When I turned up in Alcoholics Anonymous I saw the scrolls containing the twelve steps and they looked confusing enough, but then I saw the traditions and they looked even worse – if only because they were longer sentences. However, any confusion was dispelled by my sponsor who took me through the twelve steps and showed me how to recover from a seemingly hopeless condition of mind and body. In time he then introduced me to the twelve traditions of AA and the second legacy of Unity.
He suggested I start to learn the principles behind the traditions as they are there to ensure the survival of our fellowship, and this is one of the main points of tradition one in its long form – AA must continue to live or most of us will surely die.
When I came to my first meeting I was met by a group of people who were sharing a way out upon which they were absolutely agreed. Had it not been for the unity described in tradition one then there would have been no group to carry this unified message of recovery to me, and there would also be no group for people to attend and practice step twelve as part of their own recovery. I was soon able to identify myself as an alcoholic and therefore started to practice the spiritual principles contained in the twelve steps in order to recover. I knew that if I did not do this I was headed for insanity or death. At a very early stage I started to realise how important it was that groups exist and therefore that AA as a whole continues to exist so that people like me have somewhere to go and recover.
In time I started to carry out service at my homegroup and also share the message of recovery to newcomers and started to see more and more that I was but a small part of a great whole. When I started to attend intergroup and region assemblies I found that there were many differing opinions and views which would arise during discussions and debates. It was pointed out to me that it was okay to have these debates as long as we stuck to the tried and tested experience of Alcoholics Anonymous as is laid out in the literature, and that in spite of individual wishes or desires we would remain united as long as we kept the right practices and principles at the heart of everything we do.
I now feel that the traditions are not confusing like I thought when I was new, and see it as my duty as a responsible member of AA to try to uphold the principles of the twelve steps, traditions and concepts. This will ensure that Alcoholics Anonymous will be available for newcomers who have yet to find AA, or even for alcoholics who have not been born yet.
Ben B, Road to Recovery, Plymouth