As the AA Steps contain the message of recovery, so the AA Traditions contain that of unity. I knew this fact in spirit sometime before my head caught on to it. While still very much a newcomer to the Fellowship, I first became aware of the Traditions while observing the running of meetings. Despite my newcomer’s confusion I could sense that the chairman and secretary had little power to get people to do anything–other than their power of persuasion through their own sober example. It soon seemed clear, too, that their only guidelines were the Traditions, which at most meetings hung in full view for easy reference. I noticed that the Traditions guided the groups in the many small jobs necessary to make each meeting available as scheduled. My curiosity about the Traditions was sparked and kindled a little at a time. There were not many Step meetings then–and no Traditions meetings–so we depended mostly on osmosis to absorb these principles.
Over the years this situation has altered considerably since AA practices have changed, much as I have grown in sobriety. Nowadays Step meetings in many communities have become our most important topic discussion meetings–well attended and deeply interesting. The principles in the Step under discussion at these meetings cast an uncanny light on our day-to-day problems in sobriety and guide us on the path to an AA way of living. However, although the message of unity remains as vital as ever, and possibly more crucial than in simpler days when AA was less popular, Traditions meetings are hard to find. Even when one can find such a meeting one often is besieged by downgrading, trivializing remarks beginning with, “If I’d remembered that this was Traditions night. . .” And, too, the speakers, often as not, are inexperienced in AA service where the Traditions are experienced at work.
A local group which I attend with some frequency recognized some years ago when it was about six years old the need for a weekly Step meeting–one Step per meeting, rotating from Step One through Twelve. It was also decided that a Tradition would be the topic for discussion at the end of each cycle of Steps. For several years the group has held four Traditions meetings a year–enough to remind members that the Traditions exist, but not enough to raise an informed consciousness. In another instance my home group holds a Step meeting every week except for the last meeting each month, which is devoted to consideration of the Tradition numbered the same as the month. From its inception this meeting has been a vital and dynamic study of AA principles applied to individual daily sobriety. Often, personal problems are looked at through the spiritual insights peculiarly available in AA’s Steps and Traditions. The leaders for the Traditions meetings are selected by our GSR (general service representative) from amongst his or her service contacts so that we are sure to have someone knowledgeable to direct our thoughts to the principles contained in the Tradition at hand. Each year we complete the entire cycle. As yet in our district there is not a weekly Traditions meeting, but in our general service area there are several, reminiscent of the state of Step meetings when I came into the program in the early ’70s,
Certainly, when one gets involved in service beyond the group level, one gets into the Traditions at work whether one is group GSR at district meetings and assemblies, or working with the local central office or intergroup, or taking meetings into institutions, or speaking to groups of nonalcoholics for public information. However, clearly there are principles of such overriding importance to individual sobriety in our Traditions that the more concentrated look that one gets in a discussion meeting is of great benefit. Every committee and assembly meeting and even every group business meeting is an example of the Traditions in operation, from which we learn practical application. However, there is a great need for Traditions meetings on a regular basis in our local groups.