Category Archives: Here Are The Traditions We Practice

A.A. Tradition One

Our common welfare should come first; personal recovery depends upon A.A. unity. (“Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions“, Tradition One)

Each member of Alcoholics Anonymous is but a small part of a great whole. A.A. must continue to live or most of us will surely die. Hence our common welfare comes first. But individual welfare follows close afterward. (long form)


When Rowland H. visited Dr. Carl Jung prior to the formation of A.A., Dr. Jung essentially told him to “Go see ‘God’.” (“Alcoholics Anonymous“, page 27) Rowland did that and then passed that same suggestion along to Ebby, then Ebby to Bill and so on until the following appeared in print in 1939:

“…we have discovered a common solution…a way out on which we can absolutely agree, and upon which we can join in brotherly and harmonious action…the great [message our groups carry] to those who suffer from alcoholism.” (page 17)
“…restored and united under one God, with hearts and minds attuned to the welfare of others…” (page 161)

That is A.A. unity, and that will never change no matter how many groups of whatever type might ever seem to prove anything any different might work for them.


A.A. 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. (“Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions“, Tradition Two)

For our group purpose there is but one ultimate authority – a loving God as He may express Himself in our group conscience. (long form)

note: “The Fellowship of the Spirit” (“Big Book“, page 164) is a monarchy, not a democracy where “the supreme power [would be] lodged in the hands of the people.” (Webster, 1828)


First, here are a couple of rhetorical questions that might help dispel the myth of A.A. being a democracy:
1) Is A.A. a form of government?
2) Does A.A. lodge any supreme power (or even any power at all) in the hands of its members?

We each certainly do have a right of personal decision concerning the management of our lives, but having that right does not give us the power or ability needed to manage them well or successfully.  And since not one of us has ever been granted any authority or power over the life of any other human being, today we have this from A.A. Tradition Two:

“Our leaders…do not govern.”
“…no president having authority to govern…
“…no treasurer who can compel the payment of any dues…
“…no board of directors who can cast an erring member into outer darkness…
“…no A.A. can give another a directive and enforce obedience…”
(“Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions”)

So then, and as our friends and others outside of A.A. might ask:
“Where does A.A. get its direction?  Who runs it?”
Our answer: “…the sole authority in A.A. is a loving God as He may express Himself in the group conscience.”

Monarchy, n. (Webster, 1828)
A state or government in which the supreme power is lodged in the hands of a single [entity]…
“…as He may express Himself in our group conscience.” (Tradition Two)

Two questions typically arise at this point:
1) Are you saying A.A. is some kind of dictatorship rather than “democratic”?
2) Also, what if I do not believe there even is any “supreme being” or “loving god” to guide anyone at all in the first place?

First, no, we do not say there is nothing “democratic” in A.A.  In fact, we do say this:

“Alcohol being no respecter of persons, we are an accurate cross section of America, and in distant lands, the same democratic evening-up process is now going on.” (Foreword to Second Edition, 1955)

So in the sense of the playing field having been leveled at Step One for all of us, A.A. is quite “democratic”, as such, and we can also see that component of the foundation for the fellowship we share reflected here:

“…having shared in a common peril is one element in the powerful cement which binds us.” (page 17)

And to then describe our overall experience a little farther, we also share this:

“Social distinctions, petty rivalries and jealousies – these are laughed out of countenance.  Being wrecked in the same vessel, being restored and united under one God (Tradition One), with hearts and minds attuned to the welfare of others (page 20), the things which matter so much to some people no longer signify much to them.” (page 161)

So overall and “democratically”, our dealings with the matters of authority and power in A.A. begin as founded upon our awareness of our human powerlessness and inabilities to successfully manage human lives.  For example, and as said with a wink:

“He can’t even run his own life,
“I’ll be damned if he’ll run mine!” (Jonathon Edwards)

“I can’t even run my own life,
“You’ll be doomed if I run yours!” (Humble Sponsor)

At that point, and especially while sitting side-by-side in our group business meetings where some members might not yet have “admitted the possible existence of a Creative Intelligence, a Spirit of the Universe underlying the totality of things” (page 46), how can we A.A.s possibly “absolutely agree, and…join in brotherly and harmonious action” (page 17)?  Doctor Silkworth has proved very helpful to some of us there with his mention of “the powers of good that lie outside our synthetic knowledge.”  So while bringing that thought into the mix whenever necessary, we can see something like this at Tradition Two:

“For our group purpose there is but one ultimate authority – the powers of good that lie outside our synthetic knowledge.”

There is yet another way to see A.A.’s dependence upon “the powers of good” being made manifest amongst us, and page 152 in our book reflects that to the A.A. newcomer:

“‘I know I must get along without liquor, but how can I?  Have you a sufficient substitute?’
“Yes, there is a substitute and it is vastly more than that.  It is a fellowship in Alcoholics Anonymous.  There [as an active member in your own home group or ‘A.A. fellowship’] you will find release from care, boredom and worry.  Your imagination will be fired.  Life will mean something at last.  The most satisfactory years of your existence lie ahead.  Thus we
find the fellowship [we share together in our autonomous fellowships], and so will you.” (page 152)

So then, and once again:
Where does A.A. get its direction?  Who runs it?  How are unity, agreement and harmonious action even possible amongst people such as we have been?

