12 Traditions Explained
Tradition 1 - Our common welfare should come first; personal recovery depends upon A.A. unity. This is the keystone tradition. It is what all other traditions are meant to support. The common welfare is the overall primary needs of the local/national group of members. Whenever we are about to make a decision or take an action we think of the group as a whole and the action is weighed against that condition. Will this action/decision affect the common need of the group? If the answer is a negative yes then we are are stopped. If it a positive yes then we move. The rest of the traditions are HOW we conduct our evaluations at a more granular level. But, always with the idea that the group is the primary concern. Without the group the individual falls.
We convert this value in all of our outside affairs. For example with regards to family, the family is the group. If Dad wants to spend the family savings on a motorcycle, he must ask himself is this going to benefit the group (the family) or will it hurt the family? If the answer is yes it will hurt the family by draining the needed savings for a personal toy, then he does NOT purchase the bike. Perhaps he chooses to buy a camper that the whole family can vacation in. The camper is a less expensive purchase than the original choice of summer get away and the family agrees with the idea. Then he moves forward and buys the camper.
The goal is to avoid selfishness and think of the whole. This is a relationship developer. It strengthens any group. Think of the various groups that each of us belong to: Family, Friends Circle, Church, Club, Work group or Hobby group. Any group that is a mid or long term relational circle would benefit from this concept.
Tradition 2 - 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. God (Good Orderly Direction, Group of Drunks or perhaps a Father in Heaven) regardless, it is the process or power in charge. No one person is in charge of the group, ever. The decisions that will affect the group are decided in vote and the majority is determined as the will of God. This is how we produce a fair and community directed environment. All voices are heard. Even the small minority concerns are considered. No one or small portion of the group can/may direct the show. If a person or small group of persons makes decisions that affect the whole group without consent they are violating our critical Tradition 2.
Trusted leaders are individuals empowered to make certain decisions on behalf of the group. Their range of control is governed by the group and they can not over step. Typically they are elected by the group for a particular length of time and then removed and replaced with others to keep the spirit fair.
As a member of a family, even deciding the movie we are going to watch for Saturday night can be selected by group conscious. If we are going to get a water slide or trampoline for the backyard. Making decisions for activities, hobbies etc. are good group conscious decisions, but so is whether mom and dad want to move to an isolated environment to get away from noise, but the kids want more friends and want to stay in the city.
Parents are trusted servants. They are responsible for making other decisions on their own such as chores, moral structure, education, diet, finance and religious leanings. But, this is temporary. One day the child will grow and replace the parent as the parent themselves. They are learning their values from the current trusted servants and will follow a similar path in the future. So a good example is critical.
Tradition 3 – The only requirement for A.A. membership is a desire to stop drinking . No one can be kicked out of AA. No one. AA is not an organization that has qualifications or dues to be part of. The only ideal or action that makes you qualified as a member is a desire to stop drinking. That’s it. This simple idea encourages honesty, connection and security. Without this simple idea, many of our members would not stay sober due to failure of meeting the acceptable qualifications or being kicked out for miss behavior (we are a broken group of people that need understanding to grow).
We can be kicked out of a group meeting. We can be banned from coming to a particular location due to miss behavior: fighting, sexual misconduct, disruption, theft etc. But, we still can’t be kicked out of AA as a whole. Remember the first tradition (the common welfare must come first). If someone disrupts the opportunity for the rest of t he group to get sober due to their behavior they can be removed. This would not be the decision of one but the group conscious.
If Dad is abusive and hurts the family emotionally or physically, then he should be removed from the home. Mom may choose to NOT divorce him, since they both have a desire to stay married but require him to get counseling and change to get healthy. The family is the group. If Dad is disrupting their home then he could be removed for a spell. This is the decision of the trusted servant (Mom) if she has little ones, or a group conscious if there are taller children in the home. Perhaps he will not change. Then Mom and the family may agree to disconnect from him permanently, but he will always be "Dad" even though he may not serve in the capacity of Father that raises the children.
Tradition 4 – Each group should be autonomous except in matters affecting other groups, or A.A. as a whole. Each group of members that meets regularly is an autonomous collective. They follow AA traditions, but are their own group and stand alone on their decisions. They can decide if they wish to donate a portion of their 7th tradition to Central Office or HnI etc. They can decide if they want to do a book study or simply talk about their experience. Whether they pray or don’t or whether it is an hour meeting or 2 hour meeting. This is theirs to decide. However, if they represent AA then they must affect AA by offending the traditions. Their unique decision can not change or alter the perspective of AA. It could affect the common welfare of AA as a whole.
