Part Four: The Traditions are designed to keep the GROUP from destroying ITSELF; the Steps are designed to keep US from destroying OURSELVES.

Tradition Four: “Each group should be autonomous except in matters affecting AA as a whole.”

Hello again! John here, and it’s time for another edition of the Traditions made fun! Let’s get right to it, shall we?

Simply put, this tradition states that each AA, or NA etc., group can manage their own affairs as they please, as long as the particular issue they face does not affect the entire organization. You know, I think most things are about me anyway, so I am always surprised when some issue that I have does NOT do that!  Affect AA as a whole, I mean.

Anyway, Tradition Four initially contained these words: “[1]Any two or three alcoholics gathered together….may call themselves an AA group, provided they have no other affiliation.” The idea behind this Tradition is that it would be counter to AA’s singleness of purpose if groups began identifying themselves as being Protestant or Catholic, Republican or Socialist, Executive or Blue Collar.

Sobriety and carrying that message is the sole purpose of every AA group.
I love the story contained in this chapter where the people forming up an AA group in some small Midwestern berg had some big ideas about what AA should be in their town. The idea was to build a brand new gleaming AA Center! The first floor would be a club where sober members could gather. The second story would be a detox of sorts where drunks could get back on their feet, and get some bucks to pay back debts, to boot! The third floor would house an educational project. There would be more, to be sure, but this would suffice for a start. Man, I would have been so onboard for that! Free money! Free education! Free stuff!
Of course, the project would take a lot of money, OTHER people’s money, that is. There was, of course, a promoter involved who had all kinds of ideas about how this would look, and who also ignored multiple warnings that others who had tried this approach had failed. Huh! Additionally, to make sure this endeavor stayed between the lines, 61 rules and regulations were adopted. Wait! I’m starting to not like this idea.
As you can imagine, all this did not work out so well.  Some people just wanted to pay back their debts, some just wanted some sort of free education, and others were just lonely!  Before long, confusion reigned. Inevitably the group was on the verge of collapse. It was like when the boiler exploded at Wombley’s Clapboard factory!  Well, I tell you!

Luckily for all us old-timers who get to chastise those newcomers who do it, Rule 62, (don’t take yourself too damn seriously!) was born out of this madness.
This group had, for a short while, enjoyed their right to be wrong. But, because the promoter had sought out AA’s Foundation Office for advice, they survived, and AA was the better for their experience.
         
John B

[1] Twelve Steps And Twelve Traditions Pgs. 146 and 147

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The Traditions are designed to keep the GROUP from destroying ITSELF; the Steps are designed to keep US from destroying OURSELVES! Tradition

Three: The only requirement for AA membership is a desire to stop drinking.

Hi, folks! Thought it would be interesting and helpful this outing to present some great questions I found just lying around on the internet!  Bring some of these up for discussion the next time you find yourself at a (dreaded) TRADITIONS MEETING! Try it; you’ll look like a pro!

In considering the essence of Tradition Three, ask yourself the following:

Do I prejudge some new AA members?

Is there some kind of alcoholic whom I privately do not want in my AA group?

Do I set myself up as a judge of whether a newcomer is being genuine?

Do I let politics or language, religion (or lack of it), race, education, age, or any other similar factors get in the way of my ability to carry the message?

Am I overly impressed by another’s story, job or career?  Can I treat this new member as one more sick human, just like the rest of us?

When someone comes to AA for help, does it matter to me where they live or whether they have been to AA before? How about what other problems they might have?

If you answered YES to any or all of these questions, congratulations, you are just like the rest of us!

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The Traditions are designed to keep the GROUP from destroying ITSELF; the Steps are designed to keep US from destroying OURSELVES!

Tradition Two:  “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.” (Also adapted for NA, OA, CA, and et.al.)

“Wait!” you say. “Who’s in charge of AA? Do you mean to tell me that there is no CEO, president, or collection department (dues collection for deadbeats)? No board of directors to “cast erring members into outer darkness[1]? How can this be?”

