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The Twelve Traditions of Alcoholics Anonymous
- Our common welfare should come first; personal recovery depends upon A.A. unity.
- 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.
- The only requirement for A.A. membership is a desire to stop drinking.
- Each group should be autonomous except in matters affecting other groups or A.A. as a whole.
- Each group has but one primary purpose--to carry its message to the alcoholic who still suffers.
- An A.A. group ought never endorse, finance, or lend the A.A. name to any related facility or outside enterprise, lest problems of money, property, and prestige divert us from our primary purpose.
- Every A.A. group ought to be fully self-supporting, declining outside contributions.
- Alcoholics Anonymous should remain forever non-professional, but our service centers may employ special workers.
- A.A., as such, ought never be organized; but we may create service boards or committees directly responsible to those they serve.
- Alcoholics Anonymous has no opinion on outside issues; hence the A.A. name ought never be drawn into public controversy.
- 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.
- Anonymity is the spiritual foundation of all our traditions, ever reminding us to place principles before personalities.
The Traditions began as a series of articles that Bill Wilson, co-founder of Alcoholics Anonymous, wrote for the AA periodical, The Grapevine. Over a period of about 5 years Wilson "sold" these principles to the membership of AA, culminating in their formal adoption at AA's First International Convention in 1950. In 1952 Wilson's book on the subject, Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions, first saw print. The latter half of this book consists of a series of folksy tales detailing how the traditions were "hammered out on the anvil of experience." According to Wilson, they were born solely as lessons learned from mistakes made.
The Traditions are widely credited within AA as having provided the fellowship a practical, yet idealistic organizational framework that has served it well.
AA Traditions, whilst sound in principle, are often ignored by members. Members anonymity is frequently broken, and gossip can be rife. Tradition 3 states that the only requirement for membership is a desire to stop drinking. This has often been interpreted as a bar to sanctioning anyone who breaks other Traditions. The "court card system", whereby a court orders offenders to attend AA meetings on a compulsory basis (in alliance with AA), has also been seen as a breach of the Traditions. Many members are against this coercion, but AA's most recent internal surveys indicate that a significant percentage of their membership is made up of "coerced converts".
AA traditions have been compared with Anarchist dogma.
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