Spiritual Foundation

We know that support for our recovery will always be here for us, as long as we remember to place principles before personalities.

~ 12 Step Literature

With the year ending, it is a good time to review what worked, what did not work, what changes have we made, and what gifts have we received as a result of working this program in all of our affairs. I can only speak for myself, but no matter how much anger and pain that was expressed this year, my personal life has been peaceful and productive. I have remained sober in thought and deed. I have not done everything perfectly, but I reserve the right to be human. This year, as in most years the gifts I received filled up three notebook pages. One time, I heard it said that we are born with more gifts than we can ever open. That sounds right to me. Life is good. It can be pretty predictable and a bit stodgy, but it is good. Bills are paid, I have enough money for a big emergency, a roof over my head, a cat to cuddle, good friends in program, a job that has meaning for me, and food in my tummy. Not everyone has these comforts. Life is good.

Here are some parting Tradition #12 questions that may help you assess how things are going:

Do we confuse AA principles with our own personal opinions?

Are we ever tempted to look at AA service as a career booster?

Do we use anonymity correctly, only using private contact info for AA purposes?

What is my primary purpose in being in AA?

Have a peaceful and sober New Years. Check out the events page for what is going on in AA this weekend. You are not alone.

Personal Responsibility

“It is a spiritual axiom that every time we are disturbed, no matter what the cause, there is something wrong with us.”  AA 12 X 12

The best question I can ask myself when upset with someone, something or some situation or institution is: What is going on with me? It is very likely that some little girl within me trigger that got set off: fear, jealousy, low self-esteem, lack of control, etc…There is usually some undercurrent going through me that yells: no fair! I want what I want! They ought to! Tradition 12 teaches us to work nicely with others, and to put on our big boy/girl pants; and go out there and “adult”. Here are some final 12 Tradition questions to consider.


 Do I fulfill all AA responsibilities in such a way as to please privately even my own conscience? Really? I take my AA responsibilities very seriously. This a dead serious dis-ease. It is doing one armed push-ups out in the hallway, So, yes I take it seriously.

Do my utterances always reflect the Tenth Tradition, or do I give AA critics real ammunition? Public controversy can be a tricky one. For instance, this year I had very strong political opinions We all have. What I learned quickly was not all my AA friends shared my point of view. I had to ratchet back my verbiage and keep my opinions outside the rooms of AA.

Should I keep my AA membership a secret, or reveal it in private conversation when that may help another alcoholic (and therefore me)? Is my brand of AA so attractive that other drunks want it? Well, no one in my life is in the blind here. I am pretty open about AA and my alcoholism. I have nothing to hide. The second part is harder: I really do not know. If people ask me to sponsor them, then there must be something they find attractive. I really do not spend much time worrying about it.

What is the real importance of me among more than a million AA’s? The real importance is that there is strength in numbers, there is a long history of AA helping people get and stay sober over many years, and I am reminded daily that AA is alive and well and will be here when my great grand kids come along. What is important to you?

Helping AA

Each group is autonomous except in matters affecting others groups or AA as a whole. ~ AA 12 X 12

I was told once that I do not have to rescue AA or defend it, but I do need to respect it and its traditions. I admit that I am easily distracted by things I do not find right or just. I will speak up when others are mistreated or maligned. I will redirect the conversation when others want to gossip or mention other AA’s in conversations or in sharing. But, over all, I am not responsible for saving AA or defending it from outside people. AA is bigger and greater than I am. It will be here long after I am dead and gone. I am just one member among all members and a small cog in a large wonderful machine. I must believe that there is a loving and merciful HP, and it is not me. He/she has go this thing.

Check out these Tradition 12 questions: 

Have I a personal responsibility in helping an AA group fulfill its primary purpose? What is my part? Yes, and my part is to suit up, show up early, speak AA only, keep my shares brief and upbeat, be of service, respect the traditions, and extend the hand of recovery to new people and those who are struggling.

Does my personal behavior reflect the Sixth Tradition – or belie it? I do not promote any outside entities in AA. And, I discourage that in others. Business cards and sales catalogues are left outside the doors at meetings I attend. Otherwise, it becomes an “anything goes” anonymous meeting.

Do I do all I can do to support AA financially? When is the last time I anonymously gave away a Grapevine subscription? Our groups donate back copies of Grapevine. We also give out Big Books. I give to the basket, bring in supplies and make copies of flyers.

Do I complain about certain AA’s behavior – especially if they are paid to work for AA? Who made me so smart? I try to treat other trusted servants with the same respect and appreciation that I want to receive. When I run into a troublesome personality, I try to distance myself and talk it over with my sponsor. Let me know what works for you?