Well, you sure do ask a lot of questions!  But I will tell you this, if you ask any AA, NA (but not AAA) member, they will most likely tell you that the obvious answer is that this thing we have is a miracle. No, I’m being serious now. That’s because we see them all the time; miracles, I mean. They just aren’t that unusual to see in meetings.
A loving God as He expresses Himself…. Tradition Two stems from the Tradition before it, and as were all the Traditions, was built from the experiences of newly sober alcoholics in the early days of AA.

The question then becomes: “Does AA have real leadership?” Most emphatically the answer is, “Yes, notwithstanding the apparent lack of it.[2]

In the early years of AA one of the founders, Bill W., was offered a large sum of money by the administrator of an area hospital to move AA work there. It would mean he would have an opportunity to receive a slice of the profits made by the hospital.  He thought about his wife working all day and then coming home to a house full of drunks who were living there, and not paying for the privilege, and how broke he was. Bill believed this idea was not only ethical; it was actually in the Bible!  Something about a laborer being worth his hire.  You could look it up if you don’t believe me.

Anyway, there was a meeting scheduled for that night, and Bill came through the door, bursting with the good news!  But as he told his story, he noticed that his audience was not sharing his enthusiasm.
Finally, one of the members spoke up and told Bill that he spoke for the group when he said that “AA could never become professional. What we have won’t run on ethics only; it has to be better.” How right they were!  Because, once you go professional, you must have a structural hierarchy.  Somebody got to be “Da Prez”!

I think that story is a very good example of a “Loving God as He may express Himself in our group conscience” if there ever was one!  Seriously, there is nothing as unstoppable as an enthusiastic alcoholic who has already made up his mind about what will happen, before telling others who may be affected by his decision, what is about to happen!

[1] Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions, Alcoholics Anonymous Pg 132

[2] Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions, Pgs. 134, 135

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The Traditions are designed to keep the GROUP from destroying ITSELF; the Steps are designed to keep US from destroying OURSELVES!

Tradition One:  “Our common welfare should come first; personal recovery depends on A.A. unity.” (Also: NA, OA, CA et.al.)

For me, a valuable aspect of this tradition has been the fact that, “No AA can compel another to do anything; nobody can be punished or expelled” from AA.  As someone who was routinely punished by society for my misbehavior, and has been expelled from more than one drinking establishment, I was relieved to find out that the only requirement for membership in AA really is an honest desire to stop drinking!

The Traditions of Alcoholics Anonymous were first published in 1946 in The Grapevine magazine and were developed slowly and painfully through much struggle, hard lessons and compromise. Some of these struggles are outlined in the book “Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions.”  Also, they have been adopted by every 12-Step recovery program in the world.

The purpose of the Traditions is to ensure the continued existence of meetings and meeting places, to keep the doors open for everyone seeking relief from addiction, and to give us a framework to accomplish this task.

According to a pamphlet published by Alcoholics Anonymous in 1955, titled “AA Tradition, How It Developed, By Bill W”:
“When an alcoholic applies the Twelve Steps of our recovery program to his personal life, his disintegration stops and his unification begins. The Power which now holds him together in one piece overcomes those forces which had rent him apart. Exactly the same principle applies to each A.A. group and to Alcoholics Anonymous as a whole. So long as the ties which bind us together prove far stronger than those forces which would divide us if they could, all will be well. We shall be secure as a movement; our essential unity will remain a certainty…”

Additionally, Bill wrote: “Unity is so vital to us A.A.’s that we cannot risk those attitudes and practices which have sometimes demoralized other forms of human society. Thus far we have succeeded because we have been different.”

The Steps and Traditions that continue to underlie the 12-Step recovery model to this day remain a significant achievement in establishing a framework to establish a safe haven for people recovering from addiction and dysfunction in their lives.

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In August, I celebrated ten years of sobriety. It is hard to believe that I have had the honor of being in recovery for a decade. Today my life is so unbelievably different than it was when I was still actively using.

