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.
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:
- Pay off all debts.
- Create no new debt.
- Put something into savings each month in a bank outside of town.
- Get rid of all credit cards, checking accounts, and credit/debit cards.
- 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.
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:
- Do we respect the 12 traditions and teach the newcomers how to apply them in our meetings and lives?
- Do we discourage members from sharing or pitching outside agencies, hospitals, treatment centers, etc.?
- Are we careful not to use AA money to finance outside enterprises, churches, businesses, etc.?
- Do we sell outside (non-AA conference approved) literature?
- 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?
- 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.
A short version of tradition #6 is what Dr. Bob asked of Bill W. years ago, and that is to “keep it simple”. Now, some folks will tell you that K.I.S.S. = keep it simple, stupid. I prefer the word sweety. No amount of negativity or defamation will or ever has motivated anyone, especially stubborn girls like me to reform, change, or make amends in life. I do respond more favorably to coaxing, gentle words, and positive feedback.
In tradition # 6, we avoid anything that may distract us from our primary purpose (to remain sober and to help others get sober), and we do not have a profit motive in our humane acts towards others. To do otherwise creates a moral bankruptcy. We all can point out times when a well meaning member tried to involve us as their clients, tried to sell us something, or offered a therapy or treatment that they felt would help us get sober. If any of that ever worked, there would be no need for a 12 step program. So, we come together to work on a common problem and a common solution. That is called solidarity. That is the glue that keeps us together and the reason for being here. How has solidarity worked in keeping you sober?
Once time I was telling someone that I just was taking life “one day at a time”. The retort was less than supportive. The guy shot back, “That is how life was designed: one day at a time!” I used to think all those corny sayings we use around the tables (ie, one day at a time, keep it simple, etc) were boring and trite. I hate the idea of hearing How it Works or the traditions read every single time we met. My selfish little kid inside would mumble, “do they think we are stupid? Why do we have to keep hearing this stuff?”
As I grew into the recovery process, I recognized how lucky we are that those saying and readings have kept millions of people all over the globe sober. They have melded us together as cohesive extensions of each other, they have buoyed us up in tough times and have made us stronger as a result. I thank HP for making me stay put,, so that I would eventually come to love that which is keeping me sane and sober…. one day at a time for over 30 years. What keeps you sober?
Tradition #6 states: An AA group ought never endorse, finance or lend the AA name to any related facility or outside enterprise, lest problems of money, property and prestige divert us from our primary purpose.
Why would it matter if we let treatment centers or doctors/therapists run our meetings? After all, many of us have had to go into treatment or the hospital in order to get sober. Don’t we owe them a load of thanks? The reason we keep AA independent of outside influence is that we are protecting our primary purpose: to get sober and to help others find sobriety. We give freely what was freely given to us. If money, fame, or control becomes our motivation; we will lose sight of what we are here for.
If we let the health or mental health system take over our meetings, we become clients which reduces our chances of having any say so on how the meetings are run, what is read, or what is said. We become an “anything goes AA” meeting. It is up to the members to ensure that these meetings stay open and healthy for the the next generations to come. The way that is done is to follow the traditions, work the steps, and make sure AA only literature is read and that only AA is spoken in our rooms. Those of us who are familiar with the traditions, have a responsibility to insist that they be followed by our meetings. Keep AA healthy: follow the traditions.
I have often been told that the 12 steps are used as suicide prevention (helps us not kill ourselves), the 12 traditions are used as homicide prevention (helps us not kill each other), and the 12 concepts are used as genocide prevention (helps us not kill everyone). This may sound funny, but in all seriousness, if I do not use these daily, I get N.U.T.S. (Not Using the Standards).
Now, why should we bother to learn how these apply to our lives and sobriety? What is the purpose of having these standards for recovery? They are the glue that holds us together and keeps us coming back. If you have ever been around a dry drunk, you know that when you remove the alcohol from the alcoholic, all you have left is the ic! AA addresses this by encouraging the use of the 12 steps. If you have ever been to a group that does not use these standards and allows people to be in their disease, you know how important the traditions are in guiding group consensus. And, if you have ever been to an intergroup or district meeting where the concepts are not used, you will know how important it is that the leaders be more informed of their importance. I will spend sometime each month addressing each of these in order. I would encourage each of you to find a sponsor to work through these in the AA 12 X 12.
Life can only get better in the process. Drop me a line and let me know how these work in your lives.