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Friday Steps and Traditions

May 27

Read the Twelve and Twelve on the AA.org web site:

http://www.aa.org/pages/en_US/twelve-steps-and-twelve-traditions


When a newcomer is present, Link to Step-1 Reading: click here
"Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions" copyrighted by AA World Services, Inc. and  reprinted with permission.

Tradition Five

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

Long form of Tradition Five:

.—Each Alcoholics Anonymous group ought to be a spiritual entity having but one primary purpose—that of carrying its message to the alcoholic who still suffers.


"Shoemaker, stick to thy last!" ... better do one thing supremely well than many badly. That is the central theme of this Tradition. Around it our Society gathers in unity. The very life of our Fellowship requires the preservation of this principle.

Alcoholics Anonymous can be likened to a group of physicians who might find a cure for cancer, and upon whose concerted work would depend the answer for sufferers of this disease. True, each physician in such a group might have his own specialty. Every doctor concerned would at times wish he could devote himself to his chosen field rather than work only with the group. 

But once these men had hit upon c cure, once it became apparent that only by their united effort could this be accomplished, then all of them would feel bound to devote themselves solely to the relief of cancer. In the radiance of such a miraculous discovery, any doctor would set his other ambitions aside, at whatever personal cost. 

Just as firmly bound by obligation are the members of Alcoholics Anonymous, who have demonstrated that they can help problem drinkers as others seldom can. The unique ability of each A.A. to identify himself with, and bring recovery to, the newcomer in no way depends upon his learning, eloquence, or on any special individual skills. the only thing that matters is that he is an alcoholic who has found a key to sobriety. 

These legacies of suffering and of recovery are easily passed among alcoholics, one to the other. This is our gift from god, and its bestowal upon others like us is the one aim that today animates A.A.'s all around the globe.

There is another reason for this singleness of purpose. It is the great paradox of A.A. that we know we can seldom keep the precious gift of sobriety unless we give it away. If a group of doctors possessed a cancer cure, they might be conscience-stricken if they failed their mission through self-seeking. 

Yet such a failure wouldn't jeopardize their personal survival. for us, if we neglect those who are still sick, there is unremitting danger to our own lives and sanity. Under these compulsions of self-preservation, duty, and love, it is not strange that our Society has concluded that it has but one high mission - to carry the A.A. message to those who don't know there is a way out.

Highlighting the wisdom of A.A.'s single purpose, a member tells this story: "Restless one day, I felt I'd better do some Twelfth Step work. Maybe I should take out some insurance against a slip. But first I'd have to find a drunk to work on. 

"So I hopped the subway to Towns Hospital, where I asked Dr. Silkworth if he had a prospect. `Nothing too promising,' the little doc said. `There's just one chap on the third floor who might be a possibility. But he's an awfully tough Irishman. I never saw a man so obstinate. 

He shouts that if his partner would treat him better, and his wife would leave him alone, he'd soon solve his alcohol problem. He's had a bad case of D.T.'s, he's pretty foggy, and he's very suspicious of everybody. Doesn't sound too good, does it? But working with him may do something for you, so why don't you have a go at it?'

"I was soon sitting beside a big hulk of a man. Decidedly unfriendly, he stared at me out of eyes which were slits in his red and swollen face. I had to agree with the doctor - he certainly didn't look god. But I told him my own story. I explained what a wonderful Fellowship we had, how well we understood each other. 

I bore down hard on the hopelessness of the drunk's dilemma. I insisted that few drunks could ever get well on their own steam, but that in our groups we could do together what we could not do separately. He interrupted to scoff at this and asserted he'd fix his wife, his partner, and his alcoholism by himself. Sarcastically he asked, `How much does your scheme cost?'

"I was thankful I could tell him, `Nothing at all.'

"His next question: `What are you getting out of it?'

"Of course, my answer was `My own sobriety and a mighty happy life.'

"Still dubious, he demanded, `Do you really mean the only reason you are here is to try and help me and to help yourself?'

"`Yes,' I said. `That's absolutely all there is to it. There's no angle.'

