Over the first part of my life, I dabbled in various forms of addiction; booze, drugs, sex, food, gaming, TV, if it felt good, I wanted it, and too much of it too! As a result, I’ve attended just about every anonymous group out there; there’s been AA, NA, EA, SA, OA, and hell, just to cover all the bases, I even joined CAA! Badumpumptsh! Hehehe.
The one thing that all these groups and many recovery programs have in common is the 12 steps and traditions of AA developed by Dr. Bob and Bill W and the few hearty souls that began Alcoholics Anonymous back in 1935. The steps and traditions came out in 1953 as a result of their experiences in getting and staying sober. There is little doubt that these steps are effective, many recovery groups and programs have adapted them over the years to great success. Most people focus on the 12 steps as they deal directly with the addict and how they can turn themselves and their lives around. The 12 traditions are often seen as the group governing rules and only explored in how they control a bunch of drunks or addicts in this group setting. However, I found the traditions to be the cornerstone of my education on how to live with other humans, groups, organizations, authority… etc. etc.
The Twelve Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous
- We admitted we were powerless over alcohol-that our lives had become unmanageable.
- Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
- Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.
- Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.
- Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.
- Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.
- Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.
- Make a list of all persons we had harmed and became willing to make amends to them all.
- Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.
- Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.
- Sought through prayer and meditations 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.
- 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
- Our common welfare should come first; personal recovery depends upon AA unity.
- 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.
- The only requirement for AA membership is a desire to stop drinking.
- Each group should be autonomous except in matters affecting other groups or AA as a whole.
- Each group has but one primary purpose-to carry its message to the alcoholic who still suffers.
- An AA group ought never endorse, finance or lend the AA name to any related facility or outside enterprise, lest problems of money, property, and prestige divert us from our primary purpose.
- Every AA group ought to be fully self-supporting, declining outside contributions.
- Alcoholics Anonymous should remain forever nonprofessional, but our service centers may employ special workers.
- Alcoholics Anonymous as such ought never be organized, but we may create service boards or committees directly responsible to those they serve.
- Alcoholics Anonymous has no opinion on outside issues; hence the AA name ought never be drawn into public controversy.
- 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.
Anonymity is the spiritual foundation of all our Traditions, ever reminding us to place principles before personalities.
“Place principles before personalities.” These four words are the cornerstone of the ethics that I developed through my years in recovery, therapies and much personal and spiritual reflection.
Many have taken great offense to the mention of God in the AA program and I have gone from little Catholic girl to agnostic teenager to being convinced the IF there was this “God”, he sure hated me! I guess that’s still agnostic…lol. I remained agnostic for years until I discovered Wicca, First Nations Spirituality, and Buddhism. If I’m pressed to put a label on my personal beliefs today, I usually answer that I’m a “Buddhist Witch.” Ultimately, I know there is a power greater than me, quite a few powers greater than me actually but I do not believe in religion. I see all religions as man-made creations based on human perceptions of divinity. My principals and ethics are influenced by my beliefs and experiences but can rise above the subjectiveness of those to be objective in many situations.
I stayed sober for a couple of years, but revisited booze several times over a few years and had my last drink of alcohol on December 12, 1986. I was an active member of AA until 1996/97 after I HAD to seek “outside help” for mental illness. Once I began that journey I had little room for the confines of the AA agenda. Yes, alcohol had profoundly affected me but it has been more a symptom of a deep-rooted desire for self-destruction that I had to recognize, remove and heal from, which took years and a variety of therapies, education, and positive life experiences.
The 12 and 12 remain a big part of who I am today, I no longer attend AA meetings because I needed a break from the unhealthy personalities that are plentiful there and I don’t think about drinking unless I’m AT a meeting. I still have friends in the program and I would recommend it for anyone struggling with alcohol and think that all searches for personal improvement are valuable and worth it.
Thanks for reading my thoughts and experiences. Next time I will get back to where I left off chronologically in the 1980s. Much love and gratitude.