Recently I read an excellent article which links AA and Buddhism in a very compelling way. The piece is written by Bill K. He gained sobriety and has remained sober for 32 years because of AA. A decade later he embraced Zen Buddhism (he is especially informed by Zen Koan study) and has found the two traditions to be mutually supportive. Here are some insights from Bill K:
- Millions have gained their sobriety over that past 84 years because of AA so the model and program deserves respect;
- Case 87 in the collection of Zen koans known as the Blue Cliff Record teaches that “the whole world is medicine.” AA is a "medicine" which has been available for more than 8 decades.
- Sometimes Buddhism isn't enough to combat addiction. Bill K rightly notes that it "has been widely reported that two influential Buddhist teachers in North America, Taizan Maezumi Roshi (Zen) and Chogyam Trungpa (Vajrayana), both died as a result of alcoholism. Oh, if only it could be so easy—become a Buddhist and get sober. But it doesn’t work that way. Alcoholism is a cunning and baffling disease."
- If one's Buddhism isn't helping with the addiction, why not introduce a different "medicine"? There are many paths to recovery not just one. This is recognized in Alcoholics Anonymous (fondly called the Big Book) states: “Upon therapy for the alcoholic himself, we surely have no monopoly.”
- Refuge Recovery has positioned itself as the Buddhist alternative but has done so with an expensive advertising campaign purchasing full page ads in prominent Buddhist magazines. Bill K notes: "AA is at a disadvantage here—because of its Twelve Traditions, it can’t take out advertising." AA philosophy is growth by attraction, not promotion. There is something humble and compelling about this approach.
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