"Then, hesitantly, I ventured to talk about the spiritual side of our program. What a freeze that drunk gave me! I'd no sooner got the word `spiritual' out of my mouth than he pounced. `Oh!' he said. `Now I get it! You're proselytizing for some damn religious sect or other. Where do you get that "no angle" stuff? I belong to a great church that means everything to me. You've got a nerve to come in here talking religion!" 

"Thank heaven I came up with the right answer for that one. It was based foursquare on the single purpose of A.A. `You have faith,' I said. `Perhaps far deeper faith than mine. No doubt you're better taught in religious matters than I. So I can't tell you anything about religion. I don't even want to try. I'll bet, too, that you could give me a letter-perfect definition of humility. 

But from what you've told me about yourself and your problems and how you propose to lock them, I think I know what's wrong.' "`Okay,' he said. `Give me the business.' "`Well,' I said, `I think you're just a conceited Irishman who thinks he can run the whole show.'

"This really rocked him. But as he calmed down, he began to listen while I tried to show him that humility was the main key to sobriety. Finally, he saw that I wasn't attempting to change his religious views, that I wanted him to find the grace in his own religion that would aid his recovery. From there on we got along fine.

"Now," concludes the oldtimer, "suppose I'd been obliged to talk to this man on religious grounds? Suppose my answer had to be that A.A. needed a lot of money; that A.A. went in for education, hospital, and rehabilitation? Suppose I'd suggested that I'd take a hand in his domestic and business affairs? Where would we have wound up? No place, of course." 

Years later, this tough Irish customer liked to say, "my sponsor sold me one idea, and that was sobriety. At the time, I couldn't have bought anything else."

End of reading

You can read the Twelve and Twelve on the AA.org web site:

http://www.aa.org/pages/en_US/twelve-steps-and-twelve-traditions

Updated for May 27





For next week - Step-6 / Tradition-6 starts bellow for copy and paste above ... Tradition-5 is below the step for the last Friday day of June... large paragraphs should be broken down smaller to a few sentences for easy of reader during the meeting. Remember that some readers are slower than others. Scrolling up and down makes it almost impossible for a member to keep up during the meeting.


STEP SIX

"Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character."

 

"This is the Step that separates the men from the boys." So declares a well-loved clergyman who happens to be one of A.A.'s greatest friends. He goes on to explain that any person capable of enough willingness and honesty to try repeatedly Step Six on all his faults--without any reservations whatever--has indeed come a long way spiritually, and is therefore entitled to be called a man who is sincerely trying to grow in the image and likeness of his own Creator.

 

Of course, the often disputed question of whether God can--and will, under certain conditions--remove defects of character will be answered with a prompt affirmative by almost any A.A. member. To him, this proposition will be no theory at all; it will be just about the largest fact in his life. He will usually offer his proof in a statement like this:

 

"Sure, I was beaten, absolutely licked. My own willpower just wouldn't work on alcohol. Change of scene, the best efforts of family, friends, doctors, and clergymen got no place with my alcoholism. I simply couldn't stop drinking, and no human being could seem to do the job for me. But when I became willing to clean house and then asked a Higher Power, God as I understood Him, to give me release, my obsession to drink vanished. It was lifted right out of me."

 

In A.A. meetings all over the world, statements just like this are heard daily. It is plain for everybody to see that each sober A.A. member has been granted a release from this very obstinate and potentially fatal obsession. So in a very complete and literal way, all A.A.'s have "become entirely ready" to have God remove the mania for alcohol from their lives. And God has proceeded to do exactly that. Having been granted a perfect release from alcoholism, why then shouldn't we be able to achieve by the same means a perfect release from every other difficulty or defect? This is a riddle of our existence, the full answer to which may be only in the mind of God. Nevertheless, at least a part of the answer to it is apparent to us.

