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Friday Steps and Traditions

July 29

 . 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.

Raise your hand !! at anytime during the reading if you would like to share.

Tradition Seven

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

 SELF-SUPPORTING alcoholics? Who ever heard of such a thing? Yet we find that's what we have to be. This principle is telling evidence of the profound change that A.A. has wrought in all of us. Everybody knows that active alcoholics scream that they have no troubles money can't cure. Always, we've had our hands out. 

Time out of mind we've been dependent upon somebody, usually money-wise. When a society composed entirely of alcoholics says it's going to pay its bills, that's really news.

 Probably no A.A. Tradition had the labor pains this one did. In early times, we were all broke. When you add to this the habitual supposition that people ought to give money to alcoholics trying to stay sober, it can be understood why we thought we deserved a pile of folding money. What great things A.A. would be able to do with it! But oddly enough, people who had money thought otherwise. They figured that it was high time we now--sober--paid our own way. So our Fellowship stayed poor because it had to.

 There was another reason for our collective poverty. It was soon apparent that while alcoholics would spend lavishly on Twelfth Step cases, they had a terrific aversion to dropping money into a meeting-place hat for group purposes. We were astounded to find that we were as tight as the bark on a tree. So A.A., the movement, started and stayed broke, while its individual members waxed prosperous.

 Alcoholics are certainly all-or-nothing people. Our reactions to money prove this. As A.A. emerged from its infancy into adolescence, we swung from the idea that we needed vast sums of money to the notion that A.A. shouldn't have any. On every lip were the words "You can't mix A.A. and money. We shall have to separate the spiritual from the material." 

We took this violent new tack because here and there members had tied to make money out of their A.A. connections, and we feared we'd be exploited. Now and then, grateful benefactors had endowed clubhouses, and as a result there was sometimes outside interference in our affairs. We had been presented with a hospital, and almost immediately the donor's son became its principal patient and would-be manager. 

One A.A. group was given five thousand dollars to do with what it would. The hassle over that chunk of money played havoc for years. Frightened by these complications, some groups refused to have a cent in their treasuries.

 Despite these misgivings, we had to recognize the fact that A.A. had to function. Meeting places cost something. To save whole areas from turmoil, small offices had to be set up, telephones installed, and a few full-time secretaries hired. Over many protests, these things were accomplished. 

We saw that if they weren't, the man coming in the door couldn't get a break. These simple services would require small sums of money which we could and would pay ourselves. At last the pendulum stopped swinging and pointed straight at Tradition Seven as it reads today.

 In this connection, Bill likes to tell the following pointed story. He explains that when Jack Alexander's Saturday Evening Post piece broke in 1941, thousands of frantic letters from distraught alcoholics and their families hit the Foundation* letterbox in New York. "Our office staff," Bill says, "consisted of two people: one devoted secretary and myself. 

How could this landslide of appeals be met? We'd have to have some more full-time help, that was sure. So we asked the A.A. groups for voluntary contributions. Would they send us a dollar a member a year? Otherwise this heartbreaking mail would have to go unanswered.

 "To my surprise, the response of the groups was slow. I got mighty sore about it. Looking at this avalanche of mail one morning at the office, I paced up and down ranting how irresponsible and tightwad my fellow members were. Just then an old acquaintance stuck a tousled and aching head in the door. He was our prize slippee. I could see he had an awful hangover. 

Remembering some of my own, my heart filled with pit. I motioned him to my inside cubicle and produced a five-dollar bill. As my total income was thirty dollars a week at the time, this was a fairly large donation. Lois really needed the money for groceries, but that didn't stop me. 

The intense relief on my friend's face warmed my heart. I felt especially virtuous as I thought of all the ex-drunks who wouldn't even send the Foundation a dollar apiece, and here I was gladly making a five-dollar investment to fix a hangover.

 "The meeting that night was at New York's old 24th Street Clubhouse. During the intermission, the treasurer gave a timid talk on how broke the club was. (That was in the period when you couldn't mix money and A.A.) But finally he said it--the landlord would put us out if we didn't pay up. He concluded his remarks by saying, "Now boys, please go heavier on the hat tonight, will you?"

 "I heard all this quite plainly, as I was piously trying to convert a newcomer who sat next to me. The hat came in my direction, and I reached into my pocket. Still working on my prospect, I fumbled and came up with a fifty-cent piece. Somehow it looked like a very big coin. Hastily, I dropped it back and fished out a dime, which clinked thinly as I dropped it in the hat. Hats never got folding money in those days.

