Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) is a worldwide fellowship of people who share their experience, strength, and hope with each other to solve their common problem of alcoholism.
AA is an independent and self-supporting organization that relies on its members’ voluntary contributions and service.
One of the foundations of AA is the twelve traditions, which are principles that guide the functioning and unity of the AA groups and the AA as a whole.
The twelve traditions were first published in 1946 by AA co-founder Bill W., who based them on the experience and wisdom of the early AA members.
These traditions aren’t rules or laws but suggestions and ideals that help AA preserve its primary group purpose of helping alcoholics recover from their addiction.
The 12 Traditions of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA)
“Tradition One: Our common welfare should come first; personal recovery depends upon AA unity.”
This tradition emphasizes putting the Alcoholics Anonymous group’s common welfare and interests above the individual’s and maintaining harmony and cooperation among AA members.
It also reminds the members that their recovery depends on the strength and support of the AA fellowship.
“Tradition Two: For our group purpose, there is but one ultimate authority—a loving God as He may express Himself in our group conscience. Our leaders are but trusted servants; they do not govern.”
This tradition recognizes that the ultimate authority of AA is not a human being but a higher power, which can be understood in different ways by different members.
It also states that the group’s decisions are made by its members’ collective wisdom and conscience rather than by any leader or authority figure.
“Tradition Three: The only requirement for AA membership is a desire to stop drinking.”
This tradition ensures that every Alcoholics Anonymous group is open and inclusive to anyone who suffers from alcoholism, binge drinking, or any other form of excessive drinking, regardless of their background, beliefs, or affiliations.
It also respects the individual’s freedom to choose whether or not to join AA and define their recovery goals.
“Tradition Four: Each group should be autonomous except in matters affecting other groups or AA as a whole.”
The fourth tradition grants each AA group the right and responsibility to manage its affairs as long as it does not harm or interfere with other groups or the Alcoholics Anonymous World Services.
It also encourages each group to be creative and flexible in meeting its members’ needs while adhering to AA’s common principles.
“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.”
This tradition defines each AA group’s core mission: to help other alcoholics achieve sobriety by sharing their experience, strength, and hope. It also urges each group to focus on this purpose and avoid getting distracted or divided by other issues or activities.
“Tradition Six: An AA group ought never to endorse, finance, or lend the AA name to any related facility or outside enterprise, lest problems of money, property, and prestige divert us from our primary purpose.”
This tradition protects the integrity and independence of each group and the AA as a whole by avoiding any affiliation or involvement with any outside entity that may have ulterior motives or conflicting interests.
It also prevents problems of money, property, and other material entanglements that may compromise or corrupt the group’s purpose or principles.
“Tradition Seven: Every AA group ought to be fully self-supporting, declining outside contributions.”
This tradition ensures that each group is financially responsible for its expenses, such as rent, literature, or refreshments, and does not accept donations or grants from outside sources.
It fosters a sense of ownership and accountability among the members, who contribute what they can according to their ability and willingness.
“Tradition Eight: Alcoholics Anonymous should remain forever non-professional, but our service centers may employ special workers.”
The eighth tradition maintains that AA is a voluntary and amateur organization where no one is paid or professionalized for their service or expertise as an AA member.
It allows for some exceptions, where special workers may be hired to perform specific administrative or technical tasks for functioning the general service centers supporting the Alcoholics Anonymous groups.
“Tradition Nine: AA, as such, should never be organized, but we may create service boards or committees directly responsible to those they serve.”
This tradition preserves the simplicity and flexibility of AA by avoiding any formal or rigid structure or hierarchy that may limit or control the autonomy or diversity of the groups.
It also permits the creation of some service boards or committees, such as the General Service Board, the General Service Office, or the Online Intergroup of A.A., that can coordinate and facilitate communication and cooperation among the groups and the AA as a whole.
“Tradition Ten: Alcoholics Anonymous has no opinion on outside issues; hence, the AA name ought never be drawn into public controversy.”
