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Punk and Buddhism Discover the Means to Recovery

June 20, 2014
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Punk and Buddhism Discover the Means to Recovery
Noah Levine is a former addict trying to help others through drug rehab with Buddhism and punk music. Jaime Lyn/Flickr
A new rehab program combines these two drastically different lifestyles. And guess what? It's successful.

When it comes to punk, you probably think that the anti-establishment cultural movement contributes to drug usage, not prevents it.

But one former addict has found that those interested in the punk lifestyle don’t have to be drug users.

Dharma Punx — the rehab program that’s now spreading across the world — can be traced to tattooed Noah Levine. Levine suffered through his own bout with drug addiction and is now helping others overcome through his program, which combines punk and Buddhist teachings.

Raised as a Buddhist, Levine battled depression as a child and eventually turned to drugs and other criminal activity. After being arrested multiple times, paying fines and doing community service, Levine returned to Buddhist teachings and turned his life around. In 2004, his memoir Dharma Punx hit the bookstands and became the name of the new recovery program.

Levine’s program, Refugee Recovery, doesn’t follow the typical 12-step program. Instead, Levine lowered it to Buddhism’s Four Noble Truths on suffering: (1) reality of suffering, (2) the origin of suffering, (3) the cessation of suffering, and (4) the true path to cessation found in the Eight-Fold Path, which is one of the main teachings of Buddhism. Although Levine tweaked the Eight-Fold Path slightly to include an essential component in the recovery process: Community.

Not only did Levine create a framework for meeting, but there’s also one for training meeting facilitators, too. The meeting starts with the leader reading this introduction: “My role is not authoritative. I am not an empowered Buddhist mentor teacher; I’m here to facilitate the group and lead our discussion.” From there, the group descends into a 25 to 30 minute meditation followed by another reading. Then, a topic is brought to the group by the facilitator and the floor is opened to members. Afterwards, there is another reading, a closing, and the request for a suggested donation of $5.

Refugee Recovery is an unconventional rehabilitation with an even more unconventional leader, but it is rapidly gaining popularity. With groups meeting in San Francisco, Santa Monica, Berkeley, Hollywood, Santa Cruz, Nashville and Oklahoma City, Dharma Punx may be the new rising star of rehabilitation.

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