The Traditions are designed to keep the GROUP from destroying ITSELF; the Steps are designed to keep US from destroying OURSELVES!
Tradition One: “Our common welfare should come first; personal recovery depends on A.A. unity.” (Also: NA, OA, CA et.al.)
For me, a valuable aspect of this tradition has been the fact that, “No AA can compel another to do anything; nobody can be punished or expelled” from AA. As someone who was routinely punished by society for my misbehavior, and has been expelled from more than one drinking establishment, I was relieved to find out that the only requirement for membership in AA really is an honest desire to stop drinking!
The Traditions of Alcoholics Anonymous were first published in 1946 in The Grapevine magazine and were developed slowly and painfully through much struggle, hard lessons and compromise. Some of these struggles are outlined in the book “Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions.” Also, they have been adopted by every 12-Step recovery program in the world.
The purpose of the Traditions is to ensure the continued existence of meetings and meeting places, to keep the doors open for everyone seeking relief from addiction, and to give us a framework to accomplish this task.
According to a pamphlet published by Alcoholics Anonymous in 1955, titled “AA Tradition, How It Developed, By Bill W”:
“When an alcoholic applies the Twelve Steps of our recovery program to his personal life, his disintegration stops and his unification begins. The Power which now holds him together in one piece overcomes those forces which had rent him apart. Exactly the same principle applies to each A.A. group and to Alcoholics Anonymous as a whole. So long as the ties which bind us together prove far stronger than those forces which would divide us if they could, all will be well. We shall be secure as a movement; our essential unity will remain a certainty…”
Additionally, Bill wrote: “Unity is so vital to us A.A.’s that we cannot risk those attitudes and practices which have sometimes demoralized other forms of human society. Thus far we have succeeded because we have been different.”
The Steps and Traditions that continue to underlie the 12-Step recovery model to this day remain a significant achievement in establishing a framework to establish a safe haven for people recovering from addiction and dysfunction in their lives.