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On Traditions and The Individual
Article by R.B.
A.A. Grapevine, November, 1949

Do the 12 Traditions of AA have any special meaning for the individual? Are they important to you and to me, personally, or are they significant merely as they help us to make sound group decisions?

My own feeling is that they have personal as well as group meaning and that groups can apply them effectively only when the individual members understand them, accept them and believe in them. If a group rejects the experience offered in the Traditions, it is a threat to me personally because it weakens a part of the structure of AA, which helps keep me sober.

Take away a sound group structure in AA and you will leave me floundering. I have the 12 Suggested Steps to fall back on, but would they be enough in time of crisis? They might be, but I know that working in and with a group of AAs makes it a lot easier to stay sober. And I prefer not to do things the hard way.

If I, as an individual, need a group affiliation, it must be with a group whose roots are grounded in AA wisdom, experience and principles. I am not looking for sociability, conviviality or a chance to make business contacts. I came to AA to achieve and retain sobriety. I wanted to share a gift that had been made possible by the costly experience of others. The 12 Traditions of AA disclose that experience to me. They tell me what had to be done, and what had to be avoided to help insure the continuing sobriety of the early members.

And they remind that if the early members had not continued sober, I might not be sober today myself.

In the Traditions I can read an assurance that AA will continue to be guided by principles, not by personalities. That is important. The domination of a single group by personalities would be distasteful to me, however well-intentioned those personalities might be. If doubts and differences should arise in any group with which I may be associated, I want the solution of those doubts and differences to emerge from something bigger than personalities, something bigger than the group itself.

The 12 Traditions seem to me to express a deep sense of the humility and responsibility upon which AA is based. To help make AA continue to serve, I must also bring humility and responsibility to bear upon all personal decisions involving AA. Some of those decisions will be made at closed meetings of AA groups. Others may involve purely personal relationships. Yet in each decision I cannot help but shape, in some small way, the future of AA for myself and for others who may be affected. This is a grave responsibility for any one of us. We can discharge such responsibilities far better when the decisions we make flow from the reservoir of AA experience contained in the 12 Traditions.

The Traditions had been published for many months before I approached them with an open mind, to investigate what they meant and how they could help me. Their importance did not sink in, did not penetrate, until I actually began to read them thoroughly, to study them and to measure them against my own limited experience in AA.

As a result, today I have deeper sense of the importance of AA, not only to myself but to others for whom AA may in the future mean so much. I can see more clearly how easily the great gift of AA might be dissipated if the simple yet costly experience of the past were rejected.

Without AA few of us could long survive to lead hopeful, fruitful, constructive lives. The 12 Traditions show us how AA can be preserved and kept strong. And that is all I have to know to lead me to accept those Traditions as key elements in my own personal survival.

Bedford, New York

The A.A. Grapevine, November, 1949

Continue to the 1950 First International Convention at Cleveland
where the 12 Traditions were formally accepted by the Fellowship as

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