The twelve traditions of alcoholics anonymous

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(Pages 563 through 568)

With the publication of the Big Book in April, 1939, followed by Jack Alexander’s article in the Saturday Evening Post in March, 1941, which gave Alcoholics Anonymous a most enthusiastic endorsement, A.A. became a national institution. A new era had descended on the world. Hopeless alcoholics had, for the second time in the history of mankind, been given an opportunity to escape death or permanent insanity from the fatal malady -- alcoholism.
Very early on, Bill W. became aware of the need of some guidelines for conduct within the Fellowship. He had been made aware of the Washington Temperance Movement (Washingtonians) which had existed for a brief period a century earlier. A small band of men, each of whom had a serious drinking problem, pledged to stop drinking. They did so by fellowship and telling their stories at meetings held for such a purpose. Their success was phenomenal. Within 3 - 4 years, they had grown to more than 100,000 members. With their success came the notion that, if they could help alcoholics stay sober, they ought to be able to help anyone with any type of problem. They also had an idea that if they could get the endorsement of the leading citizens of their communities, they would further accelerate their growth. Their departure from their singleness of purpose led to their downfall. In as short a time as they had gained success, they had vanished. So much so that when Bill W. began analyzing the problems and difficulties of the Fellowship of Alcoholics Anonymous, he had never heard of the Washingtonians. Their history was brought to Bill’s attention and became the basis for the work he had ahead of him. Two things became very obvious to Bill as he studied the history of the Washingtonians:

1) They had no defined program of action to achieve sobriety.

2) They had no code of conduct for the Fellowship.
With the publication of the Big Book, the Fellowship of Alcoholics Anonymous had the well-defined Program of Action -- The life-giving Twelve Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous. The need for the code of conduct was becoming more and more obvious with each passing day.
Through the correspondence Bill received, telephone conversations and traveling around the country visiting as many groups as was possible, Bill was able to make some very profound observations. He was able to observe how successful groups functioned. He was also able to clearly see what other groups were doing that led to their demise. He started to codify his observations and began his campaign to develop “an Alcoholics Anonymous Tradition of Relations --- Twelve Points to Assure Our Future.” Bill used every method available to him to sell the Fellowship on the need of what he came to know would be vital to our growth and success. One of the principal means was through the “Grapevine.” Beginning in 1945, Bill began writing articles explaining the need for these guidelines. Many of these articles are reprinted in a Grapevine publication, “THE LANGUAGE OF THE HEART.”
For the next five years, Bill devoted most of his time to trying to convince the Fellowship of the need for the “Twelve Traditions Of Alcoholics Anonymous.” The idea of a national conference to discuss and adopt these principles of group conduct by an informed Group Conscience bore fruit in Cleveland, Ohio, in July, 1950. Each Tradition was presented to the Fellowship by an A.A. member. Each was voted on and adopted unanimously. They were born from the failure of many groups and the needless deaths of many chronic alcoholics. Or as Bill put it, “These lifesaving Traditions were hammered out on the anvils of experience.” Most unfortunately, the lack of adherence to these precious principles is the reason for the demise of so many groups and the needless deaths of many hopeless, helpless alcoholics today.
To gain a better understanding of the full intent and the spiritual content of the lifesaving Twelve Traditions of Alcoholics Anonymous, we

will study the Long Form as they were originally presented to the Fellowship.

Third (Page 563) – Fourth (Page 561)
1. What does the Program of Alcoholics Anonymous mean to members of the Fellowship of Alcoholics Anonymous?
2. A.A. can, of course, mean what to whom?
(P) 3. Therefore, no society of men and women ever had a more urgent need for what?
4-a. What do we recovered alcoholics see we must do?

4-b. Why is that so?

(P) 6-a. The “12 Traditions” of Alcoholics Anonymous are what?

6-b. What are those two urgent questions?

(P) 8. What will we find on page 564?
9. What is the “short form” considered to be?
10. Why is the “long form” reproduced in this Book?

Comment: We will skip Third (Page 564) – Fourth (Page 562) containing the “Short Form” of the Traditions.

Third (Page 565) – Fourth (Page 563)

1. What is the source of the wisdom of our Traditions?

2. What is each member of Alcoholics Anonymous?

3. What must A.A. continue to do?
4. What must come first?
5. What follows?


1-a. For each group there is only one what?

1-b. That ultimate authority is Who?

1-c. How may He express Himself?


1. Who should our membership include?

Comment: the “Short Form” opens the door wider for membership than does this “Long Form.” Here it says “alcoholics”. The “Short Form” states “a desire to stop drinking.” It does not say, “and anything” nor does it say “or anything”. It simply says, “stop drinking”.
2. Who may we refuse membership?
3. What ought we not depend on?
4-a. How many members are required before there can be an A.A. group?

