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Substance Use Blog Series: Mutual Aid Groups Part III

This is part 3 of our series on Mutual Aid groups. So far we have gone through SMART Recovery, the 12-step program, the 16-step program, and LifeRing groups. Today we are going to go through Recovery Dharma and Moderation Management.

Recovery Dharma

Recovery Dharma is a peer-led organization that supports individuals on their path of recovery using Buddhist practices and principles. The program is based on the idea that everyone can guide their own way through recovery with the help of sangha (community). Traditional Buddhist teachings are often referred to as Dharma, and Dharma Recovery cites many possible roads to recovery within the Dharma.

While the principles can differ depending on particular communities, Recovery Dharma provides a base approach of a balanced path of understanding, ethical behaviour, mindfulness, and the belief that all beings have potential to find happiness and to free themselves from the suffering of repetitive craving.

It is centered on the idea that meditation, the Four Noble Truths, and the support of sangha can foster a journey toward an end to the suffering of addiction. The Four Noble truths are listed here (The Buddhist Centre).

Put very simply, the four noble truths acknowledge that existence is dukkha (suffering) and the cause of this dukkha is craving and grasping at things fundamentally at odds with the way life is. Therefore, the cessation of dukkha comes with the cessation of craving.

In the context of addiction, recovery involves accepting inevitable suffering and ridding ourselves of the urge to distract from it with the use of substances, which eventually leads to the cessation of craving. Like all religions/spiritualities, Buddhism has many facets and much more complexity than this statement, but the cessation of craving is one of the foundations to recovery from a Buddhist perspective and within the Recovery Dharma community. The organization does not require you to be Buddhist to participate, and believes Buddhism’s teachings can be applied to everybody (Recovery Dharma).

Recovery Dharma Meetings

A typical RD meeting starts with some explanatory readings, then a guided meditation. After this, there is usually a shared reading to foster discussion, or a speaker may talk about a topic of their choice. There is also a chance for group members to share, and meetings can be flexible based on what the group members want. The meetings are volunteer run and the RD website provides guidance for how to become a volunteer. At the moment most meetings are online. Meeting login info can be accessed here by searching for Canada meetings.

The Recovery Dharma youtube page has many guided meditations that can be utilized at any time. Here is one with the theme of sitting with difficult emotions: 

Moderation Management 

Moderation management is a program that has gradually become increasingly popular. Other programs we have looked approach substance use broadly, but this one is alcohol-specific. All the approaches we have explored so far welcome members aiming for abstinence or moderation, but most cite the ultimate goal of recovery as abstinence within their framework.

Despite its name, Moderation Management does not prioritize moderation over abstinence, but sees the two approaches as equals. MM is often sought out by people who are trying to find their ideal approach, and are unsure whether to pursue abstinence or moderation. 

The program typically starts with 30 sober days then slowly reintroduces alcohol. After this, the member comes up with a plan to limit intake that does not go beyond typical guidelines given by health authorities (The Guardian). MM follows a step-by-step approach that can be found here. The steps involve tracking your own drinking and related behaviours and fleshing out your reasons for wanting to cut back. The 30 day abstinence period is an opportunity to experience the “positives of non-drinking” before reintroducing moderation, if the member chooses that path.

Because this program uses 30 days of abstinence in its steps, it is important to mention that suddenly stopping drinking is possible for some individuals, but if you are severely physically dependent on the substance this can be extremely dangerous. Health Line goes through some of the risks and signs of this level of dependence.

If you are physically dependent on alcohol, medically supervised detox is the safest way to detox.

This post describes this further and lists available resources. If you are unsure where you stand in this regard, it is imperative to speak with a doctor before starting an abstinence period. 

Moderation Management Meetings

MM meetings are accessible by phone and video currently. Video meetings can be accessed here. Like the other groups we have gone through, MM meetings are led by group members and they are a space so share stories and coping skills with one another.

The following video provides a summary of this program:

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