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The 12 Traditions of AA – The What and Why of these Practices

12 tradition
The A.A. Preamble states: Our primary purpose is to stay sober and help other alcoholics to achieve sobriety (freedom from alcohol). Singleness of Purpose and Problems Other Than Alcohol It’s worth noting that the Third Tradition was written primarily to keep the doors of A.A. open to everyone who suffered from alcoholism. We also think the Third Tradition assumes we are talking about a person who has a drinking problem. Therefore, a person without a history of problem drinking is not eligible for A.A. membership. This would of course include nonalcoholic drug addicts. A drug addict with a drinking problem can become an A.A. member. George E. Vaillant, M.D., nonalcoholic trustee of the A.A. General Service Board, made the following statement: Singleness of purpose is essential to the effective treatment of alcoholism. Unless alcoholism is kept relentlessly in the foreground, other issues will usurp everybody s attention.

Any organization, big or small, requires a framework that helps it to operate and grow. A society as large as Alcoholics Anonymous works according to what are known as the 12 traditions of AA, which provide spiritual and practical guidance for governance. 

The difference between steps and principles

In 1946, the co-founder of AA, Bill Wilson wrote an article titled ‘Twelve Suggested Points for AA Tradition’. These were the initial framework of the 12 traditions.   

Many people may get confused between the 12 steps of alcoholics anonymous and the principles.  

The steps are the roadmap which helps alcoholics to acknowledge that they have a problem, seek help from someone (ideally a higher authority), and imbibe and practice healthy behaviours.

The principles, on the other hand, help the organisation to govern itself and focus on its core objective of providing a safe and free space to anyone who wants to break free from addiction and lead a sober life.   

The Principles

You will find these in all AA Meetings that you attend. Here they are:

  1. The common welfare of AA group always comes first. Personal recovery is due to the support of the group’s unity. 
  2. The ultimate authority for the group is God. AA leaders of AA serve, they don’t govern.
  3. The desire to stop drinking is the only requirement for being an AA member.
  4. All AA groups are autonomous, but not in matters that affect other groups or the entirety of AA.
  5. Each AA group has the singular purpose of carrying its message to active alcoholics.
  6. No AA group shall endorse, finance, or allow use of the AA name outside of the group.
  7. Each AA group must be self-supporting in every way. Outside contributions must be declined and money problems must be avoided.
  8. AA must always remain non-professional. If needed, service centers can employ special workers.
  9. There must never be a centralized organization. Service boards and committees can form but they will be directly responsible to those they serve. 
  10. AA will remain aloof of outside issues and any kind of public controversy.
  11. Outreach shall never be promotional. While it shall attract members, it won’t have an organized public relations policy.
  12. The spiritual foundation of all traditions is anonymity. And, principles will always remain above personalities.

As you can see, these principles are for the society to operate as a singular force. At any AA meeting you attend, you will find these principles in action at all times. There is no force of pressure for you to attend, nor will there be any publicity regarding AA.

If you feel that you or a loved one may be addicted to drinking, you can check this society out and attend a meeting to see if you like it.

Also, if you want to keep a tab on your own sobriety, you can use an A.A. Sobriety Calculator. This will tell you exactly how much time has passed since you had your last drink.

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