 "Then I woke up. I who had boasted my generosity that morning was treating my own club worse than the distant alcoholics who had forgotten to send the Foundation their dollars. I realized that my five-dollar gift to the slippee was an ego-feeding proposition, bad for him and bad for me. There was a place in A.A. where spirituality and money would mix, and that was in the hat!"

 There is another story about money. One night in 1948, the trustees of the Foundation were having their quarterly meeting. The agenda discussion included a very important question. A certain lady had died. When her will was read, it was discovered she had left Alcoholics Anonymous in trust with the Alcoholic Foundation a sum of ten thousand dollars. The question was: Should A.A. take the gift?

 What a debate we had on that one! The Foundation was really hard up just then; the groups weren't sending in enough for the support of the office; we had been tossing in all the book income and even that hadn't been enough. The reserve was melting like snow in springtime. We needed that ten thousand dollars. "Maybe," some said, "the groups will never fully support the office. We can't let it shut down; it's far too vital. Yes, let's take the money. Let's take all such donations in the future. We're going to need them."

 Then came the opposition. They pointed out that the Foundation board already knew of a total of half a million dollars set aside for A.A. in the wills of people still alive. Heaven only knew how much there was we hadn't heard about. If outside donations weren't declined, absolutely cut off, then the Foundation would one day become rich. 

Moreover, at the slightest intimation to the general public from our trustees that we needed money, we could become immensely rich. Compared to this prospect, the ten thousand dollars under consideration wasn't much, but like the alcoholic's first drink it would, if taken, inevitably set up a disastrous chain reaction. Where would that land us? 

Whoever pays the piper is apt to call the tune, and if the A.A. Foundation obtained money from outside sources, its trustees might be tempted to run things without reference to the wishes of A.A. as a while. Relieved of responsibility, every alcoholic would shrug and say, "Oh, the Foundation is wealthy--why should I bother?" The pressure of that fat treasury would surely tempt the board to invent all kinds of schemes to do good with such funds, and so divert A.A. from its primary purpose. 

The moment that happened, our Fellowship's confidence would be shaken. The board would be isolated, and would fall under heavy attack of criticism from both A.A. and the public. These were the possibilities, pro and con.

 Then our trustees wrote a bright page of A.A. history. They declared for the principle that A.A. must always stay poor. Bare running expenses plus a prudent reserve would henceforth be the Foundation's financial policy. Difficult as it was, they officially declined that ten thousand dollars, and adopted a formal, airtight resolution that all such future gifts would be similarly declined. At that moment, we believe, the principle of corporate poverty was firmly and finally embedded in A.A. tradition.

 When these facts were printed, there was a profound reaction. To people familiar with endless drives for charitable funds, A.A. presented a strange and refreshing spectacle. Approving editorials here and abroad generated a wave of confidence in the integrity of Alcoholics Anonymous. They pointed out that the irresponsible had become responsible, and that by making financial independence part of its tradition, Alcoholics Anonymous had revived an ideal that its era had almost forgotten.

 * In 1954, the name of the Alcoholic Foundation, Inc., was changed to the General Service Board of Alcoholics Anonymous, Inc., and the Foundation office is now the General Service Office.


End of Reading

reading updated for July 29




For month August - Step-8 / Tradition-8 are bellow for cut and paste above ... The Tradition is below the Step for the last Friday day of the month... large paragraphs should be broken down smaller, a few sentences, for the 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 EIGHT

"Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all."

 

Steps Eight and Nine are concerned with personal relations. First, we take a look backward and try to discover where we have been at fault; next we make a vigorous attempt to repair the damage we have done; and third, having thus cleaned away the debris of the past, we consider how, with our newfound knowledge of ourselves, we may develop the best possible relations with every human being we know.

 

 

This is a very large order. It is a task which we may perform with increasing skill, but never really finish. Learning how to live in the greatest peace, partnership, and brotherhood with all men and women, of whatever description, is a moving and fascinating adventure. Every A.A. has found that he can make little headway in this new adventure of living until he first backtracks and really makes an accurate and unsparing survey of the human wreckage he has left in his wake. To a degree, he has already done this when taking moral inventory, but now the time has come when he ought to redouble his efforts to see how many people he has hurt, and in what ways. This reopening of emotional wounds, some old, some perhaps forgotten, and some still painfully festering, will at first look like a purposeless and pointless piece of surgery. But if a willing start is made, then the great advantages of doing this will so quickly reveal themselves that the pain will be lessened as one obstacle after another melts away.

