Suggested Points of AA Tradition
© The A.A.
Grapevine, Inc., April 1946
invented Alcoholics Anonymous. It grew. Trial and error
has produced a rich experience. Little by little we have
been adopting the lessons of that experience, first as
policy and then as Tradition. That process still goes
on and we hope it never stops. Should we ever harden too
much, the letter might crush the spirit. We could victimize
ourselves by petty rules and prohibitions; we could imagine
that we had said the last word. We might even be asking
alcoholics to accept our rigid ideas or stay away. We
never stifle progress like that!
the lessons of our experience count for a great deal --
a very great deal, we are each convinced. The first written
record of AA experience was the book "Alcoholics
Anonymous". It was addressed to the heart of our
foremost problem -- release from the alcohol obsession.
It contained personal experiences of drinking and recovery
and a statement of those divine but ancient principles,
which have brought us a miraculous regeneration. Since
publication of "Alcoholics Anonymous" in 1939
we have grown from 100 to 24,000 members. Seven years
have passed; seven years, of vast experience with our
next greatest undertaking --- the problem of living and
working together. This is today our main concern. If we
can succeed in this adventure -- and keep succeeding --
then, and only then, will our future be secure.
personal calamity holds us in bondage no more, our most
challenging concern has become the future of Alcoholics
Anonymous; how to preserve among us AAs such a powerful
unity that neither weakness of persons not the strain
and strife of these troubled times can harm our common
cause. We know that Alcoholics Anonymous must continue
to live. Else, save few exceptions, we and our fellow
alcoholics throughout the world will surely resume the
hopeless journey to oblivion.
any AA can tell you what our group problems are. Fundamentally
they have to do with our relations, one with the other,
and with the world outside. They involve relations of
the AA to the group, the relation of the group top Alcoholics
Anonymous as a whole, and the place of Alcoholics Anonymous
in that troubled sea called modern society, where all
of humankind must presently shipwreck or find haven. Terribly
relevant is the problem of our basic structure and our
attitude toward those ever pressing questions of leadership,
money, and authority. The future way well depend on how
we feel and act about things that are controversial and
how we regard our public relations. Our final destiny
will surely hang upon what we presently decide to do with
these danger-fraught issues!
comes the crux of our discussion. It is this: Have we
yet acquired sufficient experience to state clear-cut
policies on these, our chief concerns? Can we now declare
general principles which could grow into vital Traditions
-- Traditions sustained in the heart of each AA by his
own deep conviction and by the common consent of his fellows?
That is the question. Though full answers to all our perplexities
may never be found, I'm sure we have come at least to
a vantage point whence we can discern the main outlines
of a body of Tradition; which, God willing, can stand
as an effective guard against all the ravages of time
upon the persistent urge of old AA friends, and upon the
conviction that general agreement and consent between
our members is now possible, I shall venture to place
in words these suggestions for an Alcoholics Anonymous
Tradition of Relations -- Twelve Points to Assure Our
AA experience has taught us that:
Each member of Alcoholics Anonymous is but a small part
of a great whole. AA must continue to live or most of
us will surely die. Hence our common welfare comes first.
But individual welfare follows close afterward.
For our group purpose there is but one ultimate authority
-- a loving God as he may express himself in our group
Our membership ought to include all who suffer alcoholism.
Hence we may refuse none who wish to recover. Nor ought
AA membership ever depend upon money or conformity. Any
two or three alcoholics gathered together for sobriety
may call themselves an AA group.
With respect to its own affairs, each AA group should
be responsible to no other authority than its own conscience.
But when its plans concern the welfare of neighboring
groups also, those groups ought to be consulted. And no
group, regional committee, or individual should ever take
any action that might greatly affect AA as a whole without
conferring with the trustees of the Alcoholic Foundation
[now the General Service Board]. On such issues our common
welfare is paramount.
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.
Problems of money, property and authority may easily divert
us from our primary spiritual aim. We think, therefore,
that any considerable property of genuine use to AA should
be separately incorporated and managed, thus dividing
the material from the spiritual. An AA group, as such,
should never go into business. Secondary aids to AA such
as clubs or hospitals which require much property or administration,
ought to be so set apart that, if necessary, they can
be freely discarded by the groups. The management of these
special facilities should be the sole responsibility of
those people, whether AAs or not, who financially support
the. For our clubs, we prefer AA managers. But hospitals,
as well as other places of recuperation, ought to be well
outside AA -- and medically supervised. An AA group may
cooperate with anyone, but should bind itself to no one.
7. The AA groups themselves ought to be fully supported
by the voluntary contributions of their own members. We
think that each group should soon achieve this ideal;
that any public solicitation of funds using the name of
Alcoholics Anonymous is highly dangerous; that acceptance
of large gifts from any source or of contributions carrying
any obligation whatever is usually unwise. Then, too,
we view with much concern those AA treasuries which continue,
beyond prudent reserves, to accumulate funds for no stated
AA purpose. Experience has often warned us that nothing
can so surely destroy our spiritual heritage as futile
disputes over property, money, and authority.
Alcoholics Anonymous should remain forever non professional.
We define professionalism as the occupation of counseling
alcoholics for fee or hire. But we may employ alcoholics
where they are going to perform those full-time services
for which we might otherwise have to engage nonalcoholics.
Such special services may be well recompensed. But personal
Twelfth Step work is never to be paid for.
Each AA group needs the least possible organization. Rotating
leadership is usually the best. The small group may elect
its secretary, the larger group its rotating committee,
and the groups of a large metropolitan area their central
committee, which often employs a full time secretary.
The trustees of the Alcoholic Foundation are, in effect,
our general service committee. They are the custodians
of our AA Tradition and the receivers of voluntary AA
contributions by which they maintain AA general Headquarters
and our general secretary at New York. They are authorized
by the groups to handle our overall public relations and
they guarantee the integrity of our principal publication,
the AA Grapevine. All such representatives are to be guided
in the spirit of service, for true leaders in AA are but
trusted and experienced servants of the whole. They derive
no real authority from their titles, Universal respect
is the key to their usefulness.
No AA group or members should ever, in such a way as to
implicate AA, express any opinion on outside controversial
issues -- particularly those of politics, alcohol reform
or sectarian religion. The Alcoholics Anonymous groups
oppose no one. Concerning such matters they can express
no views whatever.
Our relations with the outside world should be characterized
by modesty and anonymity. We think AA ought to avoid sensational
advertising. Our public relations should be guided by
the principle of attraction rather than promotion. There
is never need to praise ourselves. We feel it better to
let our friends recommend us.
And finally, we of Alcoholics Anonymous believe that the
principle of anonymity has an immense spiritual significance.
It reminds us that we are to place principles before personalities;
that we are actually to practice a truly humble modesty.
This to the end that our great blessings may never spoil
us; that we shall forever live in thankful contemplation
of him who presides over us all.
it be urged that while these principles have been stated
in rather positive language they are still only suggestions
for our future. We of Alcoholics Anonymous have never
enthusiastically responded to any assumption of personal
authority. Perhaps it is well for AA that this is true.
So I offer these suggestions neither as one man's dictum
nor as a creed of any kind, but rather as a first attempt
to portray that group ideal toward which we have assuredly
been led by a Higher Power these ten years past.
To help free discussion I would like to amplify the Twelve
Points of Tradition in future Grapevine pieces.
© The A.A.
Grapevine, Inc., April 1946