Tradition 12 in Alcoholics Anonymous
Understanding AA’s twelfth tradition
“Anonymity is the spiritual foundation of all our Traditions, ever reminding us to place principles above personalities.”
In most AA meetings, we read the twelve steps and the twelve traditions. Our sponsors teach us how to apply the steps in our lives, but the twelve traditions can also be applied to our personal lives. Let’s discuss Tradition 12 and what it means.
The overarching message of AA’s Tradition 12 is that we are all equal. Anonymity offers us the ability to walk into any meeting the same common purpose of our fellows – to stop drinking and using and recover. Anonymity allows us to embrace humility. All social and financial status is left at the door. We are free to share and listen to one another openly and when we do this, we’re able to learn from people from all walks of life. Suddenly, we realize that we have much in common with people we may never have met had AA not been in our lives.
With all that’s going on in the social and political world around us, the unconditional love offered to all in AA is a welcome and educational respite. In AA, our principles guard us from unfair judgment and stereotyping that the outside world clings to. It’s a beautiful thing to be a part of. There is a healing in our equality that is unmatched in the outside world.
Tradition Twelve in Action!
AA’s traditions ensure we all have a safe place to land.
When I was new and in residential treatment, I had little self-esteem and was afraid of everything and everyone. There was a homeless man, we’ll call David, who attended the same morning meeting I did. He had a severe mental illness, and the outside world would have described him as unstable. But he was far healthier than most. David hugged me every morning, welcoming me gently into a world that had the capacity to save me. He lacked all humility and pretense and showed me what principles before personalities could so when practiced with an open heart. David helped me truly understand the word anonymity and that taught me so much about what true equality looks and feels like.
Tradition Twelve allows us to sit side by side and learn about sobriety from anyone. For people like me who walk into recovery feeling less than, Tradition 12 allows us the chance to feel accepted before we accept ourselves. That is an amazing gift to receive and an incredible gift to give others!
Applying Tradition Twelve in Our Personal Lives
Let AA’s traditions flow out of the rooms
Tradition Twelve tells us we must put principles before personalities. This means we practice the principles of AA, such as honesty, humility and making amends, over personality conflicts.
Personality conflicts will arise. That’s part of life. But, knowing that we are to put principles before personal differences and drama is a great guidepost. It isn’t always easy, but it always works.
This concept is not unlike keeping our side of the street clean. We are responsible for our behavior only. Others are responsible for theirs. Acting in principle helps prevent us from engaging in negative or toxic behavior that could impact our self-esteem.
Putting Principles Before Personalities
It’s not always easy. It’s always worth it.
When I put principles before personalities, I come out ahead. When I don’t, I get into unnecessary arguments that I regret. In AA, we are always evolving and growing. In most instances, I can practice principles before personalities successfully. When I don’t, the repercussions always remind me to get back where I belong – on my side of the street.
I have had experience doing both this month. In one situation, I was yelled at and did not yell back or engage. I practiced the principle of unconditional love, considered what the other person may be going through and did not yell back. It worked out beautifully. In another, I experienced prejudice and spoke out of anger. It was a mistake. I should have set a boundary and walked away from the relationship. Instead, I argued and wound up even more hurt than I was initially. It’s not my place to teach people who to be. It IS my place to speak and act in principle.
I say this because placing principles over personalities is not about being right. It’s about adhering to a strict code of conduct that allows US to hold our heads high. AA offers us a new way of life and so does Tradition 12. Practice it properly and love wins, even if the love is just for ourselves.
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