 

 

These obstacles, however, are very real. The first, and one of the most difficult, has to do with forgiveness. The moment we ponder a twisted or broken relationship with another person, our emotions go on the defensive. To escape looking at the wrongs we have done another, we resentfully focus on the wrong he has done us. This is especially true if he has, in fact, behaved badly at all. Triumphantly we seize upon his misbehavior as the perfect excuse for minimizing or forgetting our own.

 

Right here we need to fetch ourselves up sharply. It doesn't make much sense when a real toss pot calls a kettle black. Let's remember that alcoholics are not the only ones bedeviled by sick emotions. Moreover, it is usually a fact that our behavior when drinking has aggravated the defects of others. We've repeatedly strained the patience of our best friends to a snapping point, and have brought out the very worst in those who didn't think much of us to begin with. In many instances we are really dealing with fellow sufferers, people whose woes we have increased. If we are now about to ask forgiveness for ourselves, why shouldn't we start out by forgiving them, one and all?

 

When listing the people we have harmed, most of us hit another solid obstacle. We got a pretty severe shock when we realized that we were preparing to make a face-to-face admission of our wretched conduct to those we had hurt. It had been embarrassing enough when in confidence we had admitted these things to God, to ourselves, and to another human being. But the prospect of actually visiting or even writing the people concerned now overwhelmed us, especially when we remembered in what poor favor we stood with most of them. There were cases, too, where we had damaged others who were still happily unaware of being hurt. Why, we cried, shouldn't bygones be bygones? Why do we have to think of these people at all? These were some of the ways in which fear conspired with pride to hinder our making a list of all the people we had harmed.

 

Some of us, though, tripped over a very different snag. We clung to the claim that when drinking we never hurt anybody but ourselves. Our families didn't suffer, because we always paid the bills and seldom drank at home. Our business associates didn't suffer, because we were usually on the job. Our reputations hadn't suffered, because we were certain few knew of our drinking. Those who did would sometimes assure us that, after all, a lively bender was only a good man's fault. What real harm, therefore, had we done? No more, surely, than we could easily mend with a few casual apologies.

 

This attitude, of course, is the end result of purposeful forgetting. It is an attitude which can only be changed by a deep and honest search of our motives and actions.

 

Though in some cases we cannot make restitution at all, and in some cases action ought to be deferred, we should nevertheless make an accurate and really exhaustive survey of our past life as it has affected other people. In many instances we shall find that though the harm done others has not been great, the emotional harm we have done ourselves has. Very deep, sometimes quite forgotten, damaging emotional conflicts persist below the level of consciousness. At the time of these occurrences, they may actually have given our emotions violent twists which have since discolored our personalities and altered our lives for the worse.

 

While the purpose of making restitution to others is paramount, it is equally necessary that we extricate from an examination of our personal relations every bit of information about ourselves and our fundamental difficulties that we can. Since defective relations with other human beings have nearly always been the immediate cause of our woes, including our alcoholism, no field of investigation could yield more satisfying and valuable rewards than this one. Calm, thoughtful reflection upon personal relations can deepen our insight. We can go far beyond those things which were superficially wrong with us, to see those flaws which were basic, flaws which sometimes were responsible for the whole pattern of our lives. Thoroughness, we have found, will pay--and pay handsomely.

 

We might next ask ourselves what we mean when we say that we have "harmed" other people. What kinds of "harm" do people do one another, anyway? To define the word "harm" in a practical way, we might call it the result of instincts in collision, which cause physical, mental, emotional, or spiritual damage to people. If our tempers are consistently bad, we arouse anger in others. If we lie or cheat, we deprive others not only of their worldly goods, but of their emotional security and peace of mind. We really issue them an invitation to become contemptuous and vengeful. If our sex conduct is selfish, we may excite jealousy, misery, and a strong desire to retaliate in kind.

