A drunk man sleeps on a bench whilst people laugh in the background

How Buddhism and 12 Steps Saved My Life

Mike Mather

My Story

I drank for 27 years, from the ages of 14 to 42, before becoming so sick that my doctor told me I had only 6 months to live. My then-girlfriend Cathy took me to an AA meeting, but I initially resisted the program. I read books that "proved" AA didn't work, but eventually, I fell in love with the steps.

Drunk young man asleep on a bar with friends enjoying in the background

Photo by cottonbro studio

AA didn't work.

Despite my enthusiasm for the program, I struggled to stay sober. I found a sponsor who was teaching computer skills at a local Work for the Dole class, but he was also addicted to painkillers, and I soon discovered that he wasn't any soberer than I was.

My Dad

After my father died, I drank again, and I couldn't stay sober for more than 49 days at a time. I was also caring for my mother, who was suffering from Alzheimer's disease. One year after my father's death, I drank non-stop for 9 days, including through my son's 18th birthday. I was too drunk to leave the house and celebrate with him, and I felt guilty about it.

Monkey with eyes shut at a bar with a beer glass in front

Image by Lothar Dieterich from Pixabay

Horrible sobriety

After that binge, I decided to quit drinking for good. I went to my doctor for help with the delirium tremens (DT's) and started going to AA meetings every day.

In those first few days of being sober (which was not fun), I stumbled upon a shop that sells incense and grabbed a brochure for some Buddhist classes.

I had never been to one before, but I'd read about spiritual stuff like Buddhism, Islam, and Taoism as an alternative to my Catholic upbringing (which I wasn't too happy about). This time, I decided to actually go to a class instead of just putting it off. And you know what? I even went again the next week!

Meanwhile, I was going to AA meetings every single day like they suggested and reading their Big Book. It wasn't all sunshine and rainbows, but with the combination of Buddhist wisdom and AA practicality, I was able to kick my drinking habit. That was 2008.

read more: Alcoholism and The Art of Dying
Brilliant orange sunrise across a beach to the ocean

Sunrise at Fingal 2020 by Mike Mather

And Now...

Today, I'm living by Buddha's principles and following the guidelines in the Alcoholics Anonymous Big Book. The word "God" to me means all the Greater Spiritual Powers of all the sentient beings on all the planets of the Universe. Because the fellowship is all-inclusive and Buddhism teaches equanimity, I've developed inclusivity in all my affairs.

Next Step

Buddhism is a great lens to see the 12 Steps of AA. Click here to get started in a new direction.

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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