If you're an alcoholic or addict, you're probably too impatient to read a preface. "Get me to the important stuff, I don't have time for this." Still, there are a few things you should know about this book before you begin reading.
First of all, the title is wrong. Well, the subtitle. My background is mostly in one school of Buddhism, the Theravada, or Way of the Elders. Out of this tradition comes the very popular Vipassana, or insight, practice of meditation. But, if I'd called the book One Breath at a Time: Theravada/Vipassana and the Twelve Steps it just wouldn't have had the same ring. So, my apologies to the Mahayana, Vajrayana, and other schools of Buddhism.
When I talk about "alcoholics" or "addicts" in the book, I mean these terms in a general way. I include overeaters, sex addicts, compulsive gamblers, codependents, AlAnon members, debtors, adult children of alcoholics, and anyone else who might find benefit in using the Twelve Steps. People from all these groups, and more, have attended my workshops and benefited. Certain concepts will fit more specifically substance abusers, but my experience is that many similar feelings and behaviors appear in people who have all kinds of dysfunctional behavior.
Beyond this obvious audience, I believe the greater population of Buddhists and other meditation practitioners can benefit from applying Twelve Step principles. As I've probed the Steps deeper and deeper, I've seen how they illuminate my meditation practice; they are not just tools for recovery, but an archetypal spiritual path in and of themselves.
Many people when they hear I'm writing a book on Buddhism and the Twelve Steps think I'm going to rewrite the Steps from a Buddhist perspective. I'm not. I love the Steps, I honor and respect them; that's why I'm writing a book about them. I'm trying to translate the Steps and discover their relationship with Buddhism, but I'm not trying to change them.
Some people have asked if they could see my manuscript because they were having a hard time getting sober in Twelve Step meetings and they hoped my book would offer an alternative. I'm a meditation teacher and I've been sober for a while, but I'm not an addiction counselor or a therapist. I'm no expert on substance abuse-except my own. This book isn't really meant to get you sober but rather to deepen your spiritual life in sobriety.
What I think people are really saying when they don't like Twelve Step meetings or programs is, "I don't want to do this. I don't want to admit I'm powerless, find a Higher Power, write an inventory, make amends. Isn't there an easier way?" Maybe, but I haven't found one. The problem isn't really the Steps or the program or the meetings or "those people." The problem is that getting clean and sober and rebuilding your life is difficult and painful work. Whether you use the Twelve Steps or some other system, it's going to be hard. Choose your poison-or I guess I should say, choose your antidote.
The names of all Twelve Step members whose stories are used in the book have been changed, except for one who has published a memoir. A few of the people are composites, and most of the dialogue is from memory. I was fortunate to be able to interview Ajahn Amaro, whose quotations are transcribed from that interview.
May all beings be free from suffering.