Like most addicts and alcoholics, my life was entirely out of control at every level. I had all but failed out of school, and after ten years in and out of college, I still did not have a degree. My parents tried their best to help me, but I manipulated them and blamed them for my using. My physical health was continuing to decline. There were many mental health diagnoses, but I was never honest with the doctors about the drugs and alcohol I was consuming. My addiction ended up landing me in the hospital and being Baker Acted. Then after about twelve years of active addiction and a year of failed attempts to get sober, a miracle happened. At some point, I became willing to be honest and follow some simple direction.

In the last ten years, recovery and spiritual principles have drastically changed me from the inside out. During this time I have remained free from drugs and alcohol, but that is just a part of the gift of recovery. I have an inner peace and connection with my Higher Power that is hard to put into words but is with me each day. I have regained my physical health and sanity. My family is a part of my life again. I am currently in a master’s program after earning two bachelor degrees. Last December I married my beautiful wife in front of our friends and families. I am available to help other addicts and alcoholics on a daily basis. Joining the millions of people in active recovery is the best thing that has happened to me.

To anyone currently struggling with the many forms of addiction, my prayer and hope is that you join this way of life.

Alex K.

 

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Just for Today by Lexi B.

On September 17th, 2018, posted in: recovery by

Do you ever have a day where everything doesn’t go your way? Your dog wakes you up barking, you spill your tea all over the counter (and clean dishes), traffic is awful, work is super busy, you’re in a bad mood… the list goes on. You open up your web browser and go to jftna.org and read the daily meditation. Just for today… Finally, a sigh of relief. Then, halfway through the day, your moment of clarity and relief is gone. You are stressed again. Can’t I catch a break?!

I recently finished my 7th Step with my sponsor. “We humbly asked him to remove our shortcomings.” I finally realized, when I have those bad days it is one of two things: I haven’t prayed to God or I am acting out on my character defects. Normally it is a combination of both. The 7th Step taught me that I’m not perfect. As my sponsor likes to me remind me, I am human. God is perfect. He can remove my pain and give me joy. All I have to do is ask.

The 6th Step was pretty painful, listing all my defects of character. Procrastination, Perfectionism, and Projecting, to name a few. I am so thankful the Steps go in order, or else I would still be stuck at Step 6 having a pity party for myself. Boo-hoo. Step 7 lets you humbly ask God to remove all this pain and replace it with the positive spiritual principle. I can finally say, “God, I need you. Please remove this hurt and show me how to live!” Unfortunately, with this Step it’s not that simple. God may remove a shortcoming, then it can pop back up in a few weeks.  I have to practice patience and trust in God’s timing. If I act out on one of my defects, I can say, “Okay, I made a mistake. Let’s try to learn from this and not do it again.” I can pray and once again ask God to remove it. Next time, hopefully, I can pause, ask for help and respond with the opposite spiritual principle. It is progress, not perfection, right?

Prayer: God, please help remove my defects of character and replace them with the opposite spiritual principle. Give me the patience to trust in your timing. Help me live out your will and help others. Amen.

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Balance in Recovery by Kellie W.

On September 10th, 2018, posted in: recovery by

Every year that I go through my recovery, my sponsor will give me a theme.  This is not, by any means, out of the book; it’s just something her and I have done from the beginning of my recovery.  Year one was just about getting my shit together.  Year two, we had a solid theme of “Relationships.”  Year three was “Balance.”   When year four began, we were kind of stuck.  You see, she had these themes correlate with my life happenings.  Finally, since balance is seemingly a never-ending struggle for me, we came to the conclusion that year four would be about, “Maintaining my Personal Recovery while Maintaining a Life.”  Seem redundant?  I promise it’s not.

