How long has Refuge Chicago been around?
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.
Portland Intersangha Mentorship Coordinator, Women’s Meeting Mentorship Coordinator, Inventory Group Leader
Mentoring In Portland, Oregon
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.