From Punk to Buddhist Recovery through Meditation

Noah Levine, an American addictions counsellor, combines Buddhism and punk ideology in what he believes is a groundbreaking new treatment method.

With his shaved head and tattooed body, you might be surprised that the man standing before you is a Buddhist. You might be even more surprised to learn that he is spearheading a movement to integrate Buddhist mindfulness practices with 12-Step recovery.

Meet Noah Levine. In his youth, he got heavily involved in drugs and after eleven years found himself in a locked detoxification centre. In order to recover, he explored many approaches. Finally, he found that what resonated most with him was Buddhist teachings. After unsuccessfully looking for teachers who had integrated Buddhism and 12 Steps, he finally developed his own approach. His recent book, Refuge Recovery, details his approach, which combines Buddhist meditation practices with the 12 Step approach to recovery. In this blog we will explore his story, based on a blog post on

Levine says that his Refuge Recovery approach draws heavily upon the 12 Step programme, as well as Buddhist approaches to mindfulness. He recognises that Alcoholic Anonymous works for many people. At the same time, some people do not find what they are looking for in AA, and so they may be served by his approach.

Levine is explicit in Buddhism being the basis for his approach. Nevertheless, you don’t have to be a Buddhist (or a person of any faith) to participate and benefit from his approach. Even if you practice another faith, he says that the benefits of the mindfulness and meditation may serve your recovery.

What it comes down to, according to Levine, is mindful awareness and the cultivation of qualities that will support recovery and a healthy life. So, while the principles he uses may be based in Buddhism, they can be put into practice by anyone. Indeed, Levine says that the whole message of the Buddha was one of reducing suffering in a practical way – so everything taught is designed to be useful.

However, this does not mean that meditation is a quick cure. As with most approaches to recovery, meditation is seen as a lifelong process, something to be carried out throughout life. Levine finds that in his own life, when he practices meditation regularly, he sees the benefits. When he veers from his path, he finds himself quickly getting lost and confused.

The notion of meditation as both practical and as a lifelong practice contradicts much of the current popular conception surrounding meditation. Gaging from magazine covers to bestseller lists, and even the Harvard Business Review, mindfulness has gained momentum in the popular consciousness. Yet oftentimes it is billed as either otherworldly or as a quick fix. Work such as Noah Levine’s highlights the practical applications, as well as the need to maintain a strong practice in support of major life changes.

At The Cabin Chiang Mai, mindfulness therapy has always been a core component of the treatment model, along with other evidence-supported psychotherapy methods. If you are concerned about addiction, please contact one of our specialists today.

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