How Might Zen Buddhism Support and Sustain Addiction Recovery?
Welcome to the Zen and Recovery blog on Patheos. My name is Dr. Chris Kaishin Hoff, and I will be your liminal space tour guide on this journey of discovery that I hope you will join.
A little about my Zen and Recovery journey. Saving all the dirty details, I entered recovery after years of alcohol and drug misuse at the age of 26. I discovered meditation shortly thereafter. A friend in recovery had discovered that I was having trouble sleeping, not uncommon in early recovery. At the time, I had a bad case of “monkey mind.” I could not fall asleep without the radio on. I needed something to drown out the noise in my head. So, one night after a meeting this friend pulled me aside and said, “I think this will help you.” He handed me a cassette tape (yes, it was a while ago) and on one side of the tape was a meditation instruction, and on the other, a guided meditation. I started to listen to the guided meditation religiously. It was just a matter of time before I no longer need the radio on to fall asleep. I was hooked.
I continued the meditation practice daily but found myself wondering if I was “doing it right.” This led to me going on a journey of visiting various meditation teachers and religious practices. I started with a Vedanta group, then a Tibetan Buddhism group, then a Theravada group. This journey eventually led to me visiting a Zen group. It was in Zen where I found my “home.” I have been practicing Zen ever since.
I am currently a Dharma teacher in the Empty Moon Zen Sangha, and my teacher is Rev. James Myoun Ford, Roshi. Empty Moon Zen is a network of Zen practitioners across the United States and online. Our community welcomes all regardless of age, race, sexual orientation, gender expression, or previous experience. We are committed to supporting all those seeking to cultivate authentic and rigorous spiritual practice in the Zen tradition. As a Dharma Teacher I currently facilitate Empty Moon’s Zen and Recovery Sangha that meets on Monday nights over Zoom at 7pm PST. We would love to have you join us.
Professionally, I am a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, and the Executive/Clinical Director for California Family Institute which is in Costa Mesa, California. CFI is a nonprofit community counseling center providing low-cost individual, couple, and family therapy services to the local community, and beyond. Because of my profession as a therapist, it is inevitable that this blog will also tackle contemporary therapy topics from a Buddhist perspective.
As of today, I have been clean and sober for over 29 years. I am still an active participant in 12 step recovery so my writing here will undoubtedly reference this abstinence approach to recovery regularly. I intend to present other approaches as well, harm reduction being one I am quite interested in exploring. Regardless of how one enters recovery, I will examine how Zen Buddhism is more than just an adjunct to any recovery program, but the whole of recovery. I plan to share more about this idea here.
Earlier I asked the question, how might Zen Buddhism support and sustain addiction recovery? To begin, it might be helpful to share how I define recovery. The term “recovery” is increasingly used in connection with healing from mental illness, but it is perhaps most associated with overcoming addiction to alcohol and other drugs, as in my case. In this column, I hope to relate recovery to not just overcoming addiction to substances, gambling, food, etc., but to overcoming anything that may be pulling you away from your life as it is in this present moment. So even if you have never struggled with substances, I hope you will find something here to help you on your spiritual path.
So please join me as I share how Zen Buddhism has enhanced my own recovery. How it has supported and sustained me in the journey of recovery. And why a spiritual practice has much to offer in our contemporary times.
If you would like me tackle recovery related topics. Please don’t hesitate to reach out at info(at)drchrishoff.com.