Tradition Ten

Tradition 10

“Alcoholics Anonymous has no opinion on outside issues; hence the A.A. name ought never be drawn into public controversy.”

AA as an organisation passes on the experience of its previous members. For example we believe that for us alcoholism is disease and a fatal one, that our alcoholism includes an allergy to alcohol, that for us abstinence and finding and living by a Higher Power are necessary things. However – that is just our experience for ourselves. “By no means do we offer it as the last word on this subject, but so far as we are concerned, it has worked with us.”
Those experienced in PI service will know that there is a time and place, and an appropriate way, to share their experience at the public level about these things. They are aware that “matters medical, psychiatric, social, and religious…are, from their very nature, controversial.” And do their best to share their experience in a way which “would contain no basis for contention or argument.”
But there are certain matters we avoid discussing altogether when we may be seen as representing AA (even when we are not). A list of the main topics to avoid is given in the long form of Tradition 10: “No A.A. group or member should ever, in such a way as to implicate A.A., express any opinion on outside controversial issues—particularly those of politics, alcohol reform, or sectarian religion. The Alcoholics Anonymous groups oppose no one. Concerning such matters they can express no views whatever.”
Alcohol reform is always a hot topic. From the “alcopops” of 10 years ago, to the so-called “binge drinking” among women, from the licensing hour changes a few years back, to “the effects of alcohol on the spread of sexual disease”. These are all issues about which we AAs remain silent to the outside world as AA members, even when directly questioned. We also remain silent if we suspect we are being perceived primarily as AA members in a private conversation we are having. Such are the ingrained habits of Tradition 10 in our fellowship, that even discussions of these matters amongst members are rare (though such discussions are not prohibited by this Tradition).
Imagine AA without Tradition 10. Every PI phone call received from the press about the latest items in the news would be answered actively by our PI teams. Each would be seen as an opportunity to publicise AA’s existence. Suppose one PI Officer went on BBC 1 and said “licensing hours should be kept as they are!” and another went on ITV and said “licensing hours should be lengthened!” To avoid this, our national office would then have to develop national “policy viewpoints” on what AA “believed” about matters such as politics, alcohol reform and sectarian religion. But if the final AA national office viewpoint was “we are for extended hours”, then when this became public everyone opposed to extended hours would be against AA, and every medical, political and social organisation in the country against extended hours would now see AA more negatively. How many still-suffering alcoholics would never make it to a meeting as a result? And how long would it be before AA groups and areas started to split away because they did not like the political, medical and social policies supported by the central office? Tradition 10 saves lives and protects unity.
However, we are all entitled to opinions as individuals, we are just careful when and who we state them to in terms of implicating AA. Also this Tradition is not meant to cover inside issues and inside controversy. Debate within groups and at service committees and at Conference is fine, and is sometimes heated. People have widely varying opinions about internal AA policy, and controversy arises. At such times we apply different Traditions (and Concepts) – but not specifically Tradition 10.

AK, Road to Recovery Group, Plymouth, June 2008