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.
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.
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!
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We started Nebraska Refuge Recovery in Lincoln in March 2018 and the Omaha meeting in July 2018 and currently have 2 meetings per week, Monday and Wednesday.
Fellowship is fostered outside of the meetings by being in constant communication with one another. We regularly attend social events such as concerts and movies together, we eat together and have game nights, too. When it comes to mentorship, encouraging each person in our sangha to mentor each other comes with the understanding that
in recovery helping one another is priority. We are always learning and we are all walking each other home.
The Lincoln meeting takes place in a privately owned home that caters to recovery, spiritualism, yoga, and massage and our Omaha meeting takes place at Omaha Power Yoga. This has been beneficial to cultivate a healthy base to hopefully add more meetings in Omaha and enlarge the intersangha. We have also teamed up with Illuminating Hearts and Liz Carey, MS EdS to add some helpful tools to our recovery toolkit. Illuminating Hearts is a group providing gong meditations and sound therapy. Liz has worked with us teaching Energy Field Tapping (EFT) to help relieve symptoms of craving, ptsd, anxiety and depression. Both of these experiences are offered after meetings for those who may be interested. It’s amazing, amazing stuff.
Our sangha is new, growing fast, and extremely excited to have RR in our lives and to share it with others. Come check us out!
Denver Metro area Refuge Recovery turned one year old on June 2nd! We started with one meeting in Westminster. The story is told here anonymously by the person who started it:
“A Colorado dad who nearly lost his child to a heroin overdose three years earlier, thought he had lost his child forever when the psychosis began. After discovering the psychosis was amphetamine induced, the parents successfully got the kid to enter a 90 day 12 step residential program.
A decade earlier, the parents ended their 20 year relationship with 12 step programs. The father had become a practicing Buddhist after the overdose and found the Refuge Recovery book while his kid was in treatment. After reading the book the dad searched for meetings, but surprisingly couldn’t find one in Colorado. He wanted to start a meeting in Denver and decided to visit Los Angeles to learn more.
The support he received in Los Angeles was amazing! The people at Refuge Recovery had a deep understanding of addiction and recovery and were very understanding of his issues with 12 step programs. Several people encouraged him to start a meeting and offered to help Colorado in any way they could.
Two weeks after he returned, on June 2, 2017, we had a Refuge Recovery meeting in Colorado.“
Shortly after the first meeting started, the Phoenix Gym started hosting a Sunday night meeting. This meeting has a consistent attendance of 30 to 40 folks and has introduced many people from the nearby treatment centers to Refuge. From there we spread to Golden, two meetings at a treatment center in Wheat Ridge Colorado, and another one in a treatment center in downtown Denver.
Our mentorship right now is peer to peer. We are mostly doing this thing together for the first time, and some of us have found more experienced mentors through the online meetings. We have an awesome fellowship chair that organizes monthly get-togethers. These include hikes, dinners, coffee shops, and tacos. The coolest thing about RR Denver is our presence in treatment centers. We currently have two at West Pines, one at Denver Health. Because of the location of The Phoenix gym, we have several treatment centers that attend that meeting as one of their required outside meetings. This means that Refuge Recovery is being introduced to people at the beginning of their recovery journey which is outstanding.
We have started an annual anniversary picnic tradition and would also like to have an annual meditation retreat with a new retreat center in Boulder. This is a long range plan. We have an amazing community that is growing fast and we love visitors.
The Refuge Recovery Literature Committee is requesting submissions. We are looking for personal stories from the community to help inspire, encourage, support, and guide newcomers in completing their own inventories. Tell us how you did it, who you did it with, what worked for you (and didn’t), and any other reflections you may have. In particular, if you adapted or edited the inventory questions or created your own, we would love to see those if you are willing to share.
Deadline: November 9, 2018 Submission format: Email [email protected], and if you wish to include any attachments, we ask that you please save them in .doc or .txt format.
Please let us know if you would like your submission to be anonymous, or how you would want to be identified if it is okay to use your name.
To be clear in the event of questions or concerns, this is an opportunity to grow our literature, not to replace the book Refuge Recovery. The Committee is starting with the topic of inventories and they are looking forward to receiving your submissions. The Regional Representatives and the Board of Directors will get first look after the Committee vets and edits the submissions, to ensure that we have a collaborative process to develop material that will benefit our entire sangha.
Our first meeting was held in June 2015. We have 8 meetings per week, as well as a monthly outdoor meeting, and one meeting we take into detox. We meet in 5 locations around Asheville, including the VA. We have mentors who have worked as is laid on in the book, but more people have worked through the inventories alongside others than formally through a mentor. Fostering fellowship has been a huge area of growth for us this year. Our intersangha engages in weekly activities which include hiking, yoga, service work, tea/coffee house gatherings, service work, and other social events. We have a wide variety of meetings, including topic discussion, book study, fold-focused, and speaker meetings. There is ample opportunity for newcomers to become involved in service positions, social activities, and community outreach. We now offer free yoga specifically for the Refuge Recovery community. We have also recently hosted Noah Levine and Dave Smith for presentations in Asheville, held several half-day retreats, and will have our first daylong in May with Andrew Chapman. We are hoping to offer workshops with Deborah Eden Tull, who now calls Asheville home.
