June 28, 2009

Book review: The 12-Step Buddhist: Enhance Recovery from Any Addiction (Darren Littlejohn)

When I first came across this book, I couldn’t help but wonder how Buddhism and the 12-Step program with its definite Judeo-Christian foundation would connect, particularly in regards to the Higher Power talked about so much in the 12-Step program.

However, the use of the word “enhance” in the title gives a clue, and the idea of a “Higher Power” takes little more than a shift in perspective on how one defines the term. Littlejohn, himself a recovering addict and practicing Buddhist, advocates for an approach that incorporates therapy, Buddhism, and a 12-Step program as a means to truly conquer addiction.  Experienced with both sides of addiction (as an addict and working with addicts), the author believes that unless an addict is able to deal with and address his/her addiction on a physical, psychological, emotional, and spiritual level, then no matter how good the recovery program, it serves only as a band-aid to a serious habitual pattern.

In a frank and open manner, Littlejohn discusses not only his own addiction and its issues, but also the strengths and limitations of using any single approach in isolation. He then moves on to demonstrate how, through the use of a 12-Step program, therapy, and application of Buddhist principles and thought into his life, he has been able to bring his addiction under control.

However, this is not merely a “I did it this way and so can you” type book. The author is careful to point out that this way worked for him, and that recovery from addiction is a personal and personalized process; instead he offers his path as a suggested alternative for others, rather than a guaranteed one-size-fits-all method.

For anyone not comfortable with the heavy emphasis on Christian thought in recovery programs, this book provides a readable approach to the issues surrounding addiction. Littlejohn never says that one should do without a 12-Step program, but rather provides the reader with a framework to incorporate 12-Step thought into Buddhist philosophy, with a chapter dedicated to a separate step in the 12-Step process, including a look at the principle behind each step and providing a meditation practice to help absorb and incorporate the principle behind the step into the thinking and living process of the person practicing it.

Regardless of the addiction, Littlejohn’s approach offers real possibility and hope for any and all seeking to escape their habit.

From Beyond Words and available from your local, independent bookstore.  (Shop local, shop independent, and tell ’em you saw it on Elephant Journal… it makes a difference!)

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