12 Traditions of AA

What is Alcoholics Anonymous (AA)?

Alcoholics Anonymous (A.A.) is an organization that provides peer support to people with alcohol use disorder (AUD) and those who struggle with drinking alcohol. A.A. meetings take place in-person and online. They are held in the United States and around the world. Meetings are free to attend and individual members support the organization without any outside funding.

A.A.’s goal is to promote sober living through its message. A.A. membership is anonymous and open to anyone of any age, gender, ethnicity, or ability, as long as that person is willing to abstain from drinking alcohol. Meetings are held in public places, usually schools, churches, or a related facility, and are sometimes open to people who are not members or people with AUD.

wine glass in one hand

Despite not being affiliated with any political or religious group, A.A. is based on a spiritual foundation that includes acknowledgment of a higher power. This might be a loving God or anything else the member chooses.

Meetings are part of the A.A.12-step recovery program that is practiced by members in their everyday lives. 

The 12-Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous

The Alcoholics Anonymous program is a 12-step program. These 12 steps are listed in the Big Book and are based on 12 traditions designed to help members with recovery. A.A.’s 12-steps include:

1. Admit powerlessness over alcohol and that life is unmanageable.

People with AUD struggle to face their alcohol problem. Acknowledging they cannot stop on their own is the first step toward recovery.

2. Believe that a power greater than ourselves is the only thing that can restore sanity.

Recovery requires looking toward something bigger than oneself. Members are free to observe whatever higher power they choose.

3. Turn one’s will and life over to God.

This is the conscious choice to hand control over to a higher power.

4. Searching for a moral inventory of oneself.

This is an honest self-assessment used to find areas of regret, embarrassment, guilt, or anger.

5. Admit to God, oneself, and another person the nature of one’s mistakes.

This involves acknowledging and admitting to another person their poor behavior in the past, often in writing. Many people in A.A. share the self-assessment from step four with their sponsor.

6. Allow God to remove one’s defects of character.

This step involves admitting it is time to have the higher power remove the wrongs from Step 4.

7. Ask God to remove one’s shortcomings.

Like step 6, this step involves asking for intervention from one’s higher power to deal with shortcomings.

8. Compiled a list of people one has harmed.

A.A. members compile a list of loved ones and others who were hurt by them no matter how big or small. Harms range from dishonesty to problems of money or stealing to buy alcohol to hurting someone’s feelings and more.

9. Make amends to the people on the list, unless it would cause more harm to do so.

This step requires the A.A. member to deal with the list compiled in step 8. This could range from a face-to-face apology to a written apology or simply leaving the person alone if that’s what would cause the least harm.

10. Continue personal inventory and admit current mistakes made when they occur.

This step is the continuation of self-monitoring for any detrimental behaviors and facing up to them immediately.

11. Prayed and/or meditated to strengthen a relationship with God, asking for knowledge and the power to carry out the will of the higher power.

In this step, A.A. members commit to a spiritual practice that might include Bible reading, meditation, or something else. The spiritual aim of A.A. is to ensure members look to a higher power to maintain sobriety.

12. Experience spiritual awakening, practice the principle learned in the program in all that one does and try to carry that message to others with AUD.

In this step, members of A.A. share their messages with others who might benefit. 

What Are The Twelve Traditions of AA?

In addition to the 12 steps, the principles of Alcoholics Anonymous are based on the 12 Traditions. They are as follows:

  1. The common welfare of A.A. comes first because personal recovery depends on the unity of the group.
  2. God is the ultimate authority and A.A. leaders act as trusted servants without the power to govern.
  3. The only requirement to be a member of A.A.is the desire to stop drinking.
  4. Each A.A. group is autonomous unless an issue affects other groups or the entirety of A.A.
  5. The primary group purpose is to share its message with others with AUD.
  6. Groups must never endorse, finance, or allow third-parties to use the A.A.name. Money, property, and prestige should never divert from the primary purpose of the group.
  7. Each group is to be self-supporting and refuse contributions from any outside enterprise.
  8. A.A.must always be nonprofessional, but the organization’s service centers can employ special workers at the general service office. 
  9. A.A.is not to be organized, but there can be committees that are directly responsible to members.
  10. A.A.is to form no opinion on outside issues or involved in public controversy.
  11. A.A.’s promotional policies are to focus on attracting people who need support, as opposed to promoting the organization. Members must maintain personal anonymity in the press.
  12. The principle of anonymity is the foundation of all 12 traditions and members must place principles before personalities. 

Who Wrote the Twelve Traditions of AA?

The Twelve Traditions of A.A. were written by Bill Wilson or Bill W, a co-founder of A.A. Each A.A. tradition was published one at a time in the Grapevine in the late 1940s.

Bill believed it was important for the organization to preserve the unity and singleness of purpose. After receiving many letters from people attending A.A. meetings around the country, he wrote the article asking about anonymity, autonomy, endorsements, and more. Bill believed the people writing to him were excited to have found a program but concerned about some of the issues that had arisen as A.A. grew. 

Benefits of the Twelve Traditions of AA

A.A. has helped many people with AUD and other addictions maintain sobriety. The twelve steps and twelve traditions offer an easy way for people to get through each day when sobriety is challenging. 

The benefits of the 12 traditions including:

It’s a simple approach. 

A.A. members focus on the present day. They don’t promise to stop drinking forever, they just commit to getting through the day without alcohol. That’s the only commitment required for an A.A. membership.

It offers support and reinforcement. 

A.A. brings people with similar challenges and goals together to discuss their situation and reinforce their mutual desire to abstain from alcohol.

It’s adaptable. 

The program offers a framework that is customizable to a person’s individual goals, challenges, and coping strategies.

It’s a resource for the courts. 

As a reputable organization, A.A.is a tool used by the courts to prevent overburdening of the docket and give judges a reasonable next step to give those charged with crimes related to alcohol.

Resources

“Alcoholics Anonymous.” Aa.Org, 2019, www.aa.org/pages/en_US.

Marron, J. T. “The Twelve Steps. A Pathway to Recovery.” Primary Care, vol. 20, no. 1, 1 Mar. 1993, pp. 107–119, pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/8464933/.

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Updated on: October 20, 2020
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Alcohol Rehab Help Writing Staff
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Medically Reviewed
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Annamarie Coy,
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