The 12-Step Buddhist: Enhance Recovery from Any Addiction

The 12-Step Buddhist: Enhance Recovery from Any Addiction
Published: 2019
ISBN: 1582702233
Format: Paperback

Chapter headings:

  • Foreword
  • Acknowledgements
  • Introduction
  • 1. Darren’s Story
  • 2. From Zen to Tibetan and Back
  • 3. The Grim Face of Addiction
  • 4. 12-Step Programs: What Works and What Doesn’t
  • 5. Buddhist Paths
  • 6. Introducing the Steps
    • Step 1: Principle: Acceptance
    • Step 2: Principle: Confidence
    • Step 3: Principle: Surrender
    • Step 4: Principle: Self-Examination
    • Step 5: Principle: Self-Honesty
    • Step 6: Principle: Willingness
    • Step 7: Principle: Humility
    • Step 8: Principle: Forgiveness
    • Step 9: Principle: Restitution
    • Step 10: Principle: Admission
    • Step 11: Principle: Seeking
    • Step 12: Principle: Unconditional Love
  • Epilogue
  • Notes
  • Glossary
  • Recommended Ressources
  • Index

Reviews posted:

Melise –

Darren Littlejohn states his intention in writing ‘The 12-Step Buddhist’ is to be of benefit to addicts and promises the reader “a change in conscienceness” by practicing the meditation techniques described in his book, in this claim he delivers.
However as a newcomer to Buddhism with a few years recovery, I found the first half of his book too esoteric and confusing at times with his discussion of the steps, Buddhism, relapse, therapy, dual diagnosis and medication in recovery.
In the familiar territory of the 12 Steps I began to enjoy this book and became more open to his techniques. By practicing his meditation suggestions regarding the princlples contained in each step I experienced a new dimension in my daily mindfulness practice.
As we say “I took what I liked and left the rest”. I thank Darren for his book.

Rev. Alex Holt –

This book by Zen and Tibetan Buddhist practioner Darren Littlejohn is a very worthy first offering to the expanding list of books within the Buddhist community dealing with addiction and recovery. Like many first efforts, it has both strengths and challenges.
The strengths include an honest and straightforward willingness on the part of the author to lay out his issues with addiction and recovery. Darren also makes an effort to lay out a balanced perspective on the 12 step model as he understands it. This reviewer is a recovering alcoholic and is a long time member of the 12 Step community. I was most appreciative of his efforts to balance the failings and limits of the traditional 12 Step model along with the benefits and clear strengths. He also has made important efforts to bridge the different dharma traditions as they would apply to the question of addiction and recovery.
The challenges are more complex to distill in a short review. One obvious difficulty was sheer amount of information that is presented as fact and exercise. This book is really two or more books incompletely sutured together. One solution would be to have the book separated into two distinct portions: one being commentary, and the other being the many exercises and meditations that are presented as useful means to build one’s bridge between the 12 Steps and Buddhist teachings. One example – separate out the text and commentary from the meditations and exercises so that the casual reader will have additional instruction about the “how-to’s” of certain exercises like the “Aspects of Self” models. Such exercises can be fraught with difficulty if not handled with care and adequate preparation.
A second challenge is the writing style in this book. This reviewer finds it confusing to have seemingly equal measures of ‘the 12 step model is inerrant’ and ‘the 12 step model is flawed’ equally held up as truth. The author makes no secret of his attachment and appreciation to the 12 Step model and the reader can be thankful for his position. However, he occasionally can become so attached to the 12 Steps as successful strategy that other options such as SMART, SOS and others seem to be cast aside. Terms such as “knucklehead” are less than useful ways to describe either the author himself or those who strongly disagree with the nature of 12 Step programs. This reviewer is a long term Buddhist student and remains astonished that such wording would be of positive use.
A third challenge is more subtle in flavor. Darren has clearly thought deeply through the harshness of direct experience about this painful part of human existence. One wonders, though, whether he is fully objective about what he has gleamed from his teachers and the literature. An increasing number of important books are now in print about the dharma of addiction and recovery. Mr. Littlejohn mentions such books only in brief passing. Mel Ash, Kevin Griffin, Noah Levine and others have all contributed much to the evolving conversation about addiction and dharma. That lack of citation suggests an opportunity for fruitful discourse between the author and others in this field.
Perhaps one of the many blessings of Darren’s book is that it might evoke some deeper conversation about how the Buddha’s teachings can be translated into the 21st century world. Such an approach might well use the best of the 12 Steps model as well as other equally valid programs of recovery. One hopes that this book and its enthusiastic delivery will be the first stage of future conversations that arise out of dialogue. Neither this book nor the 12 Step model are the final truth – they are guideposts along the way.

