12 Traditions

AA 12 Tradition

The A.A. 12 Traditions are included below, in both the long form and the short form. The short form of the 12 Traditions are what is most often read at the beginning of A.A. meetings or events and the long form of the 12 Traditions is the actual text of the 12 Traditions that you can find in the back of the book, Alcoholics Anonymous.

It has been said that the 12 Traditions, are for the Group, what the 12 Steps are for the individual A.A. member — a process to smash the ego, and prevent it from producing detrimental effects in the relationship that we have with ourselves and with others.

Twelve Traditions — Short Form

1. Our common welfare should come first; personal recovery depends upon A.A. unity.

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 A.A. membership is a desire to stop drinking.

4. Each group should be autonomous except in matters affecting other groups or A.A. as a whole.

5. Each group has but one primary purpose — to carry its message to the alcoholic who still suffers.

6. An A.A. group ought never endorse, finance, or lend the A.A. name to any related facility or outside enterprise, lest problems of money, property, and prestige divert us from our primary purpose.

7. Every A.A. 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. A.A., 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 A.A. 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 before personalities.


AA 12 Traditions History

The Principles defined in the Foreword to the First Edition of the Big Book, (published in April 1939) provided the seeds for many of the 12 Traditions that Bill later published in a April 1946 Grapevine article. These same principles were also incorporated into the AA Preamble which was first published in the June 1947 Grapevine.

In 1942, correspondence from A.A. groups with Bill W., gave early signals of a need to develop guidelines to help with group problems that occurred repeatedly.

In, October 1942, Clarence S (whose Big Book story is The Home Brewmeister) stirred up a controversy in Cleveland after discovering that Dr Bob and Bill W were receiving royalties from Big Book sales. Bill and Dr Bob re-examined the problem of their financial status and concluded that royalties from the Big Book seemed to be the only answer to the problem. Bill sought counsel from Father Ed Dowling (Bill’s spiritual sponsor) who suggested that Bill and Dr Bob could not accept money for 12th Step work, but should accept royalties as compensation for special services. This later formed the basis for Tradition 8. (See the book, A.A. Comes of Age, pages 194-195, and the book, Pass It On, pages 322-324).

By April, 1945, Earl T, founder of AA in Chicago (whose Big Book Story is He Sold Himself Short) suggested to Bill W that he codify the Traditions and write essays on them in the Grapevine.

The July 1945 Grapevine edition had an article by member CHK of Lansing, MI about the Washingtonians. And, this, further inspired Bill W. to observe the history and demise of the Washingtonians.

The Washingtonian’s — an organization that had developed in the mid-1800’s as the result of five drinking buddies in a tavern, desiring to help each other with their drinking problem — grew into an organization of over 500,000 members and boasted of having sobered up more than 250,000 drunks! They did this in less than five years — where as A.A. had struggled three and a half years to sober up about 70 members.

In August, 1945, the Grapevine carried Bill W’s first article (titled Modesty One Plank for Good Public Relations) setting the groundwork for his 5-year campaign for the Traditions.

1946 Grapevine: April, the Grapevine carried Bill W’s article Twelve Suggested Points for AA Tradition. They would later be called the long form of the Twelve Traditions.

1947 Grapevine: December, the Grapevine carried a notice that an important new 48-page pamphlet titled AA Traditions was sent to each group and that enough copies were available for each member to have one free of charge.

1949: As plans for the first International Convention were under way, Earl T suggested to Bill W that the Twelve Suggested Points for AA Tradition would benefit from revision and shortening. Bill, with Earl’s help, set out to develop the short form of the Twelve Traditions.

In November, 1949, the short form of the Twelve Traditions was first printed in the AA Grapevine. The entire issue was dedicated to the Traditions in preparation for the forthcoming Cleveland Convention. Two wording changes were subsequently made to the initial version of the short form of the Traditions: “primary spiritual aim” was changed to “primary purpose” in Tradition 6, and “principles above personalities” was changed to “principles before personalities” in Tradition 12.

1950: July 28-30, AA’s 15th anniversary and first International Convention at Cleveland, OH with an estimated 3,000 attendees. The attendees adopted the Twelve Traditions unanimously by standing vote.