This safeguards the neutrality and unity of AA by avoiding any involvement or endorsement of any outside issues, such as politics, religion, or social movements, that may cause disagreement or division among the members.
It also protects the reputation and credibility of AA by preventing any misuse or exploitation of the AA name for any personal or partisan agenda.
“Tradition Eleven: Our public relations policy is based on attraction rather than promotion; we need to always maintain personal anonymity at the level of press, radio, and films.”
The eleventh tradition guides AA’s public relations policy by emphasizing the importance of attracting new members through the example and testimony of the existing members rather than by advertising or soliciting them.
It also upholds the principle of personal anonymity by discouraging any disclosure or identification of AA members in any public media, such as press, radio, or films, that may compromise their privacy, security, or humility.
“Tradition Twelve: Anonymity is the spiritual foundation of all our traditions, reminding us to place principles before personalities.”
The last of the twelve traditions summarizes and reinforces the essence and purpose of all the other traditions: to maintain and foster the spiritual growth and well-being of the AA members and the AA as a whole.
It also reminds the members to place AA’s common principles and values above their interests, preferences, or opinions and to respect and appreciate each other’s individuality and diversity.
Sober Living and the Twelve Traditions
For individuals seeking to transition from addiction treatment to a supportive living environment, sober living homes provide a vital bridge between rehabilitation and independent living.
These homes offer a safe and structured environment where individuals can continue implementing the principles they’ve learned in programs like Alcoholics Anonymous (AA).
Sober living is designed to support individuals in early recovery by providing a substance-free living space, accountability, and a sense of community.
Residents are encouraged to uphold principles that align closely with AA’s Twelve Traditions, fostering unity, responsibility, and personal growth.
In a sober living environment, individuals can apply the principles of Tradition One, prioritizing the common welfare above personal interests. Tradition Three’s emphasis on inclusivity is also reflected, as residents share a common goal of maintaining sobriety.
As mentioned in Tradition Seven, the self-supporting nature of sober living homes promotes financial responsibility and accountability among residents.
Moreover, the atmosphere of anonymity and confidentiality encouraged by Tradition Eleven is inherent in the sober living setting. Residents learn to value humility and privacy as they work toward lasting sobriety.
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With our structured program, supportive community, and holistic approach, you’ll find the perfect complement to your AA journey.
Join us in upholding the twelve traditions while achieving lasting sobriety. Contact us to take the next step today.
Frequently Asked Questions About 12 Traditions of AA
How Do the 12 Traditions of Alcoholics Anonymous Promote Unity and Cooperation among Members and Groups?
The 12 traditions of Alcoholics Anonymous promote unity and cooperation among members and groups by establishing a common purpose, authority, and principles that guide the functioning and harmony of the AA fellowship.
The 12 Traditions of AA hold immense spiritual significance. They preserve the unity of AA groups, uphold the common welfare above all, and ensure the organization remains focused on its primary spiritual aim: helping alcoholics recover.
Each tradition contributes to the spiritual fabric of AA, fostering humility, selflessness, inclusivity, and collective responsibility among members. The traditions keep AA spiritually grounded by avoiding distractions, external controversies, and the lure of prestige.
How Do the 12 Traditions of Alcoholics Anonymous Support the Spiritual Principles of the Organization?
The 12 traditions of Alcoholics Anonymous support the spiritual principles of the organization by reflecting and reinforcing some of the core values and beliefs that underlie the AA philosophy and program.
These spiritual principles are honesty, humility, faith, and love.
How Do the 12 Traditions of Alcoholics Anonymous Promote Anonymity and Confidentiality among Members?
The 12 traditions of Alcoholics Anonymous promote anonymity and confidentiality among members by emphasizing their importance for preserving the members’ and groups’ privacy, security, humility, integrity, and unity.
For example, tradition one emphasizes that personal recovery depends on AA unity, which requires mutual trust and respect among members. Anonymity and confidentiality help to create a safe and supportive environment where members can share their stories without fear of judgment or exposure.
How Can Individuals Apply the Principles of the 12 Traditions of Alcoholics Anonymous in Their Daily Lives?
