“Our common welfare should come first; personal recovery depends upon R.A. unity.”
1. In the 12 & 12, on page 129, the first paragraph says:
“The unity of Alcoholics Anonymous is the most cherished quality our Society has. Our lives, the lives of all to come depend squarely upon it. We stay whole, or A.A. dies. Without unity, the heart of A.A. would cease to beat; our world arteries would no longer carry the life-giving grace of God; His gift to us would be spent aimlessly.”
2. In the 12 & 12, on page 129, starting with the second sentence of the bottom full paragraph, it says:
“We believe there isn’t a fellowship on earth which lavishes more devoted care upon its individual members; surely there is none which more jealously guards the individual’s right to think, talk, and act as he wishes. No A.A. can compel another to do anything; nobody can be punished or expelled. Our Twelve Steps to recovery are suggestions; the Twelve Traditions which guarantee A.A.’s unity contain not a single ‘Don’t.’ They repeatedly say ‘We ought…’ but never ‘You must!’”
3. There’s a lot in that one brief paragraph. This First Tradition guards the individual’s rights to think, talk and act as he wishes no matter how that may conflict with what somebody else feels he should do.
4. Our First Tradition gives each of us the absolute right to think, talk and act as he wishes. No A.A. can compel another to do anything. Nobody can be punished or expelled.
5. No matter how your behavior or my behavior may contradict what someone else thinks our behavior should be, this First Tradition grants us all the absolute right to act as we see fit.
6. No one in the fellowship can be compelled to do anything. If someone refuses to go along with what the group or another individual thinks that individual should do, they cannot be punished or expelled.
7. No group can enforce standards of behavior. No group can enforce criteria for membership. As we will see in Tradition Four, they have a right to set these up; they just can’t enforce them.
8. The First Tradition guarantees that no matter what rules, regulations, or criteria a group or an individual may impose, or try to, it’s the individual’s right to ignore those rules or regulations.
9. Continuing from where we left off, the next part of the paragraph sometimes causes confusion. It says:
“Our Twelve Steps to recovery are suggestions; the Twelve Traditions which guarantee A.A.’s unity contain not a single ‘Don’t.’ They repeatedly say ‘We ought…’ but never ‘You must!’”
10. Again, as we’ve shared from the very beginning of this presentation, many people impose their own definitions on concepts from these books, and somewhere down the line it has come across that there are no musts in the program. That’s not quite accurate. There are many musts in our program if we want to be successful.
11. For example, in R.A.'s Multilith Big Book on page 11, in the eighth paragraph, it says, "There is a solution." It then goes on to say that working the Twelve Steps is what this "process requires for its successful consummation."
12. The steps are suggestions. Nobody “must” follow the steps. They are suggested in the same way that is suggested that when you are driving a car, you should stop at red lights. There is usually no one sitting next to you with a gun saying, “You must stop.”
13. Yet you know that to be successful at driving, you need to conform to certain requirements. And it’s the same thing with our Steps.
14. It is the Twelve Traditions that don’t contain any musts.
15. In the 12 & 12, on page 130, the second sentence of the first full paragraph says:
“The A.A. member has to conform to the principles of recovery. His life actually depends upon obedience to spiritual principles.”
16. Again, as we’ve often shared, the Twelve Steps detail a specific methodology of how to get well. If we don’t get well, we die, if not physically, immediately, then certainly spiritually. And to keep things in their proper perspective, we need to keep in mind that our life depends upon our obedience to spiritual principles, not our obedience to a group or to individuals.
17. Skipping two sentences, it says:
“Moreover, he finds he cannot keep this priceless gift unless he gives it away. Neither he nor anybody else can survive unless he carries the A.A. message.”
18. We’ve shared how the Multilith Big Book, over and over again, describes how vital it is for us to work with others. We’ve spent the first part of R.A.'s Step Presentation sharing the specific directions the pioneers gave us for working with others. And here again it specifies that what we need to carry is the program's message of recovery. This message is that we have stopped hurting others and ourselves as the result of a spiritual awakening that we have had as the result of working all of the Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions according to the "clear-cut directions" detailed in these books.
19. Since the start of the program, there have been many people who have been able to see the importance of this message. Many of them tried to carry this message individually. But experience has shown that carrying this message without the support and endorsement of others is not as effective. We need supportive help to be effective in carrying this message to others.
20. Newcomers are attracted when they can see the same message being carried by more than one person. The Twelve Step program started when a second person started carrying the same message as the first. R.A. started when a second person started carrying the same message as first.
21. Hearing the same message from two people, helped a third person become willing to work all Twelve Steps. Then, there were three. Then, because there were three people sharing the same message, a fourth was able to believe them, and so forth. Experience has shown that one person carrying this message, without the support of the fellowship, has a very hard time with it.
22. The Twelve Step program’s growth has been astronomical because of the support and endorsement we give one another. R.A. has been able to grow because we have an entire fellowship that validates our message of hope, sanity, and recovery, for other people.
23. Skipping down to the last sentence of the same paragraph, it says:
“It becomes plain that the group must survive or the individual will not.”
24. Without the support and endorsement of a fellowship, most of us have found our own survival to be very tenuous. Very often we have heard the story of people who did understand what these books have to say, who started carrying this message on their own only to be so soundly defeated by the vast number of people who disagreed that they began to doubt their own experience. They no longer trusted what was actually working for them, so they stopped working the program.
25. One of R.A.'s members shares:
This tradition has had a tremendous impact on my own recovery. The First Tradition says, “Our common welfare should come first; personal recovery depends upon R.A. unity.” I recognized that I needed to take this statement literally.
I recognized that my own personal recovery depends upon the fellowship’s common welfare and unity. So, while working Steps Ten, Eleven, and Twelve to the best of my ability, I also put whatever effort I can into supporting our fellowship.
26. She acts in the belief that God is taking care of her, and her experience has shown that He is.
Please use R.A.'s Questions and Answers Forum to ask any questions or make any comments about any of this.