Four kittens with blue eyes staring at the camera

Alcoholics and Compassion: An Unlikely Connection

Mike Mather

AA is Irresistible

What is it about AA meetings that is irresistible? You just want to keep coming back. We look at how the concept of Universal Compassion and AA are made for each other.

No one wants to suffer, yet out of ignorance, living beings create suffering by performing non-virtuous actions. We should, therefore, feel equal compassion for all living beings, without exception. There is not a single living being who is not a suitable object of our compassion.

“I must permanently liberate all these living beings from their suffering”.

Don't all sentient beings deserve equal love and compassion?

Insects Aren't People

This is one of the biggest questions in life. And I can’t answer that for YOU. I find it really difficult to enjoy the company of midges and mosquitoes. Even though I have taken the vow to avoid killing, it is very difficult at the end of an Australian summer to be equanimous to all our beloved insects.

Don’t ants know that when the rain comes, I want to be alone with a good book?

If the ‘theoretical’ answer to the compassion question is yes, then we are on the same page.

Insects aside, most people will agree that to love everyone is a admirable ideal. I am reminded of the ‘Mercy and Justice’ conundrum. We want mercy for ourselves and justice for everyone else.

It is interesting to see ourselves in action.

Two brown babies in walkers playing with their toys

Photo by luis arias on Unsplash

Worthy of Love

There are certain things that we have immediate and enormous love for, and the kitten crazy internet is an example. Babies and butterflies are an instant object of care for all but the sociopaths among us.

Even lambs are cute until we get hungry.

This article is not aimed at turning you into a vegan.

But it is fascinating how man has such diverse and often conflicting attitudes towards our fellow-earthlings.

When it comes to compassion for all human beings, this is equally controversial. Countries and Churches have been killing each other since before Biblical times.

Jews, Muslims, and The Christians

Jews might be a cause for great empathy when discussing WW2, and not when witnessing news of the Gaza conflict. Christians and Muslims might be together now, but not during the Crusades. Eastern religions are looked upon as beautiful, but persecuted by Imperial Forces. It seems that 'God-fearing' ain't all that simple.

The conflicts that we witness within traditions are even more difficult to watch. People who are 99.99% in agreement, fighting over intellectual points of view, which are rarely black and white.

We Are All The Same

Whether you are human or non-human, sentient beings generally suffer the same list of sufferings.

Buddha states that we suffer the pain of birth, ageing, sickness, death, parting from the ones we love, enduring the presence of one’s we despise, and having unfulfilled desires.

ALL of us suffer these things in the same way, but to different degrees and at different times. These are all worthy of our compassion, when they arise in others.

When I hit my ‘rock bottom’, I wanted to die. Even the feeling of wanting to die is such a cursed thing.

I went back to the early meeting that day and said I was one day sober. A friend of mine invited himself back to my place for the day, just to make sure the delirium tremens went okay. During the day, I put Morphine patches on his back for his pain.

I know that I am not alone in that experience because I have heard story after wretched story of similar pain and gloom.

Knowing how other people suffer is one of the most important aspects of 12-Step Fellowships. It is said that the big secret to AA working and surviving over 80 years is ‘One alcoholic talking to another’. We know.

But, alcoholics don’t have the monopoly on suffering — just ask an Al-Anoner!

Black and white butterfly on an orange flower

Photo by Suzanne D. Williams on Unsplash

Universal Compassion

By extension, we can see that all the world is suffering at any time, and that I am only one person. I can even see that my particular circumstances are pretty good compared to others, but this comparison is less helpful. Just being aware of other's suffering is the starting point of Universal Compassion.

If we can develop Universal Compassion, we can take several steps that will be good for ourselves and all others that we share the planet with.

  1. Do no harm
  2. Listen
  3. Show love
  4. Wish for their suffering to ease soon
  5. Help, if asked

For those who are working a 12-Step Program, I wonder if these points can be included in our Step 10 each night?

There is a free PDF available to help with these steps. Just click the link where you see it.


In time, we can grow our spiritual connection with all sentient beings.

Imagine if our mind was like a 12-Step meeting that included all beings. We would all empathise with each other and actually hear our stories. Maybe we would clap at the end of each story of pain and relief, and enjoy the spirit of freedom that arises as we realise that we are all in this together (samsara).

Samsara Anonymous. I like that idea.

We admitted we were powerless over suffering

 and that our lives are unmanageable.

What do you think? Is this a thing?


All life has suffering, and not one sentient being on the face of the earth is exempt. We are all going through ‘something’ right now.

Every living thing is a suitable object of our compassion, and we aren’t just helping them. This penny flips both ways. It is of great import that we develop Universal Compassion for our own sake — if we are to end our own Samsaric cycle of rebirth, pain, and death.

We all feel better about ourselves when we do nice things, so build those compassion muscles, and you will find simpatico with every sentient being — and that’s a lot.

Get the PDF to make progress on this.

love alwaz

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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