 

Such gross misbehavior is not by any means a full catalogue of the harms we do. Let us think of some of the subtler ones which can sometimes be quite as damaging. Suppose that in our family lives we happen to be miserly, irresponsible, callous, or cold. Suppose that we are irritable, critical, impatient, and humorless. Suppose we lavish attention upon one member of the family and neglect the others. What happens when we try to dominate the whole family, either by a rule of iron or by a constant outpouring of minute directions for just how their lives should be lived from hour to hour? What happens when we wallow in depression, self-pity oozing from every pore, and inflict that upon those about us? Such a roster of harms done others--the kind that make daily living with us as practicing alcoholics difficult and often unbearable could be extended almost indefinitely. When we take such personality traits as these into shop, office, and the society of our fellows, they can do damage almost as extensive as that we have caused at home.

 

Having carefully surveyed this whole area of human relations, and having decided exactly what personality traits in us injured and disturbed others, we can now commence to ransack memory for the people to whom we have given offense. To put a finger on the nearby and most deeply damaged ones shouldn't be hard to do. Then, as year by year we walk back through our lives as far as memory will reach, we shall be bound to construct a long list of people who have, to some extent or other, been affected. We should, of course, ponder and weigh each instance carefully. We shall want to hold ourselves to the course of admitting the things we have done, meanwhile forgiving the wrongs done us, real or fancied. We should avoid extreme judgments, both of ourselves and of others involved. We must not exaggerate our defects or theirs. A quiet, objective view will be our steadfast aim.

 

Whenever our pencil falters, we can fortify and cheer ourselves by remembering what A.A. experience in this Step has meant to others. It is the beginning of the end of isolation from our fellows and from God.

    end Step-8


TRADITION EIGHT

"Alcoholics Anonymous should remain forever nonprofessional, but our service centers may employ special workers."

 

ALCOHOLICS ANONYMOUS will never have a professional class. We have gained some understanding of the ancient words "Freely ye have received, freely give." We have discovered that at the point of professionalism, money and spirituality do not mis. Almost no recovery from alcoholism has ever been brought about by the world's best professionals, whether medical or religious. We do not decry professionalism in other fields, but we accept the sober fact that it does not work for us. Every time we have tried to professionalize our Twelfth Step, the result has been exactly the same: Our single purpose has been defeated.

 

Alcoholics simply will not listen to a pain twelfth-stepper. Almost from the beginning, we have been positive that face-to-face work with the alcoholic who suffers could be based only on the desire to help and be helped. When an A.A. talks for money, whether at a meeting or to a single newcomer, it can have a very bad effect on him, too. The money motive compromises him and everything he says and does for his prospect. This has always been so obvious that only a very few A.A.'s have ever worked the Twelfth Step for a fee.

 

Despite this certainty, it is nevertheless true that few subjects have been the cause of more contention within our Fellowship than professionalism. Caretakers who swept floors, cooks who fried hamburgers, secretaries in offices, authors writing books--all these we have seen hotly assailed because they were, as their critics angrily remarked, "making money out of A.A." Ignoring the fact that these labors were not Twelfth Step jobs at all, the critics attacked as A.A. professionals these workers of ours who were often doing thankless tasks that no one else could or would do. Even greater furors were provoked when A.A. members began to run rest homes and farms for alcoholics, when some hired out to corporations as personnel men in charge of the alcoholic wards, when others entered the field of alcohol education. In all these instances, and more, it was claimed that A.A. knowledge and experience were being sold for money, hence these people, too, were professionals.

 

At last, however, a plain line of cleavage could be seen between professionalism and nonprofessionalism. When we had agreed that the Twelfth Step couldn't be sold for money, we had been wise. But when we had declared that our Fellowship couldn't hire service workers nor could any A.A. member carry our knowledge into other fields, we were taking the counsel of fear, fear which today has been largely dispelled in the light of experience.

 

Take the case of the club janitor and cook. If a club is going to function, it has to be habitable and hospitable. We tried volunteers, who were quickly disenchanted with sweeping floors and brewing coffee seven days a week. They just didn't show up. Even more important, an empty club couldn't answer its telephone, but it was an open invitation to a drunk on a binge who possessed a spare key. So somebody had to look after the place full time. If we hired an alcoholic, he'd receive only what we'd have to pay a nonalcoholic for the same job. The job was not to do Twelfth Step work; it was to make Twelfth Step work possible. It was a service proposition, pure and simple.

