What is The Heart of Recovery?

A Question Heartand Answer session with George Gomez. George is actively involved with Heart of Recovery that meets weekly at SMCLA, and at many Shambhala Centers across our mandala. (It is similar in format to an earlier iteration with a name still used at some Centers, Sarpashyana.) Heart of Recovery meets every Wednesday night at 7:30 pm at the Eagle Rock location. Click here for more details.  

The Heart of Recovery is a meditation and sharing support group for those affected by alcoholism or addiction.  It is able to do this by bringing together the practice of meditation, the Shambhala and Buddhist teachings, and the Twelve Steps of Recovery with the goal of integrating the basic sanity of the Dharma, and the basic goodness of meditation, with a commitment to abstinence and recovery. The group welcomes everyone who can identify with these common interests.

Are there requirements to the meetings?

There are no requirements to attend.  The group welcomes all Buddhist and meditation practitioners from other traditions, Twelve-step practitioners from different programs, or anyone who feels affected by alcohol or addiction and is looking for support. The group is a very mixed bunch. People come from various backgrounds. The group attracts many from 12-step programs such as Alcoholic Anonymous, Narcotics, Overeaters, Marijuana, Sex and Love, and Al-Anon, as well as people with no 12-step affiliation. The common factor is that addiction has touched them in one way or another, and they are now looking for some way to make sense of it through the practice of meditation in relation to recovery.

Why use the name the Heart of Recovery?

I think it’s safe to say that anyone affected by addiction or alcoholism hits a wall.  Life seems so unmanageable due to behaviors generated by addiction or alcohol that only through a psychic change can the process of learning to live life in a different way happen.  This change creates an opportunity to start repairing the physical, psychological and spiritual damage caused by addiction or alcoholism.  This is what people who’ve experienced such a psychic change and improved their lives call “recovery”.  In the Heart of Recovery group, we make a connection with a process that can make a psychic change and road of recovery possible.  In 12-steps, they call it a “higher power”, and in Buddhism we call it Bodhichitta, or Awakened Heart.  So the heart of recovery is no different from Awakened Heart.

How is it that you can have a group that invites all different types of addictions to participate?

When one starts on a path of recovery and is able to get pass the physical withdrawals that come from practicing abstinence, one begins to discover that recovering from addictive behaviors goes beyond one’s ability to practice self-control.  As self-awareness grows, we begin to recognize how such behaviors manifest in other areas, and are similar to what others struggling with seemingly different kind of addictions or behaviors go through.  An open group like ours allows participants to identify with the bigger picture, creating a holistic approach, and providing an opportunity for tremendous insight into both the problem and the solution.

Is this group for someone who is having a hard time understanding if they themselves or someone they love are an alcoholic or addict?

Yes, this group is a good place to explore that issue and try to understand how addiction affects your life. In case of a friend or a love one, making them aware of this group can be a way to start a conversation that is not based on blame. We do recommend to anyone new to recovery to seek out the extra support of a 12-step group or other recovery programs.  Detoxing from any addiction usually requires both medical and psychological assistance that should not be bypassed.

Addiction and alcoholism are such taboo subjects in our society.  Is the Heart of Recovery a place where those taboos can be discussed and better understood?

Absolutely.  The causes of addiction and alcoholism are still a big mystery for most people, including the scientific community.  It seems like every year a new study suggests a new approach to solving the problem, but with no certainty, and we as a society have yet to come up with a pill that solves it any better.   There’s been a social shift lately to see addiction as a health problem (vs. a problem of will power,) which I think is great, but we’re still far from addressing spiritual questions that arise as well.

On the other hand, the Buddha explains through the Four Noble Truths that the cause of our suffering is attachment.  Addiction/alcoholism is attachment gone to the extreme.  Both 12-step programs and Buddhism point toward answers that involve spiritual awakening such as self-awareness, discovering egolessness, practicing discipline, connecting with Buddha Nature and being of benefit to others.  This formula seems to be working for a lot of folks, and therefore it’s worth exploring whenever we are talking about dealing with addiction, alcoholism and a path of recovery.


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