(This review is dedicated to my sponsor, Kevin C.)
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With the publication Alcoholics Anonymous' Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions, in the early 1950s, following the appearance of the book Alcoholics Anonymous, from which AA got its name, the two basic texts of the organization had been produced. (They have been translated, over the years, into most languages of the world.) It is a rare member of the Fellowship who has not dipped into these two books, hopefully read them, and hopefully read them over and over again. I myself have been sober for almost eleven years, and I try to read a page of each of these two books every day. That has taken me through the "Big Book" (Alcoholics Anonymous) almost six times and the "12 and 12" (Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions) about 21 times. Every day, I get new ideas and new insights, especially from Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions, which is very compact (less than 200 pages), distilling down the entire program of AA. (That's the program as opposed to the Fellowship.)
When I first saw the 12 Steps, in rehab (they are derived from the beginning of Chapter 5 of the Big Book), my response was: "a rudimentary system of character development." And that with two days of sobriety! Now, after a few more "24s," in the program, I more and more appreciate the richness of the Steps. They are a guide to the reconstruction of character after alcohol abuse. There is probably no member of AA who does not work the steps, at least to some extent. Other 12-Step programs, such as NA (Narcotics Anonymous), OA (Overeaters Anonymous) and CODA (Co-Dependents Anonymous), use their own versions of the Steps and Traditions.
There are entire books, dozens of them, commenting on the Steps in detail. Let me make only one comment here: on the "G" question (also known as "the spiritual angle".) Whether one believes in God or not is a decision every AAer makes sooner or later. There is no fixed set of spiritual beliefs in AA, no AA religion. One of the epinion reviewers of the Big Book seems to believe that it has a New Age, anti-Christian bias. The reply to that is first that the Big Book was around long before "New Age" thinking, although it certainly influenced it (through the writings of people like John Bradshaw).
As to the anti-Christian bias: AA, despite its roots in the Oxford Group, an evangelical Christian organization, is, simply, not Christian. People of all or no religious or spiritual beliefs are WELCOME. AA cannot be and is not exclusive to followers of any religion: Christian, Jewish, Hindu, Muslim, etc., or followers of no religion: atheists, agnostics or whatever. And, to the extent that any religion claims that it has a monopoly on spiritual truth, which Born-again or Fundamentalist Christianity, Orthodox Judaism and Orthodox Islam and Hinduism frequently do claim, there will be discovered a bias in AA against such dogmatism. AA is perhaps the most tolerant organization in the world, especially spiritually, and we love it that way! (I would say that the majority of AAers in the United States, and probably the world, would probably identify themselves as Christian of one sort or another.)
The 12 Traditions, not as well known as the 12 Steps, are AA's guide to creative, democratic anarchy. AA is probably the most democratic organization in the world, carrying the burden of sobriety for tens of millions of people in over 100 countries. (About 1% of the population of the US is in AA: about 2 1/2 million people.) It works, it works daily, and the Traditions are the guidelines for its functioning on a day-to-day basis. They are as wide and deep as the Steps, in their own way. An AA truism is the "As the Steps are for the individual, the Traditions are for the organization." Or, more pithily, "The Steps Keep me from suicide. The Traditions keep me from homicide."
But rather than go on any more, here are the 12 Steps and 12 Traditions, copied from AAs own website: http://www.alcoholics-anonymous.org/
(If you want to find out about AA for yourself or someone you know or love, e-mail me from my public profile.)
The Twelve Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous
1. We admitted we were powerless over alcohol - that our lives had become unmanageable.
2. Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
3. Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.
4. Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.
5. Admitted to God, to ourselves and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.
6. Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.
7. Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.
8. Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.
9. Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.
10. Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.
11. Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.
12. Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to alcoholics and to practice these principles in all our affairs.
The Twelve Traditions of Alcoholics Anonymous
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 nonprofessional, 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.
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