Year one, I found myself living in my parent’s house, with my now ex-husband and my daughter who was two at the time.  I had pulled my job down over my head and was attempting to get off of a lot of prescription medication that I knew had become an issue in my life.  I found myself drinking heavily to cope and my then husband, who was a paramedic, had taken me to a few hospitals swearing I was having some sort of a nervous breakdown.  When the psych hospital that he had taken me to told him that I had a blood alcohol level of .36, shocked and not knowing where else to turn, he dragged me to my first 12-Step meeting.  I had a rough start, but something inside me knew that I was home for the first time in my life.  I had zero previous Twelve Step experience, but I was cognizant enough to know that the people in these meetings were talking about things that I understood, yet never talked about out loud.

I relapsed six days in and eventually found a sponsor and started working my Steps.  When that sponsor relapsed about six months into my recovery, I found myself at a loss. Quickly, I evaluated my experiences and reached out to a few friends, who connected me to my now sponsor.  We began working the Steps all over again and life was beginning to stabilize, until I realized that there was something in my life that wasn’t quite right. At about the time I picked up my one-year chip, my sponsor looked at me and said, “Year two is about relationships.”  I knew in my gut she was right.

I had always heard that you don’t begin any new romantic relationships in your first year of recovery, and I took that rule seriously.  However, the more independent, responsible and whole I was becoming, the more my marriage was suffering.  I couldn’t fathom at the time why, just when I was beginning to feel like whom I should have always been, that people couldn’t accept and love me just the same.  I now know the other side and just how hard it was, although being happy for me, to see an entirely new person emerge from the wreckage.  I wasn’t the same person my then husband married, and he knew it.

We attempted to work on it.  We sought counseling, but eventually the relationship crumbled and we divorced.  I truly believe that he was in my life for a reason and played a huge part in saving my life.  This is what he was good at, after all.  He was a rescuer by trade, a paramedic, a first responder. This is what he did.  He gave me a beautiful daughter and he saved my life.  I could never repay him for all that he did.  But, he had no idea how to handle a whole, independent, career-driven spouse.  It felt to me that he liked the sick version of me better.

It turns out that we are much better at being friends. We co-parent beautifully.  My now partner and I celebrate holidays with my ex’s family, so my daughter can have her whole family together at once, and really because we are all still family just the same.  He has a great girlfriend himself and I couldn’t ask for a better influence in my daughter’s life.  I am not saying that this is all common, or that it happened fast.  It took some work.  The divorce was hard.  My daughter, although young, had questions.  But we did our best and we continue to do our best for her.  I now am in what I believe to be the first healthy relationship of my life.  Year two, “Relationships”?  Yeah, I’d say so.

Year three I was insanely busy in my career.  My first solid job in recovery was back in my field of social work.  I integrated slowly, finishing my Steps and working on myself before I began to help others again.  I had a job where I was in my community, taking substance abuse prevention classes into the local schools in my area and working with a local substance abuse prevention coalition. I LOVED it and felt like I had found my calling.  However, I quickly found myself spending a LOT of time with work and not enough time on my own personal recovery.  It was tough, my job was recovery related and I felt like everything I did revolved around recovery…but I wasn’t taking enough time to slow my role in helping others, to look at my own recovery.  My sponsor stopped me and said, “You know, balance is a heck of a thing.”  Balance.  Ah, there was my theme.

I worked at that job, pushed every comfort zone I had, pushed through my anxiety to do presentations, where at the max were over 1,200 people at once. I won awards, gained community recognition and really became integrated and connected in ways I never knew I could.   I had a calling to help and a story to tell.  But if I didn’t take the time to work on me, all of those things would be a moot point.

At the end of year three, one of my sponsees passed away when her newborn son was just 21 days old. I was shocked to my core.  She was a beautiful soul with a family business, a new son, a new husband and what seemed like life at her fingertips. The grief I experienced was immense and I began to evaluate my personal relationships and if I was taking enough time to let the people in my life know just how special they were to me.  I knew I was doing something right because through all of these things, I didn’t have to numb myself, but I also knew, to get the answers I was seeking, I needed to look inward.