 

When men and women pour so much alcohol into themselves that they destroy their lives, they commit a most unnatural act. Defying their instinctive desire for self-preservation, they seem bent upon self-destruction. They work against their own deepest instinct. As they are humbled by the terrific beating administered by alcohol, the grace of God can enter them and expel their obsession. Here their powerful instinct to live can cooperate fully with their Creator's desire to give them new life. For nature and God alike abhor suicide.

 

But most of our other difficulties don't fall under such a category at all. Every normal person wants, for example, to eat, to reproduce, to be somebody in the society of his fellows. And he wishes to be reasonably safe and secure as he tries to attain these things. Indeed, God made him that way. He did not design man to destroy himself by alcohol, but He did give man instincts to help him to stay alive.

 

It is nowhere evident, at least in this life, that our Creator expects us fully to eliminate our instinctual drives. So far as we know, it is nowhere on the record that God has completely removed from any human being all his natural drives.

 

Since most of us are born with an abundance of natural desires, it isn't strange that we often let these far exceed their intended purpose. When they drive us blindly, or we willfully demand that they supply us with more satisfactions or pleasures than are possible or due us, that is the point at which we depart from the degree of perfection that God wishes for us here on earth. That is the measure of our character defects, or, if you wish, of our sins.

 

If we ask, God will certainly forgive our derelictions. But in no case does He render us white as snow and keep us that way without our cooperation. That is something we are supposed to be willing to work toward ourselves. He asks only that we try as best we know how to make progress in the building of character.

 

So Step Six--"Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character"--is A.A.'s way of stating the best possible attitude one can take in order to make a beginning on this lifetime job. This does not mean that we expect all our character defects to be lifted out of us as the drive to drink was. A few of them may be, but with most of them we shall have to be content with patient improvement. The key words "entirely ready" underline the fact that we want to aim at the very best we know or can learn.

 

How many of us have this degree of readiness? In an absolute sense practically nobody has it. The best we can do, with all the honesty that we can summon, is to try to have it. Even then the best of us will discover to our dismay that there is always a sticking point, a point at which we say, "No, I can't give this up yet." And we shall often tread on even more dangerous ground when we cry, "This I will never give up!" Such is the power of our instincts to overreach themselves. No matter how far we have progressed, desires will always be found which oppose the grace of God.

 

Some who feel they have done well may dispute this, so let's try to think it through a little further. Practically everybody wishes to be rid of his most glaring and destructive handicaps. No one wants to be so proud that he is scorned as a braggart, nor so greedy that he is labeled a thief. No one wants to be angry enough to murder, lustful enough to rape, gluttonous enough to ruin his health. No one wants to be agonized by the chronic pain of envy or to be paralyzed by sloth. Of course, most human beings don't suffer these defects at these rock-bottom levels.

 

We who have escaped these extremes are apt to congratulate ourselves. Yet can we? After all, hasn't it been self-interest, pure and simple, that has enabled most of us to escape? Not much spiritual effort is involved in avoiding excesses which will bring us punishment anyway. But when we face up to the less violent aspects of these very same defects, then where do we stand?

 

What we must recognize now is that we exult in some of our defects. We really love them. Who, for example, doesn't like to feel just a little superior to the next fellow, or even quite a lot superior? Isn't it true that we like to let greed masquerade as ambition? To think of liking lust seems impossible. But how many men and women speak love with their lips, and believe what they say, so that they can hide lust in a dark corner of their minds? And even while staying within conventional bounds, many people have to admit that their imaginary sex excursions are apt to be all dressed up as dreams of romance.

 

Self-righteous anger also can be very enjoyable. In a perverse way we can actually take satisfaction from the fact that many people annoy us, for it brings a comfortable feeling of superiority. Gossip barbed with our anger, a polite form of murder by character assassination, has its satisfactions for us, too. Here we are not trying to help those we criticize; we are trying to proclaim our own righteousness.

