen, the meeting needs to be listed somewhere and there needs to be a shared understanding of what the basic elements of a meeting actually are. For AA to be where they are now has required decades of outreach and education and very well thought out requirements built into their regional licensing. In addition, AA has a very careful and thorough process to develop, adopt, and distribute literature in support of its mission. In Refuge Recovery, we are just at the beginning of this process, but if our organization is not allowed to continue its work, the possibility is very real that the term Refuge Recovery could become completely meaningless, and if that happens, it might be very hard to find a meeting.

We hope that this discussion has helped to provide a better understanding of our current legal dispute with Mr. Levine. Please join our Zoom conference on Wednesday, or Thursday, or feel free to email Jean Tuller, Executive Director, at [email protected] or Chris Kavanaugh, Chair of the Board, at [email protected] with any questions or comments.

Refuge Recovery is a California Public Benefit corporation organized as tax-exempt under Section 501(c)(3) of the IRS Code.

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Bee Sloan

Bee Sloan

Reading to Change Your Mind

These are my recommendations for books about the Refuge Recovery practice, the intersection of Twelve Steps and Buddhism, and how to meditate. They are not specifically endorsed by Refuge Recovery and are offered in the spirit of generosity to our sangha. Happy reading!

My son and I had a weighty talk tonight about an important annual  tradition. It takes a commitment to honesty and a specialized vocabulary to talk about this subject.

“Do you want to watch the theatrical release or the extended version of The Lord of The Rings? Remember that the theatrical release is only 9 ½ hours and the extended version is almost twelve. And if we watch the extended version, we have to rework all the meal and snack times to fit so we can stop before midnight to put on the bagpipe record and make the root beer floats.”

Don’t laugh. This is serious. Because three years ago, I could not say those sentences without stopping at least two or three times to try to think of a word.

My mind was too foggy to make a schedule for a New Year’s movie marathon. Or remember to put the shopping list in my purse, or to find my wallet. Which could be in the freezer, or under the car seat.

I’d been losing mental acuity for years. My daughter was sure I was getting early dementia. I’m a writer, for heaven’s sake, and yet I would look at an appliance on the counter and wrack my brains and point and say to whoever was listening, “What IS that? I can’t think of what it is. Um, it toasts bread?  Oh! It’s a TOASTER!”

So after I’d been in rehab for awhile, I shared these worries with my doctor. Now that I’m sober, I should be able to think clearly, right? Why am I so sleepy all the time? Have I damaged my brain permanently?

I was looking for answers, and what I got handed was a book. My Stroke of Insight: A Brain Scientist’s Personal Journey, by Jill Bolte Taylor. Dr. Taylor is a neurologist who had the fascinating experience of observing herself have a stroke. She didn’t have a head-on collision with an addiction. She had a head-on collision with a burst blood vessel in her brain. The chapter where she knows, as a scientist, exactly how long she has before she stops recognizing numbers on her phone and can’t call for help, is on par with a Hitchcock movie for heart-pounding suspense.

So what’s this got to do with those of us recovering from addiction?

A lot. Because although you feel better once you get through those first agonizing days of detox, you probably have three to five years left before your brain is fully healed. And it can be helpful to have a road map of what some of that healing entails.

For example, before I read this book, I didn’t know how long it would take my brain to heal, or even that it would. I would have given myself credit for living with the slow pace of healing, and I would have been more willing to wait for it to come in its own time.

I didn’t know that the healing brain needs a lot of sleep. I would have taken more naps.

I didn’t have any sense of the wonder and gratitude that should come from waking up, day after day, with just a bit more smarts than I’d had the day before.

So if you are in your first few days, weeks, or months of sobriety, read this book. It’s a thumping good read. And it’ll help you understand that you are living with a healing brain, and it’s a miracle that it can, and it will, and you can wait for it to happen. And observe it happening, and be grateful that it’s happening.

Happy New Year! And may you be happy and at ease with your new life.

Refuge Recovery Literature Committee

The decision to recover from addiction—to substances, habits, people, whatever—can be terrifying. The feeling is often one of loss, of isolation and deprivation. One of the first and greatest challenges many of us faced was finding a safe and stable place where we could begin to heal: a refuge, in other words.

