Twelve Steps And Twelve Traditions: Why The Group Matters.

Twelve Steps And Twelve Traditions…a collection of essays?

Twelve Steps & Twelve Traditions

If the Alcoholics Anonymous “Big Book” is as complete and powerful as their members claim then why write another book 10+ years later?


A necessary addition was demanded in the early fellowship – something a primitive organization had the privilege to ignore (when your starving you’ll eat regardless of the nutrients; the early group was simply trying to feed their malnourished souls).

However, over time the exponential growth of the fellowship demanded something be done.

The dilemma was this: If the 12-Steps were that which maintained the sanctity of the individual, then something must be created (or discovered) which maintained the sanctity of the group.

Thus the birth of the twelve traditions.

“A.A.’s Twelve Steps are a group of principles, spiritual in their nature, which, if practices as a way of life, can expel the obsession to drink and enable the sufferer to become happily and usefully whole.”

“A.A.’s Twelve Traditions apply to the life of the Fellowship itself. They outlaw be the means by which A.A. maintains its unity and relates itself to the world about it, the way it lives and grows.”

– Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions


The first half of the book recapitulates the Big Book within twelve short essays on the steps.

We are given a little more information – wherein the Big Book was an instruction manual, the Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions is more of a reference guide.

For instance, the essay on the fourth step is extremely helpful in explicating the scope of the inventory; further, it explains the depth of the problem giving a more comprehensive framework for the concept of self.

However, the purpose of this volume was undeniably to present the 12-Traditions to the fellowship.


“The moment this Twelfth Step work forms a group, another discovery is made – that most individuals cannot recover unless there is a group (p. 130).”

Though the 12-Steps appear to be individual-oriented, the stark reality is they are communal-oriented or people-centered.

The Big Book was not shy on this matter – it went as far to say the problem (alcoholism) was not a booze problem but the consequence of a BEING out-of-joint, or off-centered; in a word, a dis-eased-center (self-centeredness).

The idea that recovery is found when one is re-centered and, consequently, reconnected to God and others – the order is paramount – is what the book presents.

Recovery then can best be understood as reconnection.

We arrive at the importance of a harmonious and unified fellowship – one body as it were – because it is the necessary gauge for reconnection.


“Our Traditions are a guide to better ways of working and living, and they are also an antidote for our various maladies. The Twelve Traditions are to group survival and harmony what AA’s Twelve Steps are to each member’s sobriety and peace of mind . . . But the Twelve Traditions also point straight at many of our individual defects. By implication, they ask each of us to lay aside pride and resentment. They ask for personal as well as group sacrifice . . . The Traditions guarantee the equality of all members . . . They show how we may best relate ourselves to each other and to the world outside (A.A. Comes of Age).”

The 12-Steps can be consummately practiced in a group that practices the 12-Traditions. Likewise, tennis is best played on a tennis court and not a crawl space.

Additionally, any practice – be it spiritual in nature or not – is better exercised around others doing the same.

One wouldn’t practice rock climbing with proficient quilters. In sum, the 12-Traditions are that which ensure the survival of the 12-Steps.

If you are in 12-Step recovery do yourself a favor and read the book!