Each family is autonomous. It is a part of a larger family tree: grandpa, aunts, siblings etc. but their decisions are their own. They follow their own tenants and beliefs. As long as they comply with healthy traditions and values the family unit will be a healthy group that connects, helps each other and builds long term devotion. But, if Mom argues that “we don’t do that in MY family” while Dad says, “well MY family did and that’s the way it’s going to be”. The infiltration of other family group processes will affect the serenity of the home. The other consideration is not allowing leadership of the other family units to move or direct YOUR family unless they are offering requested advice or suggestions. NO one person should have authority over their group let alone a different group (family).
Tradition 5 – Each group has but one primary purpose – to carry its message to the alcoholic who still suffers. AA has no other primary objective. We are not political, religious or about monetary gain. We seek to ONLY carry the message of 12 step recovery to the alcoholic that needs/wants it. We do not force it. We do not sell it. We do not enforce it. We carry the message and lay it at the feet of the needful addict. If they accept it we are there for them. If the refuse it, we do not judge. If they feel they have something better we encourage them to try, but we only endeavor to share OUR experience to those that need/want it. It is our reason to be together. To encourage and share our message of change with one another.
The family has a primary purpose. To encourage each other to be the best version of themselves. We encourage not enforce. We inspire through example. We offer support during weakness and provide structure and discipline for young ones with no experience. We are here to see them become the best versions of themselves. Not BETTER than everyone else. Not abuse them. Not destroy their dreams and replace them with those of our own. Not kick them out of the family if they are different. We simply aim to see them happy, joyous and free.
Tradition 6 – An A.A. group ought never endorse, finance or lend the A.A. name to any related facility or outside enterprise, lest problems of money, property and prestige divert us from our primary purpose. AA is always a bit broke. We don’t have more money than we need. We simply have just enough to fulfill our primary purpose. We can’t afford to lend our money or credibility to any enterprise that is outside of our primary purpose or against our traditions. We don’t endorse any religion, political group or movement. We don’t stand for or against any persuasion, cause or issue. We do not want our name or cash flow associated with outside issues. The dissension could weaken our ability to perform our primary purpose and affect the group as a whole.
The family should not co-sign for loans or financial support for anyone outside of the family group. They should not endeavor to partner the family name or credibility with any outside issue or cause. If any of the family wishes to stand for a cause, then by all means do so, but don’t represent the entire family when doing it. Don’t put the family finances in jeopardy by supporting a friend or cosigning for a loan that may ultimately hurt the family’s financial stability.
Tradition 7 – Every A.A. group ought to be fully self-supporting, declining outside contributions. AA will not take hand outs from outside of its group. No free rent, or cash etc. This puts AA in a weakened state. If we become accustomed or dependent on this source of support and it stops, then we could affect the group as a whole. If we become dependent on this source of support and the provider starts requesting support for their cause we violate Tradition 6. No matter what, if we can’t afford it, we don’t do it. We will stand on our feet. If we have used chairs and lower rent environments, so be it. We will be humble and live within our means.
The family can live up to Tradition 7 by simply using the last two sentences as their objective:
1. If we can’t afford it, we don’t do it
2. We will be humble and live within our means
Tradition 8 – Alcoholics Anonymous should remain forever nonprofessional, but our service centers may employ special workers. We don’t sell AA. We don’t charge members fees, or hourly rates for sponsorship. Coaches, therapists and pastors can charge for their support but we don’t label that AA. We don’t have a professional class of support in the fellowship. We offer our support for free. It is an altruistic endeavor. If the world saw us charge for our fellowship they would assume that was our agenda. This would affect the perspective of our objective and thus the common welfare of our primary purpose. We do have service centers and hard costs: phone systems, literature, accounting etc. Workers that may or may not be members help us with some of our organizational tasks. That is not a violation of our Tradition 8.
Can you even imagine a mother charging her 10 year old son for rent, hugs, food and utilities? A professional mother that says she loves him? He would probably not trust her words and doubt her sincerity. She gives her child what he needs until he is an adult and does this from her heart to live up to her family’s primary purpose. Help him be the best version of himself. But, once he becomes an adult, then if he chooses to stay at home he should participate financially. This will teach him about being responsible. Demanding that he be self supporting is part of growing up into a mature adult.
Tradition 9 – A.A., as such, ought never be organized, but we may create service boards or committees directly responsible to those they serve. AA doesn’t have a lot of standard rules and structure within its meetings, groups or sponsorship. It has suggestions and traditions to guide the members. This proffers autonomy and supports the traditions. It also helps keep the process simple and effective. We do, however, have conferences, conventions, committees for the good of AA etc. that require more structure by the complexity of their nature. These local and national organized groups are typically governed by a combination of steps, traditions and concepts of service.
