Thursday, December 09, 2004

Foreword. The 12 Steps and 12 Traditions.


ALCOHOLICS ANONYMOUS is a worldwide fellowship of more than one hundred
thousand* alcoholic men and women who are banded together to solve their
common problems and to help fellow sufferers in recovery from that age-old,
baffling malady, alcoholism.
This book deals with the “Twelve Steps” and the “Twelve Traditions” of
Alcoholics Anonymous. It presents an explicit view of the principles by which
A.A. members recover and by which their Society functions.
A.A.'s Twelve Steps are a group of principles, spiritual in their nature,
which, if practiced 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
outline the means by which A.A. maintains its unity and relates itself to the
world about it, the way it lives and grows.
Though the essays which follow were written mainly for members, it is thought
by many of A.A.'s friends that thse pieces might arouse interest and find
application outside A.A. itself.
Many people, nonalcoholics, report that as a result of the practice of A.A.'s
Twelve Steps, they have been able to meet other difficulties of life. They
think that the Twelve Steps can mean more than sobriety for problem drinkers.
They see in them a way to happy and effective living for many, alcoholic or
There is, too, a rising interest in the Twelve Traditions of Alcoholics
Anonymous. Students of human relations are beginning to wonder how and why
A.A. functions as a society. Why is it, they ask, that in A.A. no member can
be set in personal authority over another, that nothing like a central
government can anywhere be seen? How can a set of traditional principles,
having no legal force at all, hold the Fellowship of Alcoholics Anonymous in
unity and effectiveness? The second section of this volume, though designed
for A.A.'s memberships, will give such inquirers an inside view of A.A. never
before possible.
Alcoholics Anonymous began in 1935 at Akron, Ohio, as the outcome of a
meetijng between a well-known surgeon and a New York broker. Both were severe
cases of alcoholism and were destined to become co-founders of the A.A.
The basic principles of A.A., as they are known today, were borrowed mainly
from the fields of religion and medicine, though some ideas upon which success
finally depended were the result of noting the behavior and needs of the
Fellowship itself.
After three years of trial and error in selecting the most workable tenets
upon which the Society could be based, and after a large amount of failure in
getting alcoholics to recover, three successful groups emerged-the first at
Akron, the second at New York, and the third at Cleveland. Even then it was
hard to find twoscore of sure recoveries in all three groups.
Nevertheless, the infant Society determined to set dwn its experience in a
book which finally reached the public in April 1939. At this time the
recoveries numbered about one hundred. The book was called “Alcoholics
Anonymous,” and from it the Fellowship took its name. In it alcoholism was
described from the alcoholic's point of view, the spiritual ideas of the
Society were codified for the first time in Twelve Steps, and the application
of these Steps to the alcoholic's dilemma was made clear. The remainder of the
book was devoted to thirty stories or case histories in which the alcoholics
described their drinking experiences and recoveries. This established
identification with alcoholic readers and proved to them that the virtually
impossible had now become possible. The book “Alcoholics Anonymous” became the
basic text of the Fellowship, and it still is. This present volume proposes to
broaden and deepen the understanding of the Twelve Steps as first written in
the earlier work.
With the publication of the book “Alcoholics Anonymous” in 1939, the
pioneering period ended and a prodigious chain reaction set in as the recovered
alcoholics carried their message to still others. In the next years alcoholics
flocked to A.A. by tens of thousands, largely as the result of excellent and
continuous publicity freely given by magazines and newspapers throughout the
world. Clergymen and docctors alike rallied to the new movement, giving it
unstinted support and endorsement.
This startling expansion brought with it very severe growing pains. Proof
that alcoholics could recover had been made. But it was by no means sure that
such great numbers of yet erratic people could live and work together with
harmony and good effect.
Everywhere there arose threatening questions of membership, money, personal
relations, public relations, management of groups, clubs, and scores of other
perplexitiesf. It was out of this vast welter of explosive experience that
A.A.'s Twelve Traditions form and were first published in 1946 and later
confirmed at A.A.'s First International Convention, held at Cleveland in 1950.
The Tradition section of this volume portrays in some detail the experience
which finally produced the Twelve Traditions and so gave A.A. its present form,
substance, and unity.
As A.A. now enters maturity, it has begun to reach into forty foreign
lands.* In the view of its friends, this is but the beginning of its
unique and valuable service.
It is hoped that this volume will afford all who read it a close-up view of
the principles and forces which have mad Alcoholics Anonymous what it is.

(A.A.'s General Service Office may be reached by writing: Alcoholics
Anonymous, P.O. Box 459, Grand Central Station, New York, NY 10163, U.S.A.)

*In 1989, A.A. is established in 134 countries.


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