WHY IT WORKS
The 12 Traditions serve as a guideline to ‘Why It Works’, while the 12 Steps describe “How It Works’. Our manuals to progress are the Big Book and the 12 Traditions, but we also have The Concepts.
All of these labors of love put in books help define the internal operations of the 12-Step Programs, which sounds totally dry and dead to some impartial observers. But when a thing is life and death, it is anything other than boring (after all, boredom comes from a boring mind, right?).
Remember you are willing to go to any lengths.
So, since I am nothing like any kind of authority, I will just share with you my conception of what spiritual messages I resonated with in the Traditions. There was a number of takeaways that could require a tome, but here I would like to mostly focus on the traditions that were read in my very first meeting. These were the third in the fifth traditions and are highlighted in red below.
1. Our common welfare should come first; personal recovery depends upon AA unity (we either hang together or die alone).
2. For our group purpose, there is but one ultimate authority—a loving God as He may express Himself in our group conscience. Our leaders are but trusted servants; they do not govern.
3.The only requirement for AA membership is a desire to stop drinking.
4. Each group should be autonomous, except in matters affecting other groups or AA as a whole.
5.Each group has but one primary purpose: to carry its message to the alcoholic who still suffers.
6. 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.
7. Every AA group ought to be fully self-supporting, declining outside contributions.
8. Alcoholics Anonymous should remain forever non-professional, but our service centers may employ special workers.
9. AA, as such, ought never be organized; but we may create service boards or committees directly responsible to those they serve.
10. Alcoholics Anonymous has no opinion on outside issues; hence the AA name ought never be drawn into public controversy.
11. Our public relations policy is based on attraction rather than promotion; we need always maintain personal anonymity at the level of press, radio, and films.
12. Anonymity is the spiritual foundation of all our traditions, ever reminding us to place principles above personalities.
When I heard that the only requirement for membership was a desire to stop drinking, I heard it as a welcoming beacon of love and acceptance. No one had to be ‘good enough’ and in the reading of How It Works, I heard ‘progress not perfection’ as an echo of this Tradition.
The Fifth Tradition reading made me feel like no one was out to ‘get’ something from anybody. They didn’t want my body, money, or reputation. In fact, who would have wanted any of it anyway? I was sick and smelled like a rotten brewery, spent all my money on alcohol, and was an ex-con as a ‘reputation’. But I was welcomed with smiles, laughter, handshakes and hugs. I saw my conception of what Christianity was really supposed to look like. No racism, sexism, moneyism, statusism, or any other ism. Yeah, I had to make up a couple words there, but you get my drift. Old ideas began to die.
Were it not for hearing these Traditions, my awareness of what I was hearing in that first meeting would have been ‘shields up!’ and defensive. You can always tell an Alcoholic, but you can’t tell ‘em much would have dominated my consciousness.
“LOVE ONE ANOTHER” was on a wooden plaque, too, and I was ‘getting it’. Not only that, but I saw another sign that reminded me of my baby picture that my grandmother had on top of her TV.
She died before I sobered up. Her last memory of me was my standing next to her deathbed in the hospital. I had a chain around my waist which was looped through the black box that held my handcuffs. My prison attire and the big guard hovering close by was kinda ‘impressive’. Grandma looked quite disappointed. I hope she peeks in at my life from time to time. I’m not perfect by any means, but I’ve been out of prison for 32 years and sober that long, too.
I implore that you not only read the Big Book, but STUDY IT. Same with the 12 & 12. I can guarantee any open-minded reader will discover things about what makes people tick…especially alcoholic people. Aristotle said the unexamined life is not worth living. Examining our wounds and resentments hurt, but cleaning out a wound is needed for healing. Forgive yourself and others. Dump all the resentments.
Maybe go find a Big Book study Group. Pray and meditate on every single word, sentence, paragraph and chapter you read. Doors will open in your mind to greater love and understanding. If you have turned your will and life over to God, then everything you have is no longer yours. It belongs to God. So ask God about it all. Your will and life needs direction and if it ain’t Higher Powered, it’s lower-powered. Simple, but not always easy. Indeed, we are more than our mugshot.
There is One who has all power, that One is God. Don’t quit before the miracle happens. Wounded people wound people, but healed people heal people. No healed person forgets their wounds. But we stop shooting our wounded through forgiveness. Short and sweet. The Program is about LOVE.