Today, I still work in the substance abuse field.  I am still connected to my community and do a lot of community work. I still adore it.  To say that I haven’t slowed down a bit, though, would be a lie. I am still passionately connected to helping others; but life is a journey, not a race.  Recovery is a lifelong process and if I don’t stride instead of sprint, I may miss all the beauty that I ask God to show me daily.

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Recovery has been amazing. Nothing has so much equipped me for dealing with life like the coping skills I have learned in sobriety and in working the 12 Steps of AA. I think acceptance is the best coping skill one can have and, for me, that was not realized until I could grasp the concepts of letting go and trusting the process. Acceptance teaches me that I may not like the process but my approval is not necessary. With acceptance, I have stopped trying to control things that I spent my life thinking I could control, and this has led to peace and serenity…most of the time! Sometimes I get frustrated but my response, in recovery, is much different than it was when I was active in my addiction. I definitely was the “I’ll show you” type of drinker, and the only one that suffered from such was me. I have had many magnificent life moments, many celebratory events in my life, and all appreciated with a clean and sober lens on life. I have also had some significant losses and devastating occurrences, and sobriety equipped me to handle those in a much more appropriate manner. I honestly have no regrets about being a recovered alcoholic and living life unfiltered. Ups and down, a sober life is a beautiful thing.

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I have found differences between “trying to be abstinent” versus “being willing to be abstinent.”
If I am trying to be abstinent, I am in a state of great confusion.
If I am willing to be abstinent, I am in a state of great humility.

Trying to be abstinent implies I should be able to do it, but I am struggling.
Being willing to be abstinent implies I do not know how to do it, but I am willing to learn.

If I am trying to be abstinent, I am closed to guidance.
If I am willing to be abstinent, I am open to receiving help.

If I have been trying to give up old ways and have condemned myself for failing to do so, I can simply become willing to learn how to replace those old ways with new ways of peace.

If I am trying to be abstinent, I tend to judge myself a failure.
If I am willing to be abstinent, no setback becomes a problem, for I know I will be shown the way.

Trying to be abstinent places the responsibility on me.
Being willing to be abstinent places the responsibility on God.

Trying to be abstinent is an act of separation from God.
Willingness to be abstinent is, in a sense, a prayer.

When I try, there is resistance.
When I am willing, there is acceptance.

If I am trying to be abstinent, everything is interference.
If I am willing to be abstinent, everything is of assistance.

Outside the will of God there is no such thing as success.
Inside the will of God, there cannot be any failure.

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Sometimes by Ashley N.

On January 30th, 2018, posted in: recovery by

Sometimes, I feel crazy. Not like straight-jacket crazy, but crazy nonetheless. I heard it said in a meeting over a decade ago that, “The good thing about getting clean is that I’d get to feel my feelings and the bad thing about getting clean is that I’d get to feel my feelings.” Ding, Ding, Ding! Nothing else that I’ve heard in the rooms rings more true.

This way of life has afforded me many things. Great friendships, jobs that I love, a roof over my head, a vehicle to drive, a kick-ass husband AND, most importantly, freedom from active addiction. My life is so full today that sometimes I literally feel like I cannot fit one more positive piece into the puzzle of my life. And then BAM! Everything seems to suck! I can’t manage my schedule, I can’t find time for my sponsees, I can’t find time for my Step work, I can’t find time for my friends, I can’t find time for a meeting, multiple things in my house need to be repaired and, all of a sudden, every piece that I try to squeeze into the puzzle, frustratingly, doesn’t fit.

When life gets out of control and I feel like I am spinning out and zooming around, I have to stop dead in my tracks and ask for help. I have to share in a meeting and get some experience, strength and hope. I have to write a gratitude list. I have to make choices about what I have to do, what I want to do and what can wait.

My disease is lying in wait for an opening. It is a daily possibility that I create that opening. BUT, if I do the next right thing, take care of myself and, most importantly, take using off the table as an option, everything will fall into place. Sometimes quickly, sometimes slowly.

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