Jason Burns

Jason Burns at Local Coffee House, where Refuge Recovery meetings are held each Thursday. The program’s approach to overcoming addiction is rooted in Buddhist principles but is non-theistic.

Eight years ago, longtime Aspen resident Jason Burns’ life dramatically changed when he lost one of his best friends to alcoholism. Soon after, he examined his own lifestyle choices, and decided to start on the road to recovery from drugs and alcohol in order to lead a more intentional and mindful life.  

Within the Roaring Fork Valley, there are limited resources for those seeking help from addiction, and most options orbit around a more traditional 12-step program like Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous — both of which are enormously successful in their own right. 

But, for those who don’t connect with the traditional model’s religious focus on an external higher power, there is another option. 

In February of this year, Burns introduced a new program to the community called Refuge Recovery. Though centered on Buddhist principles, this popular recovery method is non-theistic in nature and does not focus on a higher being. Instead, it incorporates meditation, mindfulness and scientific and psychological insights to help members overcome addiction and redirect their life.  

Based on Noah Levine’s bestselling book “Refuge Recovery,” the program weaves together numerous recovery topics that can be worked on at any time, in any order. Unlike a more traditional “step-by-step” method, members are able to focus on whatever element of the program they choose at that time such as intention, community, communication, livelihood or service. 

“I started this group in Aspen to offer an alternative to the traditional and more linear paths of other recovery programs available in our community,” said Burns, “Refuge Recovery really focuses on mindfulness and meditation, and is a way of recovery for all.”

Addiction, by definition, is the condition of craving a particular substance, thing or activity. While the most common form is generally substance-based, there are numerous other types of addiction that plague members of our community every day – codependency, gambling, sex, food and spending money, to name a few. The core elements of Refuge Recovery can be applied to any and all types of addiction, and Burns has seen its benefits firsthand in his life. 

“I cut out anything that wasn’t serving me,” said Burns. “And, as a result, I discovered a new level of personal freedom and joy in my life.”

The program focuses on mindfulness, meditation and intentional living. Each meeting opens with a 20-minute guided meditation session, followed by a reading from Levine’s book. Refuge Recovery is grounded in the Four Noble Truths of Buddhism, which are: 

  1. Addiction creates suffering (for both the addict and their friends/family)
  2. The cause of addiction is repetitive craving
  3. Recovery IS possible
  4. Here is the path to recovery

“Oftentimes, people put on a face everyday, but they are not living their fullest life,” said Refuge Recovery member Dri Liechti. “Refuge Recovery ensures that everyone has a space and place to connect in this small and sometimes lonely mountain town.” 

Meetings are held every Thursday at 7 p.m. at Local Coffee Shop, 416 E. Cooper Ave. More details about the program can be found online at www.refugerecovery.org, or check in with Jason Burns at Jason@burnsandmadsen.com