What The 12 Traditions of Alcoholics Anonymous Means And Why Participants Must Follow Them

The 12 Traditions of the Alcoholics Anonymous Guide helps the reputed and famous support groups remain focused on their goal. It first mentioned the 12 Traditions of AA in the first edition of the ‘Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous in 1939. In 1946, Bill Wilson, co-founder of the group, published ’12 Points to Reassure Our Future’. The book ‘12 Steps and 12 Traditions’ was published in 1953.

Let’s take a closer look at the 12 steps of AA and try to decipher the message behind each one of them.

Our common welfare should come first; personal recovery depends upon AA unity.

People may try to kick the addiction on their own, but they are less likely to succeed. Their efforts are more likely to bear fruits if they work with a support group. Tradition 1 of the 12 Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous ensures cohesion and listens to all voices within the group. While everyone will have their own opinion, all members must accept the majority opinion and work towards achieving that goal.

There is but one ultimate authority for our group purpose – a loving God as He may express Himself in our group conscience. Our leaders are but trusted servants; they do not govern.

This Tradition ensures that no single person is asserting any authority over the group. There is no individual governance or management based on education or subject expertise. The group leaders are there to provide guidance and not to make decisions. 

The only requirement for AA membership is a desire to stop drinking.

Tradition three aims at protecting members from any external influences affecting their resolve to stop drinking. Membership is open to all those who have a relative or a friend with an addiction issue. 

Each group should be autonomous, except in matters affecting other groups or AA as a whole.

This 12 Tradition of AA offers individual groups the freedom to host their meetings based on their needs and convenience. However, this freedom comes with certain limitations. The group must not move away from the basic tenets and must follow the core principles of the AA.

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

The primary aim of each group is to make sure that its message reaches those who are suffering. In addition, the group must provide comfort and support to the member at every stage of the journey to recovery. Finally, by sharing the experiences and the hope they found within the 12 steps of AA, they can keep others motivated.

Our groups should never endorse, finance, or lend our name to any related facility or outside enterprise, lest money, property, and prestige problems divert us from our primary purpose.

Of the 12 Traditions of AA, tradition six aims to preserve the truthfulness of the program. This is done by preventing groups from supporting or promoting any external agency or organization. Of course, members are not restricted from connecting with any outside agency or party in their capacity. But when they are in a group, they must follow the traditions and ideals of AA.

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

It is entirely voluntary for every member to contribute to the basket to support AA financially. Tradition 7 cautions from accepting outside contributions. Every member must become self-supporting and contribute as per their wish. 

Alcoholics Anonymous should remain forever non-professional, but our service centers may employ special workers.

Tradition 8 states that contributions must be used for support services. The group can provide mutual support but remain non-professional. Of course, professionals such as doctors and CAs can be part of the group, but they must not use those affiliations. A newcomer to the group must be welcomed free of charge.  

AA, as such, ought never to be organized; but we may create service boards or committees directly responsible to those they serve.

The group works in a non-professional manner without any signs of being organized. There is no hierarchy, and no one is authorized to direct the group. Instead, the group as a whole makes decisions through a process of a conscience vote.

Alcoholics Anonymous has no opinion on outside issues; hence the AA name ought never to be drawn into public controversy.

AA members are expected not to express opinions on politics, religion, or reforms to avoid getting caught in any controversy. In addition, AA is not allied with any sect or religion and operates as a neutral body.

Our public relations policy is based on attraction rather than promotion; we need always maintain personal anonymity at the level of press, radio, and films.

Tradition 11 of the 12 Steps of AA relates to public relations policy and the need to retain anonymity in the media. Members can discuss the benefits of AA, but they should not name the recovery group.

Anonymity is the spiritual foundation of all our traditions, ever reminding us to place principles above personalities.

The offer of anonymity to participants is the hallmark of the AA program. So naturally, therefore, it must maintain personal anonymity at all levels.

These 12 Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous help you take care of people at every stage of their recovery journey.

These 12 Traditions of Alcoholics Anonymous form the core of all AA meetings. To know where the next AA meeting will be held in your locality, visit our AA Meeting Directory.

Frequently Asked Questions

How can the 12 Steps of AA help me overcome alcoholism?

Alcoholism can entail a certain sense of self-delusion, causing you to think that you are in control. It can also cause problems in your personal life; relationships are negatively affected. Requiring strict self-honesty, the 12 Steps of AA can help you face reality so that you can do something about it. Instead of thinking that you are in control, you are forced to admit that your alcoholism controls you. A higher power — one that is in accordance with your own, personal belief system — gives you hope and strength to overcome because it is more powerful than your alcoholism. You are not. Accountability is provided with the help of a sponsor and, with past errors examined, amends are made where they need to be made. In essence, you are enabled to live a new life and you are held accountable to that new life by others in the fellowship.

Is it necessary for me to be religious to attend AA meetings?

The central ideas of AA were originally based on Christianity and its influence is apparent in many AA meetings today. However, alternative versions of the 12 Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous have been used for years. Some of them are much more secular than others. In addition, more than a few adaptations have been made for those who are addicted to things other than alcohol. 

In short, however, it is not necessary to be religious in order to attend AA meetings. This is true even if the meeting in question utilizes the original 12 Steps of AA with its Christian underpinnings. Religious language will be used, but it can be contextualized and the 12 steps can be of benefit nonetheless. As stated in the 12 Traditions of AA, a desire for sobriety is the only requirement for membership in AA.

What happens if I am not a believer in a supreme being?

The 12 Traditions of Alcoholics Anonymous states that the only requirement for AA membership is a desire to be sober. Belief in a supreme being is not required. Belief in a higher power is fundamental to AA’s approach in dealing with addiction, but the higher power can be whatever you think it is. It can be conceptualized however you like. 

If some AA groups are still too religious for your liking, there are other options. The original 12 Step Program was built on the basis of an overarching Christian worldview, but many versions of the 12 Steps of AA are available today. Some of them are much more secular in comparison.

Is it necessary for me to complete all 12 steps?

In short, the answer is yes. The 12 steps of Alcoholics Anonymous must be adhered to. Each of them has a purpose and they are essentially a package deal. Alcoholism is no joke; the 12 Steps of AA are there to help you stay sober. If you need help, direction, or encouragement as you seek to complete them, others (e.g., a sponsor) are able and willing to help. If some of them are too religious for your liking, they can be conceptualized in accordance with your own beliefs and their underlying principles can be of benefit. 

Please keep in mind that membership in AA is free; monetary contribution is not required. As stated in the 12 Traditions of Alcoholics Anonymous, the only requirement for membership in AA is a desire to stop drinking. And if sober living is your goal, completing the 12 Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous should not be a problem!

What is a sponsor?

A sponsor in Alcoholics Anonymous is someone in an AA group who has been sober for some time — generally more than a year — and is able to keep you accountable. They can guide you through the 12 Steps of AA and be a source of support and encouragement. With a solid understanding of AA and its principles, a sponsor has demonstrated success in their own battle against alcoholism and can lead by example. They embody the sort of servant leadership that is talked about in the 12 Traditions of AA, and as a result, they can effectively impart the knowledge and wisdom you need in order to stay sober.

Is it possible for me to choose my sponsor?

There are no official rules for sponsorship and you are free to choose your own sponsor. It should be someone you are comfortable talking to. You can even switch sponsors if the one you have is not a good fit for you, but you need to make sure that it is someone who can help you in your journey. A sponsor should be patient, understanding, and empathetic as well as knowledgeable and experienced in the battle against alcoholism. They should be able to guide you through AA and hold you accountable.