AA Tradition

I tend to get on my soapbox a lot about the 12 Traditions of A.A., I can’t help it, I was raised in early A.A. meetings where they were studied, practiced and debated amongst people with long term sobriety (that was 12 – 16 years of sobriety at the time that I was less than a year). I soaked up as much of that as I could, attended group conscious/business meetings, went to the DCM meeting, the Area Assembly, the Area Conference… I loved this stuff, it was one part of that triangle that makes up our program (Recovery, Unity, Service).

the AA circle and triangle

Every week at my first Home Group they read these paragraphs from page  561 in our basic text:

The AA Tradition

To those now in its fold, Alcoholics Anonymous has made the difference between misery and sobriety, and often the difference between life and death. A.A. can, of course, mean just as much to uncounted alcoholics not yet reached.

Therefore, no society of men and women ever had  a more urgent need for continuous effectiveness and permanent unity. We alcoholics see that we must work together and hang together, else most of us will finally die alone.

The “12 Traditions” of Alcoholics Anonymous are, we A.A.’s believe, the best answers that our experience has yet given to those ever-urgent questions, “How can A.A. best function?” and, “How can A.A. best stay whole and so survive?”

And then we’d read the Traditions, usually the short form, occasionally someone would read the long form but I can’t remember why. Contrary to what I’ve been told lately, it doesn’t really take that long to read the short form of the Traditions. 😉 We were, in my humble opinion, a better group for following the traditions and learning from our history.

In our book Alcoholics Anonymous Comes of Age – Bill creates a fictional character, Mr. Grassroots,  who talks about the Convention here’s one of the excerpts from that:

“On Sunday morning—the last day of the Convention—I found those Twelve Traditions still on my mind. Each of them I saw is an exercise in humility that can guard us in everyday A.A. affairs and protect us from ourselves. If A.A. were really guided by the Twelve Traditions, we could not possibly be split apart by politics, religion, money, or by any old-timers who might take a notion to be big shots. With none of us throwing our weight around in public, nobody could possible exploit A.A. for personal advantage, that is sure. For the first time I saw A.A.’s anonymity for what it really is. It isn’t just something to save us from alcoholic shame and stigma; its deeper purpose is actually to keep those fool egos of ours from running hog wild after money and public fame at A.A.’s expense. It really means personal and group sacrifice for the benefit of all A.A. Right then I resolved to learn our Twelve Traditions by heart, just as I had learned the Twelve Steps. If every A.A. did the same thing and really soak up these principles we drunks could hang together forever.” page 42

So I say if A.A. groups really followed the advice of the Traditions perhaps we’d have less meetings that are stagnant because of an old-timer or two that wont let go of the reins. Or maybe a Group here in DC wouldn’t have made the cover of Newsweek back in 2007. Maybe we’d have stronger meetings that focus more on the path to recovery as described in our Big Book and less that focus on how sad life can be.

I have a couple of friends who carry around a pocket-sized red covered book that has the contents of the Big Book inside it. This book is not our text-book and it is not “Conference Approved”. [Recently online I saw a discussion where someone said there was no such thing as “Conference Approved” they’re mistaken, http://aa.org/en_pdfs/smf-29_en.pdf <== that link should take you to information on Conference Approved literature.] There are also several “recovery” or “A.A.” apps available in the many App stores, but only one of those is Conference Approved, this one: http://aa.org/lang/en/subpage.cfm?page=440 It’s clunky, but someone probably donated the time and energy to make the app. So if you can help them out, I’m certain our Central Office would appreciate it. [The Grapevine, has actually started to publish books in Kindle and Nook format, which is really much better and I hope A.A. follows suit as their current application seems to need the internet to access and if I’m 30,000 feet above the earth and want to read the book I’d be unable to.]

Why does it matter?

It matters for a few reasons, one if because of the Conference Approved literature bit… “This process assure that everything in such literature is in accord with A.A. principles. Conference-approved material always deals with the recovery program of Alcoholics Anonymous or with information about the A.A. Fellowship.” [please note: the recovery program and the A.A. fellowship are two separate things] If you’re not buying it from A.A. then there is no guarantee that what you’re getting is what we’re selling… for lack of a better word. (I always think of Orwell’s Animal Farm when I see these red books… I know that’s not what happened in that book, but it’s what comes to mind.)

and from Bill himself:

A.A.’s far-flung Twelfth Step activities, carrying the message to the next sufferer, are the very lifeblood of our A.A. adventure. Without this vital activity, we would soon become anemic; we would literally wither and die.

Now where do A.A.’s services—worldwide, area, local—fit into our scheme of things? Why should we provide these functions with money? The answer is simple enough. Every single A.A. service is designed to make more and better Twelfth Step work possible, whether it be a group meeting place, a central or intergroup office to arrange hospitalization and sponsorship, or the world service Headquarters [now the General Service Office] to maintain unity and effectiveness all over the globe.

Though not costly, these service agencies are absolutely essential to our continued expansion—to our survival as a Fellowship. Their costs are a collective obligation that rests squarely upon all of us. Our support of services actually amounts to recognition on our part that A.A. must everywhere function in full strength—and that, under our Tradition of self-support, we are all going to foot the bill.” Bill W. October 1967 Grapevine

So if you were to buy these items from our GSO you’d be helping to ensure our continued message across the globe, keep our offices open and you know what, just do it! that’s what my sponsor would have said… 🙂 There is a small, pocket-size version of the Big Book available from GSO or your local intergroup office. There is an app put out by GSO.

I’ve also recently seen a post on Facebook about Tradition Three—The only requirement for A.A. membership is a desire to stop drinking. That doesn’t mean you should just come and occupy a chair in a meeting, that’s all you need to get in the door. If you want the solution that we have to offer then you have to take certain steps. And if you want those steps to be here for the next guy then you should study and practice the Traditions, they matter and our program is too important to let them slip by the road on our journey. You’re responsible…

I am Responsible.  When anyone, anywhere, reaches out for help, I want the hand of A.A. always to be there.  And for that:  I am responsible.

We can’t wait for the guy after us to pick up the torch and be a safeguard to our legacy, it has to be us and it has to be today. It’s a program of action and that program needs to be protected by the people that hope the program is still here for many years to come.

Ok, I’m done… I think… now tonight I’ll go to my meeting and cringe as we only read one Tradition.. but at least we’re reading one of them.

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