 

Neither could A.A. itself function without full-time workers. At the Foundation* and intergroup offices, we couldn't employ nonalcoholics as secretaries; we had to have people who knew the A.A. pitch. But the minute we hired them, the ultraconservative and fearful ones shrilled, "Professionalism!" At one period, the status of these faithful servants was almost unbearable. They weren't asked to speak at A.A. meetings because they were `making money out of A.A." At times, they were actually shunned by fellow members. Even the charitably disposed described them as "a necessary evil." Committees took full advantage of this attitude to depress their salaries. They could regain some measure of virtue, it was thought, if they worked for A.A. real cheap. These notions persisted for years. Then we saw that if a hard working secretary answered the phone dozens of times a day, listened to twenty wailing wives, arranged hospitalization and got sponsorship for ten newcomers, and was gently diplomatic with the irate drunk who complained about the job she was doing and how she was overpaid, then such a person could surely not be called a professional A.A. She was not professionalizing the Twelfth Step; she was just making it possible. She was helping to give the man coming in the door the break he ought to have. Volunteer committeemen and assistants could be of great help, but they could not be expected to carry this load day in and day out.

 

At the Foundation, the same story repeats itself. Eight tons of books and literature per month do not package and channel themselves all over the world. Sacks of letters on every conceivable A.A. problem ranging from a lonely-heart Eskimo to the growing pains of thousands of groups must be answered by people who know. Right contacts with the world outside have to be maintained. A.A.'s lifelines have to be tended. So we hire A.A. staff members. We pay them well, and they earn what they get. They are professional secretaries, * but they certainly are not professional A.A.'s.

 

*The work of the present-day staff members has no counterpart among the job categories of commercial organizations. These A.A.'s bring a wide range of business and professional experience to their service at G.S.O.

 

Perhaps the fear will always lurk in every A.A. heart that one day our name will be exploited by somebody for real cash. Even the suggestion of such a thing never fails to whip up a hurricane, and we have discovered that hurricanes have a way of mauling with equal severity both the just and the unjust. They are always unreasonable.

 

No individuals have been more buffeted by such emotional gusts than those A.A.'s bold enough to accept employment with outside agencies dealing with the alcohol problem. A university wanted an A.A. member to educate the public on alcoholism. A corporation wanted a personnel man familiar with the subject. A state drunk farm wanted a manager who could really handle inebriates. A city wanted an experienced social worker who understood what alcohol could do to a family. A state alcohol commission wanted a paid researcher. These are only a few of the jobs which A.A. members as individuals have been asked to fill. Now and then, A.A. members have bought farms or rest homes where badly beat-up tupers could find needed care. The question was--and sometimes still is--are such activities to be branded as professionalism under A.A. tradition?

 

We think the answer is "No. Members who select such full-time careers do not professionalize A.A.'s Twelfth Step." The road to this conclusion was long and rocky. At first, we couldn't see the real issue involved. In former days, the moment an A.A. hired out to such enterprises, he was immediately tempted to use the name Alcoholics Anonymous for publicity or money-raising purposes. Drunk farms, educational ventures, state legislatures, and commissions advertised the fact that A.A. members served them. Unthinkingly, A.A.'s so employed recklessly broke anonymity to thump the tub for their pet enterprise. For this reason, some very good causes and all connected with them suffered unjust criticism from A.A. groups. More often than not, these onslaughts were spearheaded by the cry "Professionalism! That guy is making money out of A.A.'s Twelfth Step work. The violation in these instances was not professionalism at all; it was breaking anonymity. A.A.'s sole purpose was being compromised, and the name of Alcoholics Anonymous was being misused.

 

It is significant, now that almost no A.A. in our Fellowship breaks anonymity at the public level, that nearly all these fears have subsided. We see that we have no right or need to discourage A.A.'s who wish to work as individuals in these wider fields. It would be actually antisocial were we to forbid them. We cannot declare A.A. such a closed corporation that we keep our knowledge and experience top secret. If an A.A. member acting as a citizen can become a better researcher, educator, personnel officer, then why not? Everybody gains, and we have lost nothing. True, some of the projects to which A.A.'s have attached themselves have been ill-conceived, but that makes not the slightest difference with the principle involved.

 

This is the exciting welter of events which has finally cast up A.A.'s Tradition of non-professionalism. Our Twelfth Step is never to be paid for, but those who labor in service for us are worthy of their hire.

 

END of monthly Tradition




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