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What Are the 12 Traditions of AA?

The founding principles of AA are called the 12 Steps, and programs that are based on AA are sometimes called 12-Step programs. The 12 Traditions are associated with the 12 Steps, and they were first officially published in 1946 in AA’s journal, the AA Grapevine. They were officially endorsed as positive cultural attitudes and principles that could bring about change within AA groups by the International Convention of AA, which met in Cleveland, Ohio, in 1950.

The 12 Traditions in Alcoholics Anonymous are outlined below.

1. Common Welfare Comes First

Each member of AA is a small aspect of a larger whole. Group welfare and support come first, with individual health and safety coming in a very close second.

2. A Loving God is the Ultimate Authority

The loving God does not need to be the Christian God. Rather, this is God as the ultimate authority in whatever form works for each group’s collective consciousness.

3. A Desire to Stop Drinking is the Only Membership Requirement

No one is turned away if they wish to overcome alcohol abuse. Membership with the group is based only on abstinence from alcohol and following the 12 Steps, not on money or conformity. Any two or more individuals using the 12 Steps to overcome alcohol use disorder and problem drinking can use the name AA if they have no other affiliation.

4. All AA Groups are Autonomous

There is no centralized AA authority that affects individual groups; the group is responsible only to the group’s conscience. The one exception involves neighboring AA groups, which should be consulted if one group’s decisions affect others. No regional committee or individual member should take an action that affects the AA group, nor should regional authorities or individual members take actions that affect AA as a whole without consulting the General Services Board. The common welfare is paramount.

5. A Groups Purpose is to Spread the Message of AA

Each AA group is essentially a spiritual entity whose higher purpose is to save those who still struggle with problem drinking by bringing their message of hope.

6. AA Does not Endorse or Donate Outside of its Mission

The problems of money, property, and authority divert group members from their process of recovery, and may add stress that can prevent them from being successful. Facilities used for meetings should not use “Alcoholics Anonymous” in their name. Any property used by the AA group should be owned and managed separately from the members, maintaining the divide between the spiritual and material. The AA group should never go into business as an entity, although individual members should have or work toward gainful employment. Cooperating with individuals, businesses, or organizations is encouraged, but not to the point of endorsement, whether implied or actual.

7. Each group must self-support and decline outside contributions.

Individual members who are able to should contribute financially to any needs the group has. Public solicitation of funds, to support the AA group, individual members, or the overall AA movement, is unwise and can pull focus from the group’s collective success to material struggles. It is also important that individual AA group treasuries do not accumulate more money than what is required for specific AA purposes.

8. The core of the group meetings is nonprofessional, peer support.

In the context of AA leadership, “professionalism” is defined as a trained counselor whose occupation is to provide therapy for fee or hire. AA does not employ these professionals to lead groups, but instead focuses on the mutual support of peers helping each other through. Sometimes, AA hires members to perform specific services that help the group or regional organization, but these tasks never include leading the group.

9. There is No Central Organizing Body

As little organization as possible should be used to maintain the group’s identity. Leadership should rotate. There are some elected positions, including a secretary for minutes and a committee, but these positions should frequently cycle. The trustees in the General Service Board in New York are custodians of the overall AA Traditions and Steps, and maintain contributions and public relations. They also print the AA Grapevine However, the General Services Board has no authority over specific groups, and they do not govern; their focus is on serving AA as a whole.

10. AA Remains Apolitical

 AA members should not use the group identity to express support or opposition to issues outside AA itself. These include political views, sectarian religion, or alcohol reform. AA opposes no one and exists to help people struggling with alcohol abuse.

11. Personal anonymity of members is deeply important

 Anonymity exists to protect group members from public scrutiny and opinion. AA should avoid sensational advertising, and the names, faces, or other identities of members should never be used to promote the program, shame members, or otherwise attract attention. Praising groups or individual members is unnecessary; recommendation to AA should be only for those in need of help.

12. Anonymity is the Spiritual Foundation of the Traditions

 The principle of anonymity has spiritual significance, allowing members the freedom to express their struggles and their completion of the steps. Anonymity reminds members to focus on principles above personalities, and to practice genuine humility. Blessings cannot spoil members, nor can failures stop spiritual growth.

More on the 12 Traditions and Addiction Treatment

While Alcoholics Anonymous has helped many achieve and maintain recovery, it’s important to understand that some may need additional help. While the 12 Steps and the 12 Traditions can help one build a foundation for recovery, there are addiction treatment options that can help one reach recovery. Evidence-based treatment programs, like the ones offered by American Addiction Centers (AAC), have been shown to be effective at help people find recovery from alcohol and drug addiction. Our toll-free, 24/7 addiction helpline can connect you with compassionate professionals who can answer questions you may have about AA and addiction treatment, connect your with addiction treatment centers, and help to verify your insurance coverage. Don’t delay, call us today at to begin your journey to recovery.

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