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The Traditions are designed to keep the GROUP from destroying ITSELF; the Steps are designed to keep US from destroying OURSELVES. Tradition Six: “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.”  Hello everyone, John here! It’s time for another episode of the Twelve Traditions made easy. So, let’s get right to it. As was mentioned in my last post, the primary purpose of any and all Twelve Step groups is to carry its message to the suffering alcoholic/addict. The concept embodied in this tradition naturally follows the concept embodied in Tradition Five. The idea here is that anything that interferes with the groups’ primary purpose, or confuses people about what is and what is not a Twelve Step group, can compromise its mission. The purpose of this tradition is to ensure we do not associate the group and/or organization with any other groups or organizations, in actuality or in the public’s mind. Early on in AA when these traditions were first being hammered out, there were many ideas floating about with regard to exactly how we would carry the message.  Some of these included educating the public, getting involved in passing laws and becoming involved with employers. My favorite is that we would build a hospital chain of our own, then go about gathering up skid row alkies and “sort out those who could get well, and make it possible for the rest to earn their livelihood in a kind of quarantined confinement.”[1] Every time I read that part, I picture myself in that quarantined confinement scenario! I’d be safe and protected by the hand of AA, instead of facing life on life’s terms. Glorious! The problem with Alcoholics Anonymous becoming a major player in the legislation game and hospital management and educating the public, and trying to resolve employer/employee disputes, is that some sort of profit must be made. As soon as that happens, you are in competition with somebody, and pretty soon after that, confusion. Lucky for us all, AA arrived at the right answers to these and many more dilemmas. I don’t think we got there on our own. Could it be that we had help from a power greater than ourselves? I think so. [1] Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions pg 155

The Traditions, a Framework for Recovery, Part 7, by John B.

The Traditions are designed to keep the GROUP from destroying ITSELF; the Steps are designed to keep US from destroying OURSELVES.

Tradition Seven: “Every AA group ought to be fully self-supporting, declining outside contributions.” 

As I may have mentioned before, the primary purpose of any and all Twelve Step groups is to carry its message to the suffering alcoholic/addict. This tradition especially makes that possible.

The idea here is that we cannot be beholden to anyone, except ourselves. As we say in meetings, we have no dues or fees, but we do have a basket to put them in; in other words, we have expenses. Alcoholics Anonymous must remain independent of outside influence. Also, we must be able to provide our own literature, pay rent for rooms where we meet and have office space for our *central offices.

In the early days of AA, after some bitter lessons with regard to mixing money and spirituality, the AA groups of the day were reluctant to ask the members to contribute, and members were also reluctant to contribute because of the controversy.

However, the need for more people to answer phone inquiries and respond to letters was greatly increased in 1941 by the publication in the Saturday Evening Post of an article written by Jack Alexander about Alcoholics Anonymous.  The Post was, at the time, a major source of information for many in America.

At the time, the Foundation, as it was then called, was located in New York. The article introduced the idea to the mass public that there was an answer to the nightmare that is alcoholism. After the magazine came out, the office was overwhelmed with inquiries. It quickly became evident that there was a great need for what AA was offering.

There have been many opportunities in the intervening years for AA to accept outside contributions in the form of money left to AA in members’ wills, and other sources. However, it was determined that the best policy was one of “corporate poverty,” which means enough money to meet expenses, with a prudent reserve kept for emergencies. This policy is still followed today. The early members knew that whoever “paid the piper, was apt to call the tune,” and chose wisely to avoid any possibility of distraction.

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is why AA does not have endless pledge drives like PBS, or bake sales or dues or fees, or any other nonsense like that. Members who are able contribute money at each meeting, and each meeting sends contributions to the local intergroup or central office, area office, and General Service Office, so that the message can be carried that there is a way for alcoholics to live and be free.


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