In the Buddhist tradition, “taking refuge” refers to the decision to commit one’s life to the way of the Buddha. This does not mean worshiping or pledging allegiance to the historical person we call the Buddha (which means “Awakened One”), but choosing to apply his teachings to our own lives in order to relieve suffering and discover our own Buddha nature.

One of the most revolutionary things the Buddha taught was that the mind is the not only the source of great suffering—due to greed, anger, and confusion—but the remedy for that suffering as well. To take refuge in this teaching is a commitment to change our minds. We’re choosing to accept the truth of karma: the understanding that actions which come from wise, compassionate intentions lead to happiness, and those that come from confused or unkind intentions lead to suffering. By following this teaching, we are claiming protection from the harm that karma causes. And so the refuge we are really taking is in our own potential for wisdom and compassion.

The Literature Committee has embarked on developing a Beginner’s Guide intended as a friendly primer to taking refuge, for those new to the path as well as long-term practitioners. We will talk about the three parts of the traditional refuge vow: to the Buddha (the goal of the path), the Dharma (how we get there) and the Sangha (who we travel with). We’ll share how some of us have done it and ways to make this practice your own: not as a one-size-fits-all approach, but as a set of tools and techniques that anyone can use to relieve the suffering addictive behavior has caused in their lives. We trust in the wisdom of this program, not because it is dogma, not because someone told us we had to, but because we have seen it work in our own lives. We hope that these tools will help you on your path of liberation.

Dear Sangha,

As part of our ongoing commitment to keep the Refuge Recovery global sangha informed to the best of our ability, we are providing this update to our November 2, 2018 Bulletin. As we reported then, the Refuge Recovery Board of Directors has been in discussions with Noah Levine for the past year about the use and ownership of the Refuge Recovery name and literature, as well as Noah’s role within the organization going forward.

Our discussions began months before the allegations against Noah surfaced. We believe we need to protect the movement from being tied too closely to Noah, or to any one individual or group. One of our goals has been to clearly delineate the separation between the non-profit organization that serves the Refuge Recovery community and Noah’s businesses. Another goal is to secure our rights to the literature.

The following is a timeline of our recent interactions with Noah regarding our efforts to secure our organization’s rights to the Refuge Recovery brand and literature.

  • The Board first retained legal counsel to represent our organization on October 26, 2018, after receiving a letter in which Noah’s legal counsel suggested the Board and Noah engage in mediation to resolve our dispute.
  • Because the Board felt that mediation could bring about a resolution more quickly than bringing a civil suit in court, on November 1, 2018, our organization’s counsel agreed to mediation in Los Angeles and requested that it  be scheduled within two to three weeks.
  • Two weeks later, Noah’s counsel replied that they would need more time to respond to our requested schedule. We gave them additional time and provided a list of mediators.
  • After no further communication from Noah’s attorney by December 19, 2018, we requested a response by December 27, 2018.
  • On December 27, 2018,  Noah’s counsel indicated that Noah would not be ready to meet for the very mediation that his counsel suggested until the third week in February 2019.

Further delay in resolving the dispute with Noah is not in the best interests of the organization or its members. Additionally, the Board is not confident that Noah shares the Board’s desire to resolve this dispute quickly. As a result, the Board has directed our organization’s counsel to prepare and file the legal complaint necessary to commence a civil suit against Noah in court.

Please understand that we take no pleasure in this dispute with Noah. However, we are obligated as fiduciaries of this nonprofit organization to vigilantly protect its rights and resources. Refuge Recovery exists to benefit the global Refuge Recovery community, not any one individual.

Refuge Recovery is a California 501(c)(3) non-profit, charitable organization. The mission of Refuge Recovery is to support those on this path of recovery by building an extensive and comprehensive network of Refuge Recovery groups, meetings, and communities that practice, educate and provide Buddhist-inspired guidance and meditations for anyone seeking recovery from addiction.

Please direct any questions or comments about this update to Jean Tuller, Executive Director, at [email protected] or Chris Kavanaugh, Board Chair, at [email protected].