For our group purpose there is but one authority –
a loving God as He may express Himself in our group conscience.
Our leaders are but trusted servants; they do not govern.
Our common welfare should come first:
personal progress for the greatest number depends on unity
- Our co-founder Lois shares, “Bill recognized that, although the individual AA had the Twelve Steps to guide him, the groups needed some sort of framework within which they could operate. The ordinary rules and regulations that held other societies together would not apply. AAs would not accept them. In addition to the question of relationships with outside agencies, there were problems of unity, ultimate authority, membership, singleness of purpose, effect of one group’s actions on another, money in all its aspects, public relations, and anonymity…. Through constant correspondence [with groups] Bill noticed that when AA principles were applied, group problems could be solved as they arose or could be prevented from coming into being. He also recognized that certain actions almost invariably led to trouble…. Bob agreed with Bill’s analysis of the principles that evolved from the groups’ experiences. Finally, after much consultation with members around the country Bill set down on paper the resulting guides, AA’s Twelve Traditions. They were first published in the April 1946 Grapevine as “Twelve Points to Assure our Future,” in what is now know as ‘the long form.’ [They] became the foundation for Al-Anon Family Groups, too. The Traditions safeguard the Fellowships and the group unity needed to give individuals opportunity for recovery through the Steps.” From Lois Remembers p 146-147.
Our founders recognized that the first principle needed to maintain the smooth functioning of a meeting was unity.
- A member shares, “I really didn't understand what unity meant… I get confused by some of the Al-Anon principles, such as "keep the focus on yourself." How does that fit with "our common welfare should come first" and the concept of unity? When I read about Tradition One in Paths to Recovery, I had a moment of clarity. Unity doesn't mean not keeping the focus on myself or that everyone has to be the same. Unity provides balance. We all share the responsibility of our common welfare, which may mean speaking up or letting others speak. I also learned the opposite of unity is control.”
Many of us survived our alcoholic households by becoming hyper-vigilant and taking charge of situations before they spun out of control. It was very hard to lose that habit – to surrender control – but by working the steps, many of us were able to turn over our will and open up to guidance from a Higher Power. As we began to involve ourselves in our home groups, taking service positions and attending business meetings, we had ample opportunity to jump in and sort out situations – to once more take control. We’ve all seen what happens when a member tries to exert his or her will. The meeting suffers. Finding that balance – offering help and taking responsibility while remaining open to suggestion and mindful of boundaries – was a wonderful opportunity to practice the steps.
- A member shares, “All the things like Detachment or Anonymity or ‘Did I want to be right or did I want to be happy’ started to take form for me in this Tradition. Not only were things not all about me, but they were not all about any one person. It started to show me that whether I was thinking about the Alanon Group I was part of or my home or my groups of friends or the persons at my workplace that there was some Principle that was there that needed to be honored and protected because it was the point of our strength. It was that thing they talk about that when more than one person is present and those persons are joined toward a common goal that there is a collective or group conscience that needs to be respected.”
This principle of putting our common welfare first helps us remember to let go of fear and self will and depend on the collective wisdom available through the group conscience. We will no doubt make mistakes from time to time – overstepping boundaries and insisting on our point of view, or retreating into stubborn silence and isolation. Again, the steps will help us, showing us how to take stock of a situation, admit our part and make amends. We aren’t perfect. But as we move out of isolation and into participation, our recovery will strengthen and we will be able to take the skills we learn into our families, friendships and places of business.
- A member shares, “I always had one foot out the door. I’d learned this habit growing up – keep your back to the wall, money in your pocket, know where the exits are and always have a Plan B. If things were going well, fine. But the moment things got complicated, I was outta there. As I got recovery, I stopped running away physically but in my mind, I was gone. I’d shut down, fantasize about the apartment I was going to rent all on my own, the brand new job I’d get with a better crew of people, how my new life would be better. I figured that these were harmless fantasies. And then I got to Tradition One and it hit me – running away even in my mind was hurting my family. I wasn’t putting our “common welfare” first. I was just thinking about myself. And okay, maybe I had good reason to react. But I had tools now. Instead of running away, I needed to stand my ground, speak up and ask for what I needed. That’s what would be best for my daughter. For all of us.”
We come to program to help us cope with the problems of alcoholism. We stay to change our lives. Tradition One makes this possible by keeping the groups healthy and giving us tools to take back to our families, friends and jobs.