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The Traditions, a Framework for Recovery, Part 8, by John B.

The Traditions, a Framework for Recovery, Part 8, 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 Eight: “Alcoholics Anonymous should remain forever non-professional, but our service centers may employ special workers.” 

I ask myself on a fairly regular basis how the human race has been able to co-exist (to the extent that we have) for this long. Human civilization has existed for the better part of 3 million years, and we still can’t agree on anything, other than the fact that we can’t agree on anything!

There was a lot of contention and confusion in the early days of AA with regard to the difference between actually doing Twelve Step work and making that work possible.  It was quickly discovered that volunteers became rapidly “disenchanted with sweeping floors and brewing coffee 7 days a week” in clubhouses; that people tend to show up and take their job more seriously if they are paid!

It is very interesting and enlightening to read this tradition and discover how these issues were gradually (and painfully) resolved; it didn’t happen overnight, either. There were many in AA that had very strong opinions about this issue. Some of the people that were hired to do the day-to-day tasks so vital to the alcoholic seeking help were actually shunned by the ultraconservatives in AA at the time!  I know!

Obviously, it is very important to have recovering AA’s for this work, because when answering phones and other inquiries, it has to be someone who knows “the AA pitch.” Early on, for the so-called secretaries at local central offices, to listen to the spouses of alcoholics go on about their drunken wife or husband, arrange for hospitalization for some and get sponsorship for others, that and more was all in a day’s work.

Even after accepting that people doing this type of work should actually receive remuneration for it, the attitude was: okay, we will pay you, but it won’t be much. It was felt that these folks could “regain some measure of virtue… if they worked for AA real cheap.”  This attitude lasted for years, and I am sure there are those that still secretly believe it!

However, today the idea that getting paid for services that make Twelve Step work possible is accepted and is understood by most, and simply never comes up in the meetings I attend. In fact, it seems like many people who go to AA meetings now are unaware of the history and struggles that allow for meetings to exist.

I will be forever grateful that early AA’s didn’t just give in; they actually did hang in until we DID agree!  Wow!

Way to go AA.


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