Scott –

The past century has seen a great many individuals undertake the daunting task of translating Buddhism to the West. The early philologists (Evans-Wentz, etc.) were hampered by the problems of translating religious texts they seemed to view as somehow equivalent to the Old and New Testament, believing that a somewhat faithful word for word translation would suffice. The result was decades of misunderstanding about Buddhism and what it, as a spiritual path, has to offer.
But the confluence of the arrival of a great flood of Asian Buddhist masters in the latter half of the 20th century, along with the serious undertaking of the Buddhist path by a great many Westerners, led to a considerable evolution in the presentation of Buddhism to a Western audience. No longer can Buddhism be conveyed as merely a set of doctrines and beliefs. Instead, it is accepted that Buddhism can not be understood outside of the lived, sensory experience of it and the incorporation of meditation into living experience.
Darren Littlejohn, standing on the shoulders of many giants both in the field of Buddhism and addiction recovery, has offered us The 12 Step Buddhist, a raw and visceral account of his attempts to integrate Buddhism into his own recovery. The 12 Step Buddhist stands as a street level, no-nonsense guide to bringing the wisdom of Buddhism into the everyday life of the recovering addict. Littlejohn eschews intellectualization and abstraction in favor of practicality, grit, and hard-won realization about what works and what doesn’t work in attempting to find real relief from what ails us. His excitement about the ways that Buddhism can turbo charge one’s recovery program is palpable.
Reading The 12 Step Buddhist is somewhat like having a portable, text bound sponsor. You can almost hear Littlejohn’s voice through his writing – scratchy, tired but energized, full of heart and sincere as hell. He pokes and prods, shows you his heart wounds, sings songs of hope and possibility, exposes your self-deception, and loves you even as you drown in your darkest shadows, in a way that only someone who has been there can. You get a real sense that Littlejohn is no stranger to suffering – to being decimated by life – and that he wants badly to do what he can to pull you out, and keep you out, of the hell realm of your addiction. But Littlejohn isn’t satisfied with just helping you abstain from your addiction of choice. His is an attempt to help those with addictions use the suffering and passion inherent in their sickness to propel them toward conquering the ultimate addiction – the ego.
The book is both a spiritual biography, complete with many layers and levels of despair and redemption, as well as a heart-centered attempt to share with others the power and possibility of Buddhism as an enhancement to recovery. Littlejohn, introduced to Zen in the ’80s and then to Tibetan Buddhism in the last decade, has become a voracious reader and seeker of teachings and spiritual practices and the teachers who give them.
Like a wizened 12 step veteran, Littlejohn is blunt and incisive. There is little that could be called “lyrical” about his writing. But Littlejohn’s sincerity and passion provide the reader with a sense of urgency and enough encouragement to give Littlejohn’s suggestions a try.
The second part of the book is a chapter by chapter review of each of the 12 steps, the Buddhist correlate to that step, and a set of practice guidelines that help you maximize your understanding and benefit of that step. Littlejohn would probably be wise to introduce a separate workbook that sets up the practices more distinctly, further develops them, and emphasizes the importance of actually doing them, instead of just reading over them as many will be tempted to do. He often encourages the reader to do shamatha at the beginning of each practice session, which may be difficult for those unfamiliar with meditation and without instruction outside of Littlejohn’s introduction. For those who don’t have the intellectual and spiritual ravenousness necessary to follow Littlejohn’s suggestions about further practice and finding teachers, fully investing in the book may prove daunting. The writing sometimes gets lost in its own attempts at inclusiveness and reach, but just like a veteran 12-stepper, haggard and harried by a long life of hard won wisdom, this book delivers surprising nugget after nugget of spiritual wisdom, and real direction for finding a deeper and direct way to true freedom from all our addictions.