What are the 12 Traditions of A.A.?

aa meetingAlcoholics Anonymous (A.A.) is an organization that is well-known for its 12 steps, but the 12 traditions of A.A. are also important, as they highlight the hallmark principles of A.A. and provide additional guidelines for people in recovery. If you’re interested in learning more about A.A. and 12-step recovery, these principles are important to know. Here is a brief overview of each of the 12 traditions of A.A.

  1. “Our common welfare should come first; personal recovery depends upon A.A. unity.”

This first tradition states that what each member of the A.A. group does affects everyone else. Keeping personal desires and ambitions in check is what will help the group flourish in recovery. Likewise, behaviors rooted in selfish desires and ambitions will not only threaten an individual’s sobriety, but they can also harm the group as a whole.

  1. “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 second tradition emphasizes the fact that A.A. group officers have no authority to order people around. Their purpose is to serve for the good of the group as a whole. Since A.A. is a spiritual movement, the ultimate authority is the concept of “group conscience.”

  1. “The only requirement for A.A. membership is a desire to stop drinking.”

There are no rules for A.A. membership, just a single requirement: you want to get sober. A.A. is meant to be inclusive, not exclusive, and those who relapse are not forced to leave. Instead, they are always welcomed back, supported, and encouraged to keep doing their best.

  1. “Each group should be autonomous except in matters affecting other groups or A.A. as a whole.”

This fourth tradition emphasizes the fact that A.A. groups everywhere work the same 12 steps and hold the 12 same principles. However, each group is different and has the ability to govern its own affairs. As a result, each group should seek to avoid any action that could harm A.A. as a whole.

  1. “Each group has but one primary purpose—to carry its message to the alcoholic who still suffers.”

Individuals in A.A. are all bound together by this one common purpose: to help addicted people get sober and stay sober. Using discretion, a member of A.A. may choose to pay for someone’s lodging, provide a meal, or help them find a job, but this tradition reminds the group as a whole, that the primary purpose of A.A. is to help people get sober, nothing more.

  1. “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.”

The sixth tradition reminds A.A. members that there is a fine line between pursuing personal goals, motives, and ambitions and staying the course to help the alcoholic. Although funding an educational organization about alcoholism or opening a halfway house aren’t bad things, the process could lead to arguments about staff, cost, rules, etc. that could divide the group and distract from the primary purpose of A.A. listed in the fifth tradition.

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    1. “Every A.A. group ought to be fully self-supporting, declining outside contributions.”

    The responsibility to support each individual A.A. group falls upon its members. Group members each contribute via the “passing of the basket” at meetings to purchase coffee for meetings, to support the General Office, and to fund any A.A. activities.

    1. “Alcoholics Anonymous should remain forever nonprofessional, but our service centers may employ special workers.”

    Although this eighth tradition can be confusing or misunderstood, the important thing to know is that A.A. members are not paid to sponsor others or carry the message to other addicted individuals. However, busy central offices and the fellowship’s headquarters are manned by staffed A.A. individuals, both members and nonmembers. In these jobs, members are paid for their work, but speaking at an A.A. meeting or bringing a newcomer to an evening meeting is something that they do without monetary payment.

    1. “A.A., as such, ought never be organized; but we may create service boards or committees directly responsible to those they serve.”

    Tradition nine speaks to the simplicity of A.A., however, it also recognizes that any action taken by a group requires some level of organization. Members who participate in A.A. service work, such as preparing refreshments for meetings, are directly responsible to the group as a whole, but they are not in charge or in an authoritative position as a result of that service work.

    1. “Alcoholics Anonymous has no opinion on outside issues; hence the A.A. name ought never be drawn into public controversy.”

    Tradition ten simply states that forming an opinion on an outside issue in the name of A.A. or while representing A.A. is likely to cause conflict and controversy that could tarnish the A.A. name. Not to mention, getting sober and/or staying sober with an organization that is full of conflict is not likely.

    1. “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.”

    The spirit of the A.A. program and tradition is based on anonymity. This is largely to provide a safe place where newcomers are encouraged to take part, no matter who they are or what they’ve done. However, the group as a whole is not a secret society. Tradition eleven speaks to personal anonymity and does not keep people from telling friends, family members, or co-workers that they are members of A.A.. It only seeks to keep members from attempting to sell or promote a personality publicly on behalf of A.A.

    1. “Anonymity is the spiritual foundation of all our Traditions, ever reminding us to place principles before personalities.”

    The twelfth tradition speaks to the value of anonymity in A.A. and reminding members that it is simply an expression of humility. Instead of taking credit for personal recovery and the recovery of others or becoming prideful due to the amount of volunteer work that is done, the twelfth tradition asks members to reflect on their dependence on a higher power to stay sober.

    Although A.A. membership is not a requirement of recovery, many people view it as a helpful resource for sobriety and a privilege to be able to help others overcome their addiction. Of course, there are many other alternative types of community recovery meetings and support groups that are available for sober living residents, such as:

    • Smart Recovery
    • Women for Sobriety
    • Celebrate Recovery
    • Secular Organizations for Sobriety
    • LifeRing Secular Recovery

    At Eudaimonia, community recovery meetings are a mandatory part of the program for sober living clients, but AA meetings aren’t the only option. Our sober living clients can choose to attend any type of recovery support group meeting that best suits them, for an individualized recovery experience that fosters genuine and lasting growth in sobriety.

    For more information about Eudaimonia sober living homes, call our admissions team today.



    1. https://www.aa.org/assets/en_US/smf-122_en.pdf
    2. https://www.aa.org/assets/en_US/en_tradition_longform.pdf
    3. https://www.aa.org/assets/en_US/p-43_thetwelvetradiillustrated.pdf
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