Thumping the Twelve Traditions

When I was fairly new in recovery I was very involved in two of the groups where I regularly attended meetings. One of those meetings was very Step and Tradition focused and the other was very… entertainment doesn’t seem like the right word.. but they were about the message and the fun in recovery – as it was a speaker meeting you never knew what kind of message you might hear coming from the individual, almost always good though. Both groups encouraged participation at all levels of the group – commitments (making coffee, setting up chairs, greeting), service positions (GSR, Secretary, Delegate, Treasurer), fellowship… well one group was only really into the fellowship when we met every week… lol. Both of those groups encouraged people to be involved in the meetings they went to – the idea is that if you participate you’ll have more vested into your own recovery. Participating means I might get to know other people in my group who are participating and make them a part of my life. It’s a nice little system, I’m sure other organizations do the same things.

They shared with me the idea and importance of the spirit of rotation, encouraged me to read up on the history to see how these things came into being and why they’re so important. They led the way into service – inviting me to see how it all works behind the scenes. I was exposed to the Traditions and Concepts very early on by people who utilized them in the service structure and in everyday life. I consider myself lucky – most people consider me a geek in these regards, that’s ok. They shared what was so freely shared with them, in love and for my own good.

I’ve been tossing around the idea lately of a monthly Traditions meeting in the valley – where each month we’d invite people to come and hear a member from the service structure share on the Tradition of the month. (I’d like a once a week meeting but I think I’m the exception). We have many members in the valley who have experience with the Traditions in service and in life (I wrote about it here In All Our Affairs). My experience, and that’s all it is, is that my recovery is richer as a result of my knowledge and use of the traditions (on occasion it has also been a transforming agent, exposing my inner bleeding deacon) and sometimes the concepts.

I’ve approached many people whose recovery I admire about the Traditions, specifically this meeting, but I haven’t gotten a lot of hits. A relative newcomer with under two years showed interest (as his sponsor has given him tasks directly related to the Traditions) but the old timers (long timers if you’re sensitive) don’t seem to be. I shouldn’t be that surprised I guess – Bill W had trouble selling them to the fellowship back when he wrote them.

I guess I keep thinking if there are more knowledgeable people then there might be more people interested in serving. More people interested in serving means more people rotate out of the service structure as fresh faces come in (we aren’t Congress, we should let other people participate). I think new ideas and open minds are a great tool for us to keep growing and changing to meet the needs of the many.

Service and the Traditions, like meetings and the Steps, can be a daunting challenge for newcomers and old-timers alike, but that doesn’t mean we give up trying to do the right thing. On occasion I struggle to reach out and ask for help – on occasion I struggle to see another point of view in a business meeting – but I keep going to those meetings because I know the system works.

When I was younger (and maybe still today) I was a creature the Traditions warned against – I am a stickler for rules and things being done certain ways. I used to joke that we should get tasers (this was really before tasers had a name – damn I’m old) for when people were off topic in meetings and that we needed AA Police (Ok, I was rather serious). I wanted to toss out the special interest meetings (gay meetings [I’m gay – big shocker] and others), the meetings that had 50/50 raffles, the meetings that read from 24 Hours A Day… but the traditions say each group is autonomous (they can all do what they want) and that individuals have no authority – no personalities in AA (I know a few)… the Traditions protect against people like me and people sicker than me (can you imagine?)

I was at a business meeting recently and saw the power of our membership voting – first we had a heated discussion, concepts and traditions were cited. In the end all members of that body got to vote. No individual member gets to decide what they think is best – the first word in the first step: “We” it’s ours. Even the first Tradition:

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

We have guidelines, traditions, concepts to show us how to safely protect the organization that helped show us a way out of the darkness. I just wish more people knew about them.

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