Comment: One of God’s Promises is, “Any time two or more are gathered together in My name, there I will be also”.

4-b. Provided they do not do what?

Third (Page 565 - continued) – Fourth (Page 563 – continued)


1. Who is each group responsible to so far as its business and practices are concerned?

2. If other groups might be affected, what should be done?
3-a. No group nor any A.A. service entity should ever do what?

3-b. Without first doing what?

5. What is paramount in Alcoholics Anonymous?


1-a. What should each group be?

1-b. Having how many purposes?

1-c. What is that purpose?
Comment: Tradition Three states the only requirement for membership in our Fellowship -- a desire to stop drinking. There are two types of drinkers who may have that desire: the “hard drinker” and the “real alcoholic.” For the difference between the two, read pages 20 & 21 in this Basic Text. Since the “hard drinker” has the ability to stop or moderate by his own will power, he is not faced with the desperate need of the “real alcoholic.” The group’s focus should, therefore, be to meet the needs of the “real alcoholic” in developing a relationship with God,

as they understand Him, through the study and application of the Twelve Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous.)


1. What will divert us from our primary spiritual aim?

2-a. What do we think should be done with property of considerable value?

Third (Page 566) – Fourth (Page 564)

TRADITION SIX - continued:

2-b. What is being divided by doing so?

4. What should an A.A. group never do?

5-a. What would be secondary aids?

5-b. How should secondary aids be organized?

5-c. What distinct advantage does this offer?

8. What should such facilities not do?

9. Who should manage such facilities?

10. Who will make a good manager for an A.A. club?

11. What about various health facilities?

12-a. While an A.A. group may do what?

12-b. Such cooperation ought never go so far as what?

14. Who can an A.A. group bind itself to?

1-a. Who should fully support an A.A. group?

1-b. By what kinds of contributions?
3-a. Do we think this should take a long time?

3-b. How about asking the general public for contributions?

3-c. How about large gifts?

3-d. How about obligatory contributions?

7. What about keeping funds in excess of the prudent reserve?

Comment: An informed Group conscience determines what the prudent reserve should be.

8. Of what has experience forewarned us?

1. How should Alcoholics Anonymous forever remain?

2. How do we define professionalism?

3. Where may we employ alcoholics?

4. How should such services be compensated?

Third (Page 567) – Fourth (Page 565)

TRADITION EIGHT - continued:

5. What is never to be paid for?


1. What is it A.A. needs very little of?

2. What kind of leadership is best?

3-a. A small group may elect a what?

3-b. A large group may need what?

3-c. Large cities may find it desirable to have what?

3-d. What would be required for the central committee?
7. The trustees of the General Service Board are what?
8-a. Of what are they custodians?

8-b. What do they receive?

8-c. What do our contributions maintain?
11-a. What have the groups authorized them to do?

11-b. They guarantee the integrity of what?

13-a. All representatives are to be guided by what?

13-b. Our true leaders are what?

15-a. They derive no what?

15-b. What do they not do?

17. Universal respect is what?

1-a. What should no A.A. group or individual member do?

1-b. This applies particularly to what?
3. Who does A.A. oppose?
4. Aside from our Program of Recovery, our Traditions and our Concepts, on what may we express our views?

Third (Page 567 - continued) – Fourth (Page 565 – continued)


Comment: This Tradition deals with practical anonymity.
1. How should our relations with the general public be characterized?
2. What should A.A. avoid?
3. As A.A. members, how should our names and pictures

be treated?

4. What principle should guide our public relations?
5. What do we never need to do?
6. If we don’t, who will?


Comment: This Tradition deals with spiritual anonymity.
1. And, finally, members of Alcoholics Anonymous believe what?

Third (Page 568) – Fourth (Page 566)


2-a. It reminds us to do what?

2-b. What are we to practice?
4-a. That what may never spoil us?

4-b. That we shall forever do what?

Many groups close their meetings by praying the “Lord’s Prayer.” These Traditions epitomize the beginning and the final phrases of this Prayer. We begin by praying, “Our Father.” Not “My Father” or “Your Father,” but just “Our Father” -- making us all totally equal in the Fellowship of Alcoholics Anonymous.
“For Thine is the Kingdom, the Power and the Glory forever.” This accepts that this is His Kingdom and, as His children (since He is the King), each of us is a Prince or a Princess with the heritage that goes with that privilege.
It is His Power, not ours, that has saved us from the final end for most alcoholics: death or permanent insanity.
And it is His Glory. We give Him all the credit and take none for ourselves. We hope we may always be willing to be of maximum service to Him and the people about us.

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