 

When gluttony is less than ruinous, we have a milder word for that, too; we call it "taking our comfort." We live in a world riddled with envy. To a greater or less degree, everybody is infected with it. From this defect we must surely get a warped yet definite satisfaction. Else why would we consume such great amounts of time wishing for what we have not, rather than working for it, or angrily looking for attributes we shall never have, instead of adjusting to the fact, and accepting it? And how often we work hard with no better motive than to be secure and slothful later on-- only we call that "retiring." Consider, too, our talents for procrastination, which is really sloth in five syllables. Nearly anyone could submit a good list of such defects as these, and few of us would seriously think of giving them up, at least until they cause us excessive misery.

 

Some people, of course, may conclude that they are indeed ready to have all such defects taken from them. But even these people, if they construct a list of still milder defects, will be obliged to admit that they prefer to hang on to some of them. Therefore, it seems plain that few of us can quickly or easily become ready to aim at spiritual and moral perfection; we want to settle for only as much perfection as will get us by in life, according, of course, to our various and sundry ideas of what will get us by. So the difference between "the boys and the men" is the difference between striving for a self-determined objective and for the perfect objective which is of God.

 

Many will at once ask, "How can we accept the entire implication of Step Six? Why--that is perfection!" This sounds like a hard question, but practically speaking, it isn't. Only Step One, where we made the 100 percent admission we were powerless over alcohol, can be practiced with absolute perfection. The remaining eleven Steps state perfect ideals. They are goals toward which we look, and the measuring sticks by which we estimate our progress. Seen in this light, Step Six is still difficult, but not at all impossible. The only urgent thing is that we make a beginning, and keep trying.

 

If we would gain any real advantage in the use of this Step on problems other than alcohol, we shall need to make a brand new venture into open-mindedness. We shall need to raise our eyes toward perfection, and be ready to walk in that direction. It will seldom matter how haltingly we walk. The only question will be "Are we ready?"

 

Looking again at those defects we are still unwilling to give up, we ought to erase the hard-and-fast lines that we have drawn. Perhaps we shall be obliged in some cases still to say, "This I cannot give up yet...," but we should not say to ourselves, "This I will never give up!"

 

Let's dispose of what appears to be a hazardous open end we have left. It is suggested that we ought to become entirely willing to aim toward perfection. We note that some delay, however, might be pardoned. That word, in the mind of a rationalizing alcoholic, could certainly be given a long term meaning. He could say, "How very easy! Sure, I'll head toward perfection, but I'm certainly not going to hurry any. Maybe I can postpone dealing with some of my problems indefinitely." Of course, this won't do. Such a bluffing of oneself will have to go the way of many another pleasant rationalization. At the very least, we shall have to come to grips with some of our worst character defects and take action toward their removal as quickly as we can.

 

The moment we say, "No, never!" our minds close against the grace of God. Delay is dangerous, and rebellion may be fatal. This is the exact point at which we abandon limited objectives, and move toward God's will for us.

End Step-6

bellow Tradition-6 for next week to cut and paste above.

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."

 

The moment we saw that we had an answer for alcoholism, it was reasonable (or so it seemed at the time) for us to feel that we might have the answer to a lot of other things. The A.A. groups, many thought, could go into business, might finance any enterprise whatever in the total field of alcoholism. In fact, we felt duty-bound to throw the whole weight of the A.A. name behind any meritorious cause.

 

Here are some of the things we dreamed. Hospitals didn't like alcoholics, so we thought we'd build a hospital chain of our own. People needed to be told what alcoholism was, so we'd educate the public, even rewrite school and medical textbooks. We'd gather up derelicts from skid rows, sort out those who could get well, and make it possible for the rest to earn their livelihood in a kind of quarantined confinement. Maybe these places would make large sums of money to carry on our other good works. We seriously thought of rewriting the laws of the land , and having it declared that alcoholics are sick people. No more would they be jailed; judges would parole them in our custody. We'd spill A.A. into the dark regions of dope addiction and criminality. We'd form groups of depressive and paranoid folks; the deeper the neurosis, the better we'd like it. It stood to reason that if alcoholism could be licked, so could any problem.

 

It occurred to us that we could take what we had into the factories and cause laborers and capitalists to love each other. Our uncompromising honesty might soon clean up politics. With one arm around the shoulder of medicine, we'd resolve their differences. Having learned to live so happily, we'd show everybody else how. Why, we thought, our Society of Alcoholics Anonymous might prove to be the spearhead of a new spiritual advance! We might transform the world.