Individuals can apply the principles of the 12 traditions of Alcoholics Anonymous in their daily lives by using them as a guide for their personal and interpersonal conduct, behavior, and relationships.
For example, you can apply the principles of tradition by being cooperative and supportive of others, especially those who share a common problem or goal.
Or you can apply tradition three by being open and inclusive to anyone seeking help, regardless of their background, beliefs, or affiliations.
The primary purpose of the 12 traditions of AA is to help AA preserve its primary goal of helping alcoholics recover from their addiction.
They provide a set of principles that guide the functioning and unity of the AA groups and the AA as a whole.
The 12 traditions help AA to:
- Maintain its integrity and independence from any outside entity or influence
- Be financially self-supporting and decline any outside contributions that may create obligations or expectations
- Remain a voluntary and amateur organization, where no one is paid or professionalized for their service or expertise as an AA member
- Avoid any formal or rigid structure or hierarchy that may limit or control the autonomy or diversity of the group
- Refrain from expressing any opinion on outside issues or engaging in any public controversy that may cause disagreement or division among the members
- Maintain personal anonymity at the level of public media
- Place the principles of AA above their personalities, and respect and appreciate each other’s individuality and diversity
The 12 traditions differ from the 12 steps of AA in purpose, scope, application, and content.
Purpose: The Twelve Steps primarily focus on guiding individual members through their recovery journey. In contrast, the 12 Traditions are focused on guiding the functioning and unity of AA groups and the organization.
Scope: The Twelve Steps are intended to be worked by each member personally to achieve and maintain sobriety. On the other hand, the 12 Traditions are collective and organizational.
Application: Each member is encouraged to work through the 12 Steps with a sponsor or independently, focusing on their recovery process. Meanwhile, the 12 Traditions are applied at the group and organizational levels.
Content: The 12 Steps outline specific actions and principles for recovery, while the 12 traditions of AA provide guidelines for how AA groups and the organization should operate.
Together, the twelve steps and twelve traditions form the foundation of Alcoholics Anonymous World Services’ approach to helping individuals recover from alcoholism while preserving the integrity and effectiveness of the fellowship.
The 12 traditions were developed to address challenges and problems that emerged as Alcoholics Anonymous World Services grew and expanded its membership and scope.
Some of these challenges and issues were:
- The risk of losing or diluting the original message and purpose of AA as new groups and members joined with different backgrounds, beliefs, or affiliations (Tradition Three, Tradition Five)
- The potential for conflict or disagreement among groups or members over issues such as money, property, prestige, authority, leadership, or outside interests (Tradition One, Tradition Two, Tradition Four, Tradition Six, Tradition Ten)
- The need for coordination and cooperation among groups and members to ensure effective communication, service, and support (Tradition Seven, Tradition Eight, Tradition Nine)
- The threat of exposure or exploitation of AA or its members by public media or outside entities that may have ulterior motives or conflicting interests (Tradition Eleven, Tradition Twelve)
At the same time, they were developed to help AA preserve its integrity and independence from any outside entity or influence that may compromise or corrupt its mission or principles.
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Kaskutas, Lee Ann. “Alcoholics Anonymous Effectiveness: Faith Meets Science.” Journal of Addictive Diseases, vol. 28, no. 2, Informa UK Limited, Apr. 2009, pp. 145–57. Crossref, https://doi.org/10.1080/10550880902772464.
Kelly, John F., et al. “Alcoholics Anonymous and Other 12-step Programs for Alcohol Use Disorder.” Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, Wiley, Mar. 2020. Crossref, https://doi.org/10.1002/14651858.cd012880.pub2.
“The Beginnings of the Twelve Traditions | Alcoholics Anonymous.” The Beginnings of the Twelve Traditions | Alcoholics Anonymous, www.aa.org/the-beginnings-of-the-twelve-traditions.
“The Twelve Traditions | Alcoholics Anonymous.” The Twelve Traditions | Alcoholics Anonymous, www.aa.org/the-twelve-traditions.