Presenting Dave Smith, November 2017
Our H&I Committee is relatively new, with plans to take meetings into treatment programs, therapeutic boarding schools, and the jails. All of these entities have been asking for us to bring in meetings for years. There is interest in starting RR affinity meetings for young people and the LGBTQA+ community.
The focus in these first years has been to create a safe space. Whether or not RR is your primary path, no matter your opinion about 12-Step recovery, how much/little you know about meditation, we want you to feel safe and at home to express yourself in a community of support. A member adds, “Walking into a meeting where people share their struggles and their solutions allows others to do the same. That the sangha is the one place we don’t have to know it all and that that allows others to not know it all either. And when challenged about something, we understand people are hurting and seek to understand our part and their perspective before we seek to make them wrong.”
After a couple of us attended numerous RR meetings in the early days in Santa Cruz and LA, we started our first group in the basement of the Blue Lotus Temple in Woodstock in 2013! 3 of us the first night! 20 the second night. 30 the third night!! 6 months later the Chicago Tribune did an article about recovery models in Chicagoland and they put a giant picture of us on the front page! We got flooded with calls from treatment programs and friends and things took off quickly!
How many meetings per week do you have, currently?
We have a meeting EVERY SINGLE DAY OF THE WEEK! WOOT! And we now have a couple meetings a day on a few of those days!
What does mentorship look like in Chicago?
Mentorship is slow to come in a formal way. A few of us are mentoring, and a few have mentors outside the local area, but many of us actively engaged in noble friendship, which feels similar in how I see it working. We regularly fellowship together, lots of text / phone / in person support, book clubs, inventory work, etc etc.
How do you foster fellowship outside of the meeting?
We have fellowship at a local cafe after our Friday night meeting, we have temple activities at our Wednesday night Blue Lotus meeting and there we even formed a service committee to volunteer together in the community. We’ve brought a few teachers / monastics in to do workshops. We help each other move, find jobs, drink an enormous amount of coffee and lots of walks on the lake.
What’s special about Refuge Chicago?
We just did our first full day retreat that was AMAZING! Because of the temple we have access to some great dharma teachers who roll through town and we can grab them for ourselves here and there. We started a “therapists and helpers” meeting, providing a more confidential setting for those of us who work in the addictions field in some way and need the anonymity of a closed meeting where clients won’t be present. A second one is starting up this month! This has fostered lots of referrals to the other meetings as the health care professionals have direct experience and feel great referring their clients! We started a dharma book club this year, and are planning for a day retreat once a quarter! We recently started “the Chicago fund” where we can actively fundraise to help new meetings get started, send people to conference, help pay for rent at new meetings, etc etc. This allows for assistance that’s needed and gets ego out of the way by individuals being the donor… it’s all anonymous. Each group sends 10% of their collection to the Chicago fund and so we have this ability to make stuff happen.
Any big plans?
We are in the early stages of planning a Regional Retreat so we can get to know our entire region better! Also, we plan to have our first LGBT meeting starting up in the next couple months so we can provide refuge for those of us who want the safety of a closed environment! We’re eagerly working on how to get to the Chicago’s Southside—- it’s a economically depressed and very diverse part of Chicago that really struggles with addiction and needs Refuge. We’ve been hesitant to open more meetings until we get to the south side. In addition, we’re very focused on getting women in all our leadership positions and trying to be as conscious as we can about diversity, inclusion and equality.
What’s something Chicago sangha would like the rest of the RR community to know about their sangha?
We love you all and the entire RR community is saving lives every single day! What we know for sure: If you let dharma run the place, success will come.
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It hasn’t been that long since the birth of Refuge Recovery took place so, of course, there has been a shortage of people “qualified” to be Mentors. As our membership grows, so does our number of Mentors. To bridge the gap in the ratio of Mentors to newcomers, we in Portland, encourage people to Mentor each other.
The “qualifications” to be a Mentor can be up to the people in the relationship.
Do you need a Mentor who has 10 years of sobriety and lives as a Buddhist Monk or do you feel comfortable starting the work with someone a few months ahead of you in the process? These are a questions we ask to cultivate a positive feeling tone around mentorship in our Sangha, and to start the hard work of recovery.
The following are some practices of how to support mentoring relationships in your sangha.
Sangha members of similar time in Refuge who hold each other accountable and do inventory work together.
Setting times before/after meetings to work together on Inventories, to hold space for each other to do the work, and to share with each other. These also pop up at Sangha member’s houses from time to time.
Text threads between Sangha members to encourage daily meditation, gratitude, ride sharing to meetings, and check ins.
The “Team Captain” in the Women’s group reaches out to newcomers and people on phone list who have been out of touch/not showing up to meetings. They check in on people to let them know they are welcome.
