• Understanding the 12 Traditions of AA

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    Understanding the 12 Traditions of AA

    In meetings, we focus so much on the 12 Steps that the 12 Traditions tend to take a back seat. While the steps lay down the core of personal recovery, the sole purpose of the traditions is to keep the Alcoholics Anonymous group united and functioning as a whole. Below, we define each of the 12 Traditions and help you find ways to incorporate them in your daily recovery routine.

    Tradition One

    Our common welfare should come first; personal recovery depends upon A.A. unity.

    Put your recovery first and get clear on what your purpose is. Have you surrendered to the fact that you can never safely use drugs and alcohol? Honestly answering this question creates inner unity. Now, what are you willing to do to maintain your sobriety?

    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. 

    Your sponsor, the recovery group and those you take counsel with are human beings first and foremost. They offer suggestions, serve as guides in recovery but they are not God. If someone suggests you do something that doesn’t feel right – seek clarity and answers. It’s not a good idea to put people on pedestals either even if they have a gazillion years sober.

    Tradition Three

    The only requirement for A.A. membership is a desire to stop drinking. 

    You don’t have to meet any special requirements to be a member in A.A. or other 12-Steps groups. No one can put demands on your recovery. If you stumble and fall, keep coming back. 

    Tradition Four

    Each group should be autonomous except in matters affecting other groups or A.A. as a whole. 

    You are the master of your sobriety and you get to wear it the way that you want to. At the same time, it’s not a good idea to enforce your brand of recovery on someone else either. Recovery brings together groups of people who may not otherwise mix and mingle, therefore, expect for there to be differences. The 12-Traditions are the ground rules, which enables everyone to function in a cohesive manner. 

    Tradition Five

    Each group has but one primary purpose—to carry its message to the alcoholic who still suffers. 

    Remove the words “Each group” and insert your name instead. While this tradition is meant to keep the group focused, it’s a reminder of your primary purpose. “You keep what you have by giving it away.” A life based upon your own selfish needs will eventually lead back to the bottle.

    Tradition Six

    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. 

    You don’t have to be the official spokesperson for A.A., and be wary of taking part in schemes that will affect your peace of mind. If you wish to work in recovery or open a recovery related enterprise — go for it! However, don’t let money, property and prestige get in the way of what’s truly important — carrying the message of recovery.

    Tradition Seven

    Every A.A. group ought to be fully self-supporting, declining outside contributions. 

    Your sponsor is not your banker and neither are your family and friends. Sobriety is about rebuilding your life one day at a time. Don’t be afraid to ask for help, but the goal is to become self-supporting as a result of your own efforts.

    Tradition Eight

    Alcoholics Anonymous should remain forever non-professional, but our service centers may employ special workers.

    Alcoholics Anonymous works really well when you keep it simple. If you don’t have anyone to sponsor, there are many ways to be of service, but don’t have to go overboard. Self-care is important too. Your primary purpose is to stay sober. Staying spiritually fit enables you to help others while setting healthy boundaries.

    Tradition Nine

    A.A., as such, ought never be organized; but we may create service boards or committees directly responsible to those they serve. 

    The 12-Steps are a “suggested” program of action. No one can tell you what to do, and you don’t have to work the steps if you don’t want to. However, millions of alcoholics and addicts have found lasting sobriety through working the 12-Steps. The program of action outlined in the “Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous” has served as a cornerstone to building happy and purpose-driven lives.

    Tradition Ten

    Alcoholics Anonymous has no opinion on outside issues; hence the A.A. name ought never be drawn into public controversy. 

    Peace is a much better option than delving into controversial discussions, gossip or character assassination. Tradition ten is especially helpful when dealing with tense family situations or when navigating conflicts on the job. It keeps you centered on what’s really important, which is staying sober and carrying the message.

    Tradition Eleven

    Our public relations policy is based on attraction rather than promotion; we need always maintain personal anonymity at the level of press, radio and films. 

    There’s nothing worse than an A.A. preacher or minister up on his high-horse. No one likes it when someone is trying to shove a particular lifestyle down their throat, so live by attraction rather than promotion. Be the change you want to see.

    Tradition Twelve

    Anonymity is the spiritual foundation of all our traditions, ever reminding us to place principles before personalities. 

    Anonymity is important because there are still stigmas which exist concerning addiction and what that means. You don’t have to tell everyone at work that you’re sober. It also asks, “How important is it to be right?” Answering this can change the direction of a heated situation.


    Flower Benjamin has been proactively involved in the recovery community for more than 12 years. She holds a BA in Journalism and has worked for several community newspapers. Flower is a natural-born poet, craft artist and entrepreneur and is working to publish her first book of poetry.


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