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12 Traditions of AA

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The AA Principles

The 12 Spiritual Principles (Virtues) of AA & What They Mean

The 12-steps are the cornerstone of a popular approach to treating addiction, first popularized decades ago by Alcoholics Anonymous. The steps and the 12-step process more generally have a spiritual component.

However, the spiritual components of each step are not always apparent. In addition, the wording behind the steps often stresses practical concerns over spiritual ones.

Bill W., one of the two founders of AA, stressed the spiritual side of the program and wished to make that element more explicit. The 12 step program ultimately aims to replace destructive tendencies and addiction with a healthier and more sustainable way of life. Therefore, he envisioned a spiritual program that would be incorporated into all facets of day-to-day life.

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The 12 Traditions

What Are The 12 Traditions? What Do They Mean?

AA and other 12-step recovery organizations run surprisingly smoothly. Despite differences in culture and purpose between the groups, they tend to remain focused on their goals. They usually avoided excessive infighting or bad publicity. The various groups within 12-step fellowships have managed to run their affairs well while maintaining their autonomy.

The 12-traditions allow these organizations to manage their day-to-day affairs competently while remaining focused on their mission.

History of the 12 Traditions

AA was created in the 1930s and soon enjoyed a terrific amount of success. Groups spread all around the United States and, not long after, the entire world.

However, there were no clear rules for the structure of the organization. The different groups were intended to be self-contained and self-sufficient, and they indeed were. However, organizational questions and controversies began to bedevil the fellowship. No matter how autonomous the various groups are, they need a way to deal with administrative and financial issues.

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12 Traditions

12 Traditions For Each Major 12 Step Program

What are the 12 Traditions?

While we know that each of the major 12 step programs is based on a 12 step structure, each program also has 12 traditions. The 12 traditions of Alcoholics Anonymous, which is where the 12 traditions of other programs come from, are in place to ensure that there are rules on how to handle internal disagreements and disputes as well as how to behave when interacting with the general public.

A lot of what would eventually become the 12 traditions was mentioned in the forward of the AA Big Book in 1939. Though, the official version of the 12 traditions wasn’t published until 1946 in the AA Grapevine. They were originally called the Twelve Points to Assure Our Future. They were officially adopted at AA’s International Convention held in 1950.

Here are the 12 traditions of each of the major 12 step programs:

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