The Traditions

The 12 Traditions of Alcoholics Anonymous, the principles that hold our groups and society together.
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Karl R
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The Traditions

Post by Karl R » Mon Oct 12, 2009 6:37 am

From the Grapevine digital archives. This editorial presents a brief history of the Traditions as well as 5 or so points of discussion. Anyone have any thoughts? I'd be especially interested in anyone's thoughts or experiences on group inventories, group structure, and the AA groups relationship to other groups and to AA as a whole since these things are lacking in my geographic area.

Copyright © The AA Grapevine, Inc. (Nnovember 1954 vol. 11 no. 6 ). Reprinted with permission.



Other Points For Discussion
OUR Federal constitution is a written document which describes the several branches of government and enumerates their powers. Organizations of many types, even some of the smallest, have seen the need, real or imagined, for a written constitution, a supreme law and guide to action.

When AA began, the founders did not think in terms of creating a great worldwide organization. They were trying to stay sober and show a few others how to follow suit. Constitutional law was not a current problem. But as AA grew, especially after the 1941 Jack Alexander article in The Saturday Evening Post, groups sprang up with rapidity and at distances too great for the influence of the original members to be felt directly. Questions arose about organization, paid employees, anonymity, finances, donations, clubhouses, public speeches, endorsements, outside issues, sanitoria, etc., etc.

Where were the answers to these questions? AA had not grown according to any preconceived human plan and so it had no written constitution. But a constitution need not in fact be in written form. The rules and regulations defining the functions of government, according to one writer, "may exist in the no less binding form of customs, traditions or conventions."

Custom or tradition can have an unconscious observance that reflects enforcement more complete than that accorded any statute. Hardly anyone would dare to smoke a cigarette in the front pew of a church while the preacher was delivering a sermon. "No Smoking" signs are quite unnecessary.

Tradition can be persuasive if not compelling. But in the early 1940's AA was too new, too widely scattered, to have a body of tradition that could act as a guide to the solution of numerous problems that were arising. Moreover, the nature of AA practically precluded the possibility of tradition in unwritten form serving its purpose effectively. A group starting operations at the South Pole or even at some less remote outpost could not, so far from the center of AA thought, be expected to feel immediately the force of whatever tradition existed.

There seemed to be a need therefore for a written guide. A constitution doubtless seemed too formal, too inflexible for our type of fellowship. A written summary of the experience to date, however, could be useful to almost everyone. Bill therefore epitomized that experience in brief statements called Twelve Traditions and they appeared serially with accompanying discussions in the 1946 issues of the then tabloid sized Grapevine.

Throughout the next few years the Traditions were subjected to discussion and testing. Then at the First International Conference of Alcoholics Anonymous held in Cleveland, May 28-30, 1950 arid attended by 7,000 members of AA, their families and friends, Bill presented the Traditions and they were accorded unanimous approval.

Such is the sketchiest account of the reasons for the Twelve Traditions and their historical development. Today, they are a very large part of AA, and, in the opinion of some, an inspired guide to action in the best interest of AA as a whole. Here is an unselfish philosophy stressing our common welfare and the obligation to carry the message to those who still suffer. Not intended for the professional do-gooder or the scientific sociologist, the Traditions were written for and by people who have suffered long and deeply. They have a special applicability to groups and to AA as an organization just as the Twelve Steps have a special applicability to the individual.

So long as the majority of members and groups preserve the spirit of the Traditions, AA will grow and prosper.

If the membership in any considerable number ever deviates widely from that spirit, if outside distractions or internal dissensions divert attention from our spiritual objective, the inevitable consequence for alcoholics is too terrible to contemplate.

Other Points For Discussion
1. How many of the Twelve Traditions make reference to "Groups" or to AA as an organization?

2. What part of the sobriety formula is supplied by the Steps? What part by the Traditions as such?

3. What kind of results would follow from widespread violation of Traditions number 1, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 10?

4. How many examples can your group cite of the power of tradition or convention in various fields or spheres of activity, i.e., religion, politics, schools, community, family. Example: What about a woman upon marriage assuming her husband's surname? Any law, rule, or specific instructions to that effect? How is it in Spain?

5. Can you resolve the apparent inconsistency between the 5th and the 11th Traditions?

6. Does your group set aside at least-one meeting a year to discuss the Traditions "step by step"?

7. Does your group ever take "Group Inventory" to see how well it is doing, how well it is adhering to the Traditions?

8. On rereading the Traditions does any one have a special applicability to you as of today?


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