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AAA—Attitude, Altruism, and Attention in Alcoholism

Mike Mather

In the beginning…

When Dharmaholic began, several years ago, it was built on the 6A formula that I dreamed one weekend. It is still a simple mnemonic for virtuous action in alcoholic recovery.

The Six A's stand for

  • Awareness
  • Acceptance
  • Action
  • Attitude
  • Altruism
  • Attention

Following on from our initial breakthrough of cessation, longer-term sobriety and a changed lifestyle requires new attitudes and actions, don’t you reckon?

A young brown man behind bars in a green jumper

Photo by Pablo Padilla on Unsplash

Why change our attitude?

The Attitude relates to Self.

How can I view myself differently to ensure new direction and possibilities?

What has been so wrong with my attitude that has resulted in such destruction and trauma?

Let’s talk about my attitude towards myself.

Attitude — a settled way of thinking or feeling about someone or something, typically one that is reflected in a person’s behaviour: “she took a tough attitude toward other people’s indulgences” “being competitive is an attitude of mind” “differences in attitude were apparent between groups”. synonyms: view, viewpoint, outlook, perspective, stance, standpoint, position, inclination, temper, orientation, approach, reaction, opinion, ideas, convictions, feelings, thinking.

Perspective is the synonym that I will prefer in this context (or…seeing).

Seeing Expressing Loving Feeling (SELF)

‘You’ve lost that loving feeling’ springs into my head all of a sudden!

This classic song from the Righteous Brothers (typical) and then countless others expresses how I felt about myself, AT LEAST in the last 15 years of my drinking.

The solution to my problem was drinking alcohol. It then became the other concern. I often state in meeting that I only had two problems when I got to AA.

1. Alcoholism

2. Everything else.

Country dirt road running beneath a canopy of trees into streaming sun

Photo by Christiaan Huynen on Unsplash


There was no way in hell that I was going to overcome my self-loathing, self-centredness, and self-worth whilst still administering alcohol to fuel the flame.

I had told my doctor arrogantly that I am self-medicating — I would ask him each few months for another script for antidepressants because that was helping me deal with my depression. Only, the alcohol that I had for breakfast lunch and tea was not only cancelling out any effect the drugs might have had, but making the depression worse.

(NOTE: Please do not take anything I write as Medical Advice. See your doctor before making any significant changes to medical protocols)

Seeing myself as if for the first time came only weeks after my last drink.

In my ‘Purple Cloud’ of early sobriety, I walked into my first Buddhist meditation class and my fate was sealed. Forever has my attitude to myself and life in general been changed.

Our perspective is the input we receive from the five senses and how we interpret them. Synonyms are outlook and view. But we don’t just receive information by viewing and looking, do we?

Sometimes we hear rumours or feel someone’s fist that alters our perspective. You may have a long-lasting impression from a smell, too.

The Sixth Sense is often discussed. Those who are attuned to their intuition would never be dissuaded from that feeling because it is so strong.


Fear plays a huge part in flavouring our perspective and long-held fears are particularly hard to shift, therefore one’s perspective of something like flying can hardly be altered.

There is a program on TV that takes people with strong racial fears to the country where immigrants have come from to see their lives from a different perspective. The strongest of bigots typically change their point of view when seeing the suffering these refugees have endured.

This is a great example, I think, of how seeing things from a different perspective can have a huge effect on the lives we live. What really is possible if we change our perspective?

With a new perspective, there follows the possibility of improved attitude. Attitude — a settled way of thinking or feeling about someone or something, typically one that is reflected in a person’s behaviour.

If everything must change, then beginning with a new attitude that leads to altered behaviour is the start. As my girlfriend often says, “You have to act your way into new thinking”.

After awareness and acceptance, comes action. Then, with feet in motion, we can alter our attitude to the rest of our lives and the relationship we have with the rest of the world.

About the Author Mike Mather

Mike was born in 1963 which technically makes him one of the youngest of the Baby Boomers. An Australian with Indigenous and European heritage, he has been an avid and required student of Buddhism and alcoholism since 2008.

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