That all begins at Step One where we abandon all ideas of already knowing what is best for ourselves or for anyone else, and that continues for us for just as long as we continue to look together toward “God as you (do or do not) understand God” (page 164) for the guidance and direction we have learned is available from within “the powers of good that lie outside our synthetic knowledge“.


A.A. Tradition Three

The only requirement for A.A. membership is a desire to stop drinking. (“Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions“, Tradition Three)

Our membership ought to include all who suffer from alcoholism. Hence we may refuse none who wish to recover. Nor ought A.A. membership ever depend upon money or conformity. Any two or three alcoholics gathered together for sobriety may call themselves an A.A. group, provided that, as a group, they have no other affiliation. (long form)


As you can see above, Tradition Three reminds us to never exclude from A.A. any fellow alcoholic who would like to recover from chronic alcoholism.  So if you have a desire to stop drinking, and especially if you are one of us who could not, you are most-welcomed to join any of our many autonomous A.A. fellowships…or to even begin one of your own…

“(God) will show you how to create the fellowship you crave.”
(“Alcoholics Anonymous“, page 164)

And whether you join an existing A.A. group or you and one-or-more others might begin one of your own, always remember:  “No one is too discredited or has sunk too low to be welcomed cordially – if s/he means business.  Social distinctions, petty rivalries and jealousies – these are laughed out of countenance.  Being wrecked in the same vessel, being restored and united under one God, with hearts and minds attuned to the welfare of others, the things which matter so much to some people no longer signify much to (us).  How could they?”  (“A.A.”, page 161)

Here is another interesting part of Tradition Three:  “Any two or three alcoholics gathered together for sobriety may call themselves an A.A. group (or fellowship), provided that, as a group (or fellowship), they have no other affiliation.”

Two thoughts come to mind there:

1) Nobody ever has to apply for an A.A. charter!  Whenever any two-or-more alcoholics wish to “call themselves an A.A. group” or fellowship, they may  do so with nothing but encouragement — no challenges to navigate — from the rest!

2) Be cautious of mere meetings mistakenly being called “A.A. groups”.  Our “sufficient substitute for alcohol” can be found within a fellowship in Alcoholics Anonymous (page 152), and even whether or not those folks “go to meetings”, as such.  See, some folks view A.A. as a place or organization for “support” while-or-where everyone present tries to not drink, and many so-called “A.A. meetings” get started upon that mistaken premise.  But for those of us wishing to actually recover and to remain that way, we find it much more beneficial to gather together and call ourselves an A.A. group (then conducting our A.A. group’s A.A. meetings) than to be “members-at-large”, so to speak, attending various meetings mistakenly being called “A.A. groups”.  In other words:  True A.A. groups are autonomous spiritual entities or “organisms” consisting of people, not mere meetings scheduled under the auspices (endorsement) of some kind of organization.

… more to be added …


A.A. Tradition Four

Each group should be autonomous except in matters affecting other groups or A.A. as a whole. (“Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions“, Tradition Four)

With respect to its own affairs, each A.A. 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 A.A. as a whole without conferring with the trustees of the General Service Board.  On such issues our common welfare is paramount. (long form)


… more to be added …


A.A. Tradition Five

Each group has but one primary purpose – to carry its message to the alcoholic who still suffers. (“Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions“, 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. (long form)


“At the moment (as in Step Nine) we are trying to put our lives in order.  But this is not an end in itself.  Our real purpose (as individuals) is to fit ourselves to be of maximum service to God and the people about us” (“A.A.”, page 77).  And then when “we call ourselves an A.A. group” of recovered alcoholics, we find we have “but one primary purpose – to carry (the A.A.) message (of permanent recovery) to the alcoholic who still suffers.”  (Tradition Five)

… more to be added …


A.A. Tradition Six

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. (“Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions“, Tradition Six)

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 A.A. should be separately incorporated and managed, thus dividing the material from the spiritual. An A.A. group, as such, should never go into business. Secondary aids to A.A., such as clubs or hospitals which require much property or administration, ought to be incorporated and so set apart that, if necessary, they can be freely discarded by the groups. Hence such facilities ought not to use the A.A. name. Their management should be the sole responsibility of those people who financially support them. For clubs, A.A. managers are usually preferred. But hospitals, as well as other places of recuperation, ought to be well outside A.A. – and medically supervised. While an A.A. group may cooperate with anyone, such cooperation ought never go so far as affiliation or endorsement, actual or implied. An A.A. group can bind itself to no one. (long form)

… more to be added …


A.A. Tradition Seven

Every A.A. group ought to be fully self-supporting, declining outside contributions. (“Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions“, Tradition Seven)

The A.A. groups themselves ought to be fully self-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, whether by groups, clubs, hospitals, or other outside agencies; that acceptance of large gifts from any source, or of contributions carrying any obligation whatever, is unwise. Then too, we view with much concern those A.A. treasuries which continue, beyond prudent reserves, to accumulate funds for no stated A.A. purpose. Experience has often warned us that nothing can so surely destroy our spiritual heritage as futile disputes over property, money, and authority. (long form)

… more to be added …