 

Yes, we of A.A. did dream those dreams. How natural that was, since most alcoholics are bankrupt idealists. Nearly every one of us had wished to do great good, perform great deeds, and embody great ideals. We are all perfectionists who, failing perfection, have gone to the other extreme and settled for the bottle and the blackout. Providence, through A.A., had brought us within reach of our highest expectations. So why shouldn't we share our way of life with everyone?

 

Whereupon we tried A.A. hospitals-they all bogged down because you cannot put an A.A. group into business; too many busybody cooks spoil the broth. A.A. groups had their fling at education, and when they began to publicly whoop up the merits of this or that brand, people became confused. Did A.A. fix drunks or was it an educational project? Was A.A. spiritual or was it medical? Was it a reform movement? In consternation, we saw ourselves getting married to all kinds of enterprises, some good and some not so good. Watching alcoholics committed will-nilly to prisons or asylums, we began to cry, "There oughtta be a law!" A.A.'s commenced to thump tables in legislative committee rooms and agitated for legal reform. That made good newspaper copy, but little else. We saw we'd soon be mired in politics. Even inside A.A. we found it imperative to remove the A.A. name from clubs and Twelfth Step houses.

 

These adventures implanted a deep-rooted conviction that in no circumstances could we endorse any related enterprise, no matter how good. We of Alcoholics Anonymous could not be all things to all men, nor should we try.

 

Years ago this principle of "no endorsement" was put to a vital test. Some of the great distilling companies proposed to go into the field of alcohol education. It would be a good thing, they believed, for the liquor trade to show a sense of public responsibility. They wanted to say that liquor should be enjoyed, not misused; hard drinkers ought to slow down, and problem drinkers-alcoholics-should not drink at all.

 

In one of their trade associations, the question arose of just how this campaign should be handled. Of course, they would use the resources of radio, press, and films to make their point. But what kind of person should head the job? They immediately thought of Alcoholics Anonymous. If they could find a good public relations man in our ranks, why wouldn't he be ideal? He'd certainly know the problem. His connection with A.A. would be valuable, because the Fellowship stood high in public favor and hadn't an enemy in the world.

 

Soon they'd spotted their man, an A.A. with the necessary experience. Straightway he appeared at New York's A.A. headquarters, asking, "Is there anything in our tradition that suggests I shouldn't take a job like this one? The kind of education seems good to me, and is not too controversial. Do you headquarters folks see any bugs in it?"

 

At first glance, it did look like a good thing. Then doubt crept in. The association wanted to use our member's full name in all its advertising; he was to be described both as its director of publicity and as a member of Alcoholics Anonymous. Of course, there couldn't be the slightest objection if such an association hired an A.A. member solely because of his public relations ability and his knowledge of alcoholism. But that wasn't the whole story, for in this case not only was an A.A. member to break his anonymity at a public level, he was to link the name Alcoholics Anonymous to this particular educational project in the minds of millions. It would be bound to appear that A.A. was now backing education-liquor trade association style.

 

The minute we saw this compromising fact for what it was, we asked the prospective publicity director how he felt about it. "Great guns!" he said. "Of course I can't take the job. The ink wouldn't be dry on the first ad before an awful shriek would go up from the dry camp. They'd be out with lanterns looking for an honest A.A. to plump for their brand of education. A.A. would land exactly in the middle of the wet-dry controversy. Half the people in this country would think we'd signed up with the drys, the other half would think we'd joined the wets. What a mess!"

 

"Nevertheless," we pointed out, "you still have a legal right to take this job."

 

"I know that," he said. "But this is no time for legalities. Alcoholics Anonymous saved my life, and it comes first. I certainly won't be the guy to land A.A. in big-time trouble, and this would really do it!"

 

Concerning endorsements, our friend had said it all. We saw as never before that we could not lend the A.A. name to any cause other than our own.

END Tradition-6



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