Reviews & Interviews

Sober Pagan Reviews – The 12-Step Buddhist: Enhance Recovery from Any Addiction: Updated & Expanded 10th Anniversary Edition by Darren Littlejohn

Book Review

The 12-Step Buddhist

Enhance Recovery from Any Addiction

Updated & Expanded 10th Anniversary Edition

by Darren Littlejohn

400 Pages



I was so happy to receive this book. I was well acquainted with the original edition, as my son’s father, a long-time Buddhist practitioner in the Tibetan tradition and AA guru had it on his shelf the last time I visited him in Florida, and I remember reading parts of it and being overall impressed with Darren Littlejohn’s synthesis of 12-Step dogma and Buddhist philosophy. This edition has much more information than the original edition – I have to say that it’s a tad dense – but that’s only because there’s so much to absorb. My copy has numerous bright pink post-it tabs sticking out from various pages and I wore out more than one highlighter while reading this! I might as well tell you now that I highly recommend this book – but it’s not for the person in early recovery. It’s for those of us who have been around for a while. Maybe those of us who have relapsed more than once and need to get real with our recovery.

Reading the book – especially the part that explains Buddhism – brought back my own first year of recovery. I didn’t even get through my first year without relapsing – I got five months – living with my parents while I went to outpatient rehab – and then I returned to my husband and promptly relapsed. I got sober two months later – running away with my son’s father – to Cleveland, of all places! – living in a Buddhist household and going to daily AA meetings. I meditated every morning and went to weekly Dharma study group and yes! – my life changed for the better. I wish I could say that my son’s father and lived happily ever after – but that didn’t happen. Life doesn’t work like that. But those first wonderful months – that first year, really – oh, what a great sober time it was!

What I especially like about this book is the integration of Buddhism and the Steps. If you read about the Steps in the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous – and even more in the “Twelve and Twelve” – they really focus on God and prayer and submitting yourself to “His will”. As pagans, this is a hard pill to swallow and many of us leave the program because of that right there. A good example is the “Third Step Prayer” on page 164, which I always found annoying to say the least. Littlejohn presents the NA third step prayer, the Buddhist refuge prayer and a prayer he wrote himself – the point being that we are able to create our own third step prayer that works for us.

For each step, Littlejohn shows a way to blend the tenets of Buddhism to make a more meaningful recovery. Even if you are not a practicing Buddhist, this is important and this is the reason I recommend this book – as pagans, Wiccans and other non-Christians, it is mandatory that we learn how to integrate our own religions in with 12-step recovery groups because even in these days of COVID-19 and online meetings, 12-step groups have become the go-to standard. Although there are other forms of recovery groups, they remain few and far-between for most of us. So it is imperative that we make 12-step recovery work for us – no matter what our spirituality may be.

One thing he talks about is “the Funnel”. I had to go back to the Introduction to find out exactly what he meant by that and even then, I had trouble really understanding what he meant. Apparently it’s just a “sober stuck point” (Littlejohn, xxiii) – why it’s a funnel, I’m not sure – unless it’s referring to some kind of downward spiral. But you might want to keep that in mind as you read through the book, because he brings up “the Funnel” over and over again.

It’s an amazingly detailed book. There’s charts and diagrams and a good-sized glossary. Like I already said, it’s a tad dense – in the sense that there’s so much to it – it’s not exactly an easy read. That’s why I said it’s not really for anyone in early recovery – you have to be able to concentrate to read this. I personally think this book would be great for a sober reading discussion group. I myself would love to be in that group.

Littlejohn writes, “In my opinion, the ultimate solution of the 12 Steps is to find the bodhisattva path to complete enlightenment. I didn’t know that for a really long time.” (Littlejohn, 286). I think in general, getting sober is about spiritual enlightenment – but only if you enhance your sobriety with spirituality. We all know people who quit drinking and drugging and never become spiritual at all. This book can help you on your spiritual path. As I wrote in the first paragraph, I highly recommend this book. It’ll be one of my favorite recovery books until the day I die.


Littlejohn, Darren. The 12-Step Buddhist: Enhance Recovery from Any Addiction: Updated & Expanded 10th Anniversary Edition. NY: Atria Paperback/Simon & Schuster, 2019.

The 12-Step Buddhist on Amazon

About the Author:

Polly MacDavid lives in Buffalo, New York at the moment but that could easily change, since she is a gypsy at heart. Like a gypsy, she is attracted to the divinatory arts, as well as camp fires and dancing barefoot. She has three cats who all help her with her magic.

Her philosophy about religion and magic is that it must be thoroughly based in science and logic. She is Dianic Wiccan but she gets along with a few of the masculine deities. She loves to cook and she is a Bills fan.

She blogs at She writes about general life, politics and poetry. She is writing a novel about sex, drugs and recovery.