Our Family has a simple structure: leadership and committee. Parents and kids. We have various rules and responsibilities: bed time and chores but ultimately we don’t over do the structure and lose the intimacy of family. We allow the steps and traditions to govern us.
Tradition 10 – Alcoholics Anonymous has no opinion on outside issues, hence the A.A. name ought never be drawn into public controversy. AA is NOT a political or religious movement. We are not a group of thinkers that are inline with all issues in the country or the world. We make up all sorts of beliefs and ideals. We have one universal issue: Alcoholism. We have one universal solution: 12 steps and 12 traditions. We do NOT have an opinion on outside issues in the meetings or outside of them (leveraging the AA name) If we share in a meeting we do not discuss our political views, or religious leanings or give opinion about race, color creed etc. We simply stay neutral and discuss our life as it relates to recovery. Outside of the meeting we do not put our AA stamp on a memos of support for similar issues to the public whether it is on social media, print or t.v. AA is not to be drawn into any controversy. We are here for one purpose: carry the message to the alcoholic that suffers. Any other endeavor affects the common welfare.
If Dad has a friend that is divorcing his wife’s friend then he should stay out of the controversy. Taking sides with one or the other could create division in his own home. He can be compassionate but shouldn’t stand up in court unless both him and his wife are in agreement. Outside issues can encourage dissension.
Tradition 11 – Our public relations policy is based upon attraction rather than promotion; we need always maintain personal anonymity at the level of press, radio and films. We do not sell AA. We offer it to those that need/want it. We don’t promote our message by touting our individual membership and associating ourselves with the program publicly. We can establish that we are members in recovery, but when we are on social media, radio, t.v., or print we keep our connection anonymous. We can establish that we are members of recovery. That we have been sober. We even can say “I am 10 years clean today”, but how we did that is anonymous. We can even say to someone or online, that if you are struggling with addiction and need help give me a call I can help. But we don’t tout our affinity. We can even say, if you are an alcoholic or think you may be having a hard time with our drinking or using I suggest you give AA a try to someone that is stressing a problem in their life. This is carrying the message. If someone is a hard drinker and is talking to me, I can tell them my story and privately share with them that I am a member of AA. This is perfectly ok. Now there is an opposite issue. Many members in the meeting identify themselves with their first name only, or perhaps even a fake one. This is not against the rules, but it does actually go against the traditions in a different way. If you share a good message in a meeting and someone wants to reach out to you for help, they can’t find: Stinky Pete or Big Book Bob. They would need your name to connect with you. Our primary purpose is affected by too much anonymity in the meetings. The founder Dr. Bob talked about how the fellowship is hiding in plain sight. Don’t affect AA with your alignment or perspectives on the T.V. but do be available to the new person with your real name. Our 12 step, 11th and 5th traditions dictate that we be more reachable.
A family shouldn’t tout their personal stories and data online or in public. This opens the rest of the family up for pain. Perhaps they don’t wish to be included in your public description. Perhaps, as you describe your lack of success with therapy, (because you couldn’t be honest) you will thwart someone from getting the help that they need. If you talk about being a Christian and then show yourself in scantly dressed clothing, partying the night away or ditching work, you will hurt someone else’s perspective of the value of the religion. Be you. Be respectful and share what is appropriate at a public level.
Tradition 12 – Anonymity is the spiritual foundation of all our Traditions, ever reminding us to place principles before personalities. We don’t talk about others. We don’t share what others have trusted us with. We don’t break the anonymity of famous people in the fellowship meetings. We don’t talk about what someone said or who they were with in a meeting. We leave their content, and actions alone. We work on ourselves and keep anonymous. It is critical. One of our most trusted steps in the 5th step where a member shares their entire life story with secrets and hurts. We demonstrate our principles by demonstrating a trustworthiness that none of us ever had before. It saves lives and supports that 12 step in an amazing way. If someone is miss behaving we show compassion, understanding and forgiveness. We have no problem telling them directly to look at their behavior but we will not gossip or character assassinate them behind their back. The only time we discuss another member’s behavior is if we are having a group conscious to discuss banning them from a meeting with the other members that are already aware of their behavior.
In the family ideal we do NOT gossip about our family. Dads don’t character assassinate Mom to gain partnership from the children. We don’t go on social media and bring the family laundry public. We don’t go to external friends and family that may be affected and complain about our loved ones. We have private sponsors, coaches, pastors or friends that are not connected to the experience to run our situation by as long as our agenda is resolution not gossip and sympathy. If someone in our family shares a secret we keep it. If we see misbehavior we can deal with it directly or bring it out in a family meeting but we don’t simply complain and hurt a family member’s standing because we are mad. Compassion, understanding and forgiveness are the code. We put our principles before the personalities in our family. This is how we develop strong relational circles.