Abstinence vs. Moderation: a Buddhist approach


Siddhartha Gotama, the man that eventually became ‘Buddha’ was not satisfied with the opulence of his royal lifestyle. Money, women, drink, being catered to at every beck and call- it just wasn’t for Sid, as Refuge Recovery founder Noah Levine likes to call him. Sid felt empty. Something about all this stuff, simply didn’t feel like the right stuff. The world was telling him that he should feel privileged to have such luxury and that to deny his entitled life would mark a lack of gratitude. Slowly, Sid lost total interest. He took off on his horse and began one of the most widely read journeys on earth.

Along the many stops on his way to Nirvana, Siddhartha found himself first with the Samanas, leading the life of self-denial. For endless days, Siddhartha practiced sitting, staring, hardly to drink or eat, in the sun, no bathing. Yet, even after abstaining and denying himself of all things, he still felt empty. Later on, Siddhartha would return to opulence, only to find that it still did not bring him the end to his thirst he was looking for. Neither full denial or trying to live a moderate lifestyle he was familiar with seemed to bring him the enlightenment and peace within his soul for which he searched.

Refuge Recovery is an abstinence based-program. Hardly self-denial, we feel it is best to abstain from mind altering substances such as drugs and alcohol. Following the eightfold path, we learn to live in attempt to practice right speech, right action, right thought, and so forth. Knowing that we are so deeply attached to the suffering of addiction and the substances that caused it, we do not see the need or reason to return to them. Perhaps moderation works for some. On the path to spiritual healing and enlightenment, however, what interruption need there be? The answer is that when weighing abstinence vs. moderation it is about balance. Many recovering addicts and alcoholics have tried moderation and found that they were persistently unable to balance the rest of their lives. Of course, some have found that the occasional drink does not affect them. For those of us that know the hell-realm like life that is addiction and alcoholism, there is little inspiration to see how substances can be brought into balance again.


Refuge Recovery uses buddhist principle, ethic, and philosophy in conjunction with proven evidence based treatment to provide a comprehensive program of healing. For more information on our treatment programs for substance abuse, call (323) 207-0276

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