The Spirit of Traditions

Never since it has began, has Alcoholics Anonymous been divided by a major controversial issue. ~ AA 12 X 12.

Admittedly, I am one of those who would groan audibly whenever there was a traditions study at my home meeting. Oh my gosh, can we just get into the steps? What on earth is this for? Why do we have to keep talking about this stuff? OH MY GOSH!! I can laugh at myself now. I was an angry, stubborn young girl. The traditions represented the rules, the adults in the room, and the restrictions on my personal sharing. Heaven forbid, I be confronted with any such thing. It took the loving confrontation and gentle persuasion of others to teach me the benefits of following the traditions.

What I have come to appreciate is that the traditions kept me from being kicked out of AA.  The spirit of the traditions led the old timers to respect me and my feelings, but kept the traditions alive in the off chance that I would finally get what they were trying to teach me. I sure appreciate that they did what they did. Ironically, I am now one of those old timers that insist that the traditions be followed. What goes around, comes around.

Here are a couple more questions on Tradtion #10 to consider: 

6. Do I breach this or any of its supporting Traditions in subtle, perhaps unconscious,
7. How can I manifest the spirit of this Tradition in my personal life outside AA? Inside AA? Let me know what you discover.

Being A Part Of

Our real purpose is to fit ourselves to be of maximum service to G.O.D.

and the people about us. ~ Big Book

Being a part of something greater than myself (not apart from) is the essence of this thing called fellowship. I was asked just yesterday by my only “normy” friend why I go to AA if I have been sober for over 31 years. I said that this is a life long commitment. Beyond that, I do not think anyone who is not involved in this program would understand why we keep coming back, why we call ourselves alcoholic when we no longer drink, or what we do in our our meetings. I have to remember that AA is for those who want it, not those who need it.  If it were the prior, there would not be enough chairs in the building to occupy.

So, why do we old timers keep coming back? We give back freely what was freely given to us. Our appearance and sharing at meetings is a form of service. It is our primary purpose to be of service to HP and others.

G.O.D. does not call those who qualify; but does qualify those who are called. Sometimes, I do not know when I will be called, but I do know in my heart of hearts that the skills and words will be furnished. Sometimes, I just open my mouth and the words fall out. There are other times (like funerals) where I ask that the right words be given. It all works when we work it. And, we are worth it. Keep coming back, you just never know who will be there that needs to hear what you have to say.

The Message

Those of us who live this program do not simply live this message,

we are the message. ~ Anon 

This is a program of attraction, not promotion. We cannot go into every bar in town and drag people out of there and into AA meetings. That doesn’t work so well. That is what boxers call, “leading with your chin”. I do take up the argument, that we are not the message, but rather G.O.D. is the message, we are merely the messengers. The question is: what message do we want to convey? I have to remember what attracted me in the first place: unconditional love, compassion, humor, understanding and an open door policy.

Most folks in AA will tell you that you may be the only Big Book that someone will ever see in their lives. If that is so, then it would make sense that we crack the book open every day, and learn what it says. I admit to being a Big Book thumper, but I cannot quote chapter and verse, and I never could. There are some handy dandy Big Book reference cards that one can use. That way, when a certain issue and emotion troubles us or our sponsees, we can refer them to a chapter that addresses such a thing.  The nice thing about AA is that there have been millions who have already recovered, so all we have to do is learn from their experiences. There is no need to recreate the wheel. Just jump in and enjoy the ride. As one old timer used to say, “Just shut up and get in the bus!”

Lock Step Agreement

For whatever reason this phrase was on my mind as I awoke today. The Big Book says, we do not necessarily “have to be in lock step agreement”. Anyone who has ever been oppressed, abused, confined, or lived under an authoritarian rule can tell you how our the hair on the back of our necks stands up, we rebel, and we will overreact when someone tells us what we must do in order to work this program. We will consistently be the dissenting votes when our meeting or intergroup takes a vote on something, even if we agree to the basic premise of the proposal. What makes us tick?

I can only speak for myself. I have decided to remember that each time I disagree with someone or something, does not make me wrong, nor does it make the other person(s) wrong. We can agree to disagree. This is a program of freedom and choice. We get to choose how to work the steps, who we work with, what meetings we go to, etc. The paths to recovery are as myriad as the many different people who are sitting at those tables. We need to remember that our primary purpose is what is of essence: to remain sober, and to helps others find sobriety. All differences are respected. Recovery is a great big hoop that anyone can jump through. Let’s focus one why we are here and respect all voices, as ours was respected when we came in.

Keep It Simple, Sweety

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?

No Outside Influence

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.