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The Twelve Traditions of AA

Discussion in 'Narcotics Anonymous' started by Sluggo, Mar 13, 2011.

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  1. Sluggo

    Sluggo Well-Known Member

    In the book 'AA Comes of Age', Bill W. says: "Our Traditions are a guide to better ways of working and living and they are also an antidote for our various maladies. The Twelve Traditions are to group survival and harmony what AA's Twelve Steps are to each member's sobriety and peace of mind.

    "But the Twelve Traditions also point straight at many of our individual defects. By implication they ask each of us to lay aside pride and resentment. They ask for personal as well as group sacrifice...The Traditions guarantee the equality of all members...They show how we may best relate ourselves to each other and to the world outside."

    For some of us, the Traditions have been in reality an extension of the Twelve Steps. In trying to understand the last part of the Twelfth Step--"practice these principles in all our affairs"---I know it's helpful to use the Twelve Traditions as a guideline. Here are some of the ways each Tradition affected me personality:

    Tradition One: Our common welfare should come first; personal recovery depends upon AA unity.
    It didn't take long for me to realize that without other AA members, my group, and AA as a whole, I would probably find it difficult to stay sober. Even though I was sometimes in hearty disagreement, I learned that I must be willing to yield--first to my sponsor, then to our group conscience, and finally to the principles of AA's as a whole. I tried to learn to "disagree without being disagreeable."

    Tradition Two: For our group purpose there is but one ultimate authority - a loving God as he may express Himself in our group conscience. Our leaders are but trusted servants; they do not govern.
    As I kept coming back, I began to believe that the Higher Power was speaking through the members of my home group. It was the beginning of faith in the group conscience, belief that it might represent God's will for me today. The concept of AA leaders who are "but trusted servants" calmed my rebellious nature and guided me toward trust in other people and peace of mind.

    Tradition Three: The only requirement for AA membership is a desire to stop drinking.
    When I first arrived at the doors of AA, I had little or no feelings of self-worth. I was filled with guilt over my "sins of commission and omission." How comforting to know that I was welcomed as a member in spite of my imagined or actual faults—no questions asked! I felt the urge to earn the friendship of those wonderful people around the tables. So I began the long journey back to self-respect, to productivity, and to rejoining society as a whole--just because of Tradition Three.

    Tradition Four: Each group should be autonomous except in matters affecting other groups or AA as a whole.
    For too long, I thought I was autonomous in my own right; this is also called being self-centered or selfish, with "self-will run riot." This Tradition helped me understand that I could not take any actions harmful to others without dire consequences to myself. I learned that nothing was really good unless other people also were considered.

    Tradition Five: Each group has but one primary purpose - to carry its message to the alcoholic who still suffers.
    This Tradition, I realized, delineated pretty clearly my own primary purpose, as well as the group's. I was told that I could not keep my sobriety unless I gave it away. Each of us is but a small part of the whole, but by joining AA's primary purpose to our own, we become something bigger than our individual selves.

    Tradition Six: An AA group ought never endorse, finance, or lend the AA name to any related facility or outside enterprise, lest problems of money, property, and prestige divert us from our primary purpose.
    In this Tradition, I began to learn the importance of singleness of purpose, both in AA and in my private life. I came to understand the difference between that which helps and that which hinders. By keeping my AA program simple, I underscore my own way to "Live and Let Live."

    Tradition Seven: Every AA group ought to be fully self- supporting, declining outside contributions.
    Self-support lent me a sense of freedom of thought and of action. As an AA member, I knew I was not bound by what other people thought. That helped me to open my mind and start to think for myself--for the first time in a long time. AA gave me proof that money and spiritually can mix.

    Tradition Eight - Alcoholics Anonymous should remain forever non-professional, but our service centers may employ special workers. Tradition Nine: A.A. as such, ought never be organized; but we may create service boards or committees directly responsible to those they serve.
    When I began AA service work, these two Traditions told me I was simply one of many trusted servants, for whom special training of talent was unimportant. The fact that this Society was non-professional was reassuring. Titles and degrees became trivial. I felt a new sense of responsibility to myself and to others and it made me aware of pride and ambition as defects.

    Tradition Ten: Alcoholics Anonymous has no opinion on outside issues; hence the AA name ought never be drawn into public controversy.
    Here, I began to understand that as an AA member, I owed certain disciplines, obligations, and responsibilities to AA as a whole. I could speak out as an individual on any matter with which I was concerned; but as an AA member, I had to operate within certain limits, try to "engage the mind before opening the mouth."

    Tradition Eleven: Our public relations policy is based on attraction rather then promotion; we need always maintain personal anonymity at the level of press, radio, and films.
    "Walk like you talk," I heard. If I could do that, I knew there would be a sufficient difference in my way of living and thinking to be noticeable by example, and there should be no necessity for me to blow my own horn. I didn't need to break my arm by patting myself on the back for staying sober (millions of people have been doing that for centuries). Tradition Eleven reminded me not to take personal credit for anything that I might do; ego and personal ambition have no place in AA life.
    1. Do I sometimes promote AA so fanatically that I make it seem unattractive?
    2. Am I always careful to keep the confidences reposed in me as an AA member?
    3. Am I careful about throwing AA names around - even within the Fellowship?

    Tradition Twelve: Anonymity is the spiritual foundation of all our Traditions, ever reminding us to place principles before personalities.
    When I listened to others, this Tradition told me, the important thing was the principle expressed, not the person expressing it. If I could go a step further and learn to place AA principles before my own personality, I could travel a long way on my journey of spiritual progress. Public anonymity was essential to such developments--that was clear. But I also had to learn that I should not seek praise within the Fellowship. A simple job well done speaks for itself.

    Using the Traditions as guides to spiritual progress, we begin to know that "God is doing for us what we could not do for ourselves," and the sense of humility is enhanced. So, although the Twelve Traditions are designed to further group survival and harmony (and those are most important), a closer examination shows that another ultimate objective is the welfare of the individual AA member--truly an extension of the Twelve Steps to recovery.

    AA Grapevine, March 1982
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