It is Not About Me

When we point the finger of blame at another, we are pointing 4 fingers back at ourselves. ~ Anon

Just try it, the index finger points like a gun at another, but the three other fingers and the thumb point back at us. Old adages lasted this long because they are true. Today, I found myself on the blaming end of that one. Wow, I sure can get romping, stomping mad…still today. I guess I am human after all. Hmm. Anyhoooo, I have been practicing letting go of this service position all week, prepping the stuff to make the new person’s job go easier, and I even getting to my destination early to meet with her for an in-service. All for naught. She gets there and dumps on me that she has changed her mind, is too busy, and blah blah blah. Old Jo would have exploded in rage and called her a name of two that were not hers. But, instead, I walked down the hallway, called my sponsor and got some directions on how to proceed. It took a whole meeting and a conversation with someone interested in listening to finally get me in touch with what was really torquing my chain.

I heard this today about Tradition 12: The Abilene Theory (apparently a Texas or New York reference) means that just because Jo Schmo wants to go to Abilene, doesn’t mean the whole group has to go to Abilene. The group makes the decision for what is best for the group. Wow, did that ever hit me between the eyes! It is not about any one person and their wants. Group consensus (group vote) is what takes the day. As individuals, we are just one of many. We are small cogs in a big old machine called AA. We have no more power or control over how things turn out for the group than we do in our own lives. We have the right to one vote each and to speak our minds. How it turns out is based on the majority vote. Whether or not they have someone to take my place come next month, is not on me. It will all work out. Whew. There is a loving a merciful HP, and it isn’t me. Such a deal we have here.

We are not Professionals

Tradition #8: AA should remain forever nonprofessional, but our service centers may employ special workers. ~ AA 12 Traditions

Fellowship is the key word for this tradition. We are all equal, there is no status or seniority. The one with the most seniority in AA is the person who woke up earliest this morning. If we remember this, we are not placed on an imaginary ladder of worth. We do not end up measuring each other by our outside appearance, rank, social status, etc. I thank goodness every day that some wise people many years ago decided we need the traditions in order to keep us humble, require that we respect each other as equals, and make us work in a truly democratic way.

That is why we do not let professionals run the show. We have many highly skilled and educated people among us, but they are encouraged to leave those at the door. We must remain teachable. So, when we come in it is best that we not presume we have all the answers, know what is best, or think we are smarter than the next person. Those of us from the healing and helping professions need AA and support as much as anyone else in this program. Those of us who have been around for many years need the newcomers as much as they need us. When we embrace this fact, life gets easier. What a deal AA has given us.

Prudent Reserve

Every group ought to be self supporting, declining outside contributions.

~ AA 12 traditions 

This is one of my favorite traditions because it has been so liberating to apply this in my personal life. When I first came into the programs, I was deeply in debt, living 2 paychecks behind, and playing beat the bank and con the creditors games. I spent a good deal of time making up reasons why I could not pay the bill or why once again, I had more than 10 bad checks to pay off each month. If the bank confronted me or “unfairly” overcharged me for bad checks, I would stomp out and go down the street and start up an account with another bank.

It took a very strong and kind sponsor to teach me a new way of acting on life that I have used for over 20 years:

  1. Pay off all debts.
  2. Create no new debt.
  3. Put something into savings each month in a bank outside of town.
  4. Get rid of all credit cards, checking accounts, and credit/debit cards.
  5. Live on 1/3 of my income, purge unused things, downsize, and live simply so that others can simply live.                                                                                                          Life has never been better. It feels good to sleep unfettered by money nightmares.   Living on a cash only basis gives me freedom from surprises at the end of the month. And, when there is an emergency repair or illness, there is a prudent reserve to draw from. Tradition 7 works when you work it.

Group Inventory

We are winding down on my first month of this blog. So far, I feel I am gaining a lot out of just writing this. I hope those who read this are as well. The final part of tradition #6 involves some interesting group inventory questions that I would suggest you take to your business meetings. Here you go:

  1. Do we respect the 12 traditions and teach the newcomers how to apply them in our meetings and lives?
  2. Do we discourage members from sharing or pitching outside agencies, hospitals, treatment centers, etc.?
  3. Are we careful not to use AA money to finance outside enterprises, churches, businesses, etc.?
  4. Do we sell outside (non-AA conference approved) literature?
  5. Are we careful not to use other members or AA contact lists to sell things or to promote our own businesses for our own personal gain?
  6. Do we avoid endorsing outside entities (such as treatment programs, experts, hospitals, etc.)                                                                                                                       These should help your meetings get and stay on track. We all want and need healthy meetings, right? The only way to ensure this is to have regular monthly steering (business) meetings, do group inventories now and then, and follow the traditions. http://www.aa.org/assets/en_US/smf-122_en.pdf This will keep those doors open for the next generations who will need AA in the future. For this, we are responsible.