In Portland we try to have lots of different opportunities for people to get to know each other outside of meetings. Connecting during a roller skating party, a potluck, or a day at the park really helps us lighten up and enjoy each other’s company, as well as make deeper connections to find people to do the work with.
I am currently planning a workshop for people who want to know the details of what mentoring looks like, and who need a little encouragement to start the process.
Mentoring people in Refuge is a wonderful experience and has enriched my life in a way I cannot describe. It is a truly beautiful thing to have someone trust you with their story, and to watch them become the person they want to be. I hope every member of Refuge may get to have the life changing experience of being a Mentor. Michael Preston and I both held Mentor Coordinator positions for the Portland InterSangha. He taught me about service, community, and truly helping others. Michael will be missed dearly, but his spirit will always inspire us to live with compassion, in each breath.
As I type this I’m still pretty blissed out from the DharmaPunx retreat this past weekend with teachers: Josh Korda, Kathy Cherry and Melissa McKay up at Won Dharma Center. Wow. That was sublime. Even though it’s been ages since I’ve taken hallucinogens, I coulda sworn I was tripping as soon as I got there because the place was one step beyond amazing and I was already giddy about spending the weekend with the teachers who have turned my life upside down in the best possible way. Two ‘new-ish’ Refuge Recovery regulars, Jay and Nik, road up with me to the DPX too. Oh and Leah (who I had never met but had been texting about RR mentorship a few days earlier) just happened to be my roommate. WTF. Holy kismet.
I’m so glad I went but it was a tough call because Refuge Recovery NYC was having our fall daylong retreat at Jewel Heart Center on the same Saturday– Talk about an embarrassment of riches! The theme of the retreat was the Five Remembrances (fitting with Halloween just a few weeks away, no?). By all accounts, it was a fan-fucking-tastic retreat with many new faces. After the daylong ended, people couldn’t get enough Refuge so a big contingent went to the Saturday Manhattan meeting together.
The Saturday night meeting was the first for NYC, which Chance started about three years and ago. Within the last year, four more have sprung up in Manhattan and Brooklyn and we’re hoping for more in New York State in general. James and I did a workshop about Refuge Recovery at the New York State Recovery Conference in Albany earlier in the month. The people were excited and we felt like rock stars. Who knew a conference in Albany could be so much fun?!
The NYCRR crew is great at having fun. Together we have holiday potlucks, summer picnics, movie outings, museum excursions, foot massages after protesting, and the trip to LA with Chance, Dan, James, Bernard, and Noam for Refcon3 was super special. We’re also there to support each with everyday life shit by making each other grapefruit kombucha, moving cars for street cleaning, bringing over Advil after dental work (so much fucking oral surgery in sobriety), schlepping progeny from Brooklyn to Manhattan when in a jam, and generally just covering for each other. Like the city where we live, we are a diverse lot. A mixed bag of people recovering from codependency, internet addiction, eating disorders, over-exercising as well as the run-of-the-mill alcoholic and/or drug addict, we do our best to be inclusive of all humans (and yes, we ask people to state their gender pronouns after they say their name at the beginning of each meeting).
We’re just getting started here, but growing quickly (even if we’re a little slower on getting all the peoples organized for intersangha stuffs). If you want to connect with us, you can find us at: RefugeRecoveryNYC.org facebook.com/groups/RRNYC We’d love to see you!
Refuge Recovery East Bay started around 2014 with one meeting at 924 Gilman St: a punk rock venue and collective in Berkeley, CA when a group of folks got a pre-print copy of the book, meeting formats and meditations. It really was a case of concurrent evolution that happened about a year later. The Tuesday group popped up, the Loka Yoga meeting started, and the Thursday group at CDRP. We eventually all met each other, and that’s when we all became the Brady Bunch…
We now have 10 meetings in Oakland and Berkeley including 2 on Saturday and 3 on Sunday. There are more than 44 in the Bay Area. We established a men’s meeting and a women’s group on Saturdays, an LGBTQAA group on Friday evenings and a kid-friendly and dog friendly meeting on Sunday afternoons. We started an Intersangha group for the Oakland meetings (and Gilman, hence East Bay) to help stabilize the infrastructure: particularly around running meetings in hospitals and institutions, and ordering books, pamphlets and literature, and creating new relationships with local institutions for additional spaces.
We have grown quickly and continue to do so. What has really worked for us so far is that we are a close sangha: we hang out together. We meet up for coffee before meetings, we go get sushi after meetings, we replace meetings with potlucks when we lose spaces, we roll to ATS together. We are working on using our Intersangha to regularly order literature and pamphlets, and creating mentors within our community to support our growth. It’s really helpful that we have a meeting every single day, but even when we didn’t we rolled to ATS and AA meditation meetings together. We announce where we are going to be at every meeting. And we are hella easy to spot in a crowd.
If you want to know when and where and how hard we’re going to sit, please check out:
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Refuge Recovery is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. It is our mission to build an extensive and comprehensive network of Refuge Recovery groups, meetings, and communities that practice, educate, and provide Buddhist teachings and meditations for anyone seeking recovery from addiction.