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South Salt Lake Journal

Recovery Dharma—a potential to heal the suffering of addiction

May 30, 2022 05:44PM ● By Jesse M. Gonzalez

By Jesse M. Gonzalez | [email protected]

Beyond the doors of South Salt Lake’s Utah Support Advocates for Recovery Awareness (USARA) room, lies a devout group of open-minded and learning participants of Recovery Dharma, a program dedicated to helping those struggling from addiction troubles by incorporating Buddhist practices and teachings.

“Finding peace and comfort without the use of substance, to have a meaningful life without substance and to be able to learn how to help others who have similar struggles is the main achievement,” said Alex Hernandez, a Salt Lake City local who is new to the program.

After everyone takes their seat around a circular succession of tables, Sally Boland, the facilitator, opens up a copy of the book “Recovery Dharma” and begins the reading: “Welcome to this meeting of Recovery Dharma. We are gathered to explore a Buddhist-inspired approach to recovery from addiction of all kinds.” Soon, others take turns in reading the template before the meeting shifts into a period of meditation.

The room gets quiet, everyone closes their eyes, and practices letting go of the weight of experience, of years of struggle, addiction and behavioral battles. Deep exhales can be heard, taut shoulders become relaxed and one can even feel the air lighten within the meditative space.

After 15 minutes, a meditation bell rings, signifying the end of the practice and the beginning of another. The reading resumes.

Recovery Dharma has had a positive impact on many lives. Ray Rosales, a local musician and one of the founders of the program, said, “In the beginning it was just about making sobriety. Now with Buddhism, it helps to improve all aspects of life, with others, relationships with yourself—equanimity, grace under pressure, and now the benefits are very apparent and continue to be.”

Investing time and effort to pave a smoother path to addiction recovery is one of the main objectives for the peer-led movement.

“Recovery Dharma gives me a better understanding of myself, who I am, as well as a greater sense of inner peace,” said Trevor Smith, who is about to graduate with a master’s degree. “The last three years of my life wouldn’t be possible without my sobriety, and I will definitely be coming back to Recovery Dharma—this will become a regular activity.”

“There is a strong sense of community here, like-minded people all supporting long-term sobriety from all kinds of addictions. Practicing mindfulness is a great way to come back to ground zero, to understand what is happening. It’s a reality check; it keeps you honest,” said Kristen Ohlsson, who lives in St. George and travels to South Salt Lake to attend the meetings.

“We have grown considerably,” said Rosales. “The meetings started in a small room at the University of Utah, and now we’ve changed locations, have more people coming in for recovery and being closer to public transportation really helps too. Of course, USARA has been real generous with working with us and making all of this happen.”

USARA has been the leading nonprofit recovery community organization for Utah since its founding in 2006. Recovery Dharma helps with all forms of addiction, not just substance abuse but process addictions as well, like gambling, sex, eating disorders, spending habits, cell phone use or anything habitual or obsessive through meditation, wisdom and compassion. In-person meetings are held every Sunday and Wednesday; online meetings are available every Friday. For more information, visit