Tradition One: A Pathway to Unity

(Short Form) Our common welfare should come first; personal recovery depends upon A.A. unity.

(Long Form) Each member of Alcoholics Anonymous is but a small part of a great whole. A.A. must continue to live or most of us will surely die. Hence our common welfare comes first. But individual welfare follows close afterward.

The purpose of this blog is to enhance UNITY through thought and discussion of our basic understanding of what is meant by UNITY and to encourage learning and practical application of the Traditions as our path to UNITY. This proposed by asking three questions arising from Tradition One and providing historical published considerations of those questions.

  • What is meant by Unity?
  • How does the experience of UNITY have singleness of purpose at its heart?
  • How is practicing the Twelve Traditions our pathway to UNITY?
  • Why is the experience of those who came before so necessary to learning and practicing the Twelve Traditions, our path to UNITY?

A.A. Traditions Booklet, Forward by Bill Wilson, 1955

“…if as a movement, we remain a spiritual entity concerned only with carrying our message to fellow sufferers without charge or obligation; then only can we most effectively complete our mission…Unity is so vital to us AA’s that we cannot risk those attitudes and practices which have sometimes demoralized other forms of human society.”

Narcotics Anonymous 12 & 12, Tradition One

“Unity is the spirit that joins thousands of members around the world in a spiritual fellowship that has the power to change lives…unity begins with our recognition of the therapeutic value of one addict helping another…The unity described in our First Tradition is not the same as uniformity…Our purpose–to carry the message to the addict who still suffers–allows room for everyone to serve. When we unite in support of this purpose, our differences need no longer detract from our common welfare.”

CA World Service Handout – Unity

The First Tradition states that “Our common welfare comes first; personal recovery depends upon CA unity.” So the question is: What is meant by unity? I believe that what we are referred to is ‘Unity of Purpose’. We are therefore referred to the Fifth Tradition, which states that “Each group has but one primary purpose–to carry the message to the addict who still suffers.” What is said of the individual member and the group is also true of the area, and indeed the fellowship as a whole.”

Narcotics Anonymous 12 & 12, Tradition Five

“Unity is one of our greatest strengths in carrying the message. Unity of purpose keeps our focus on carrying the message…Our primary purpose is a common thread that unites us. Tradition Five defines the focus of Narcotics Anonymous. This focus also helps to ensure our survival as a fellowship.”

Grapevine Article, February 1958, A.A. Co-Founder, Bill Wilson

“Our first duty, as a society, is to ensure our own survival. Therefore we have to avoid distractions and multipurpose activity…Sobriety–freedom from alcohol–through the teaching and practice of the Twelve Steps, is the sole purpose of an AA group. Groups have repeatedly tried other activities and they have always failed…we have to confine our AA groups to a single purpose. If we don’t stick to these principles, we shall almost surely collapse. And if we collapse, we cannot help anyone.”

AA Grapevine, November 1948, Bill Wilson

“The Twelve Points of Tradition are little less than a specific application of the spirit of the Twelve Steps of recovery to our group life and to our relations with society in general. The recovery steps would make each individual whole and one with God; the Twelve Points of Tradition would make us one with each other and whole with the world about us. Unity is our aim.”

AA grapevine Article, January 1998, “Unity Seldom Means That We All Agree”

“What I have learned is that unity seldom means that we all agree on everything. Nor is unity served by setting aside our concerns and conforming to the majority opinion…My experience has been that unity is best achieved by a full hearing of all points of view, followed by some time for those involved to step back from emotional responses to the issue, as well as careful consideration and prayer…When we need to make a decision it’s important for me to allow the group conscience to work and to trust in the process of applying the Twelve Traditions in making our decisions. when I’m able to do this, I feel that I’m part of this Fellowship and that we united in our common disease, our common solution, and our common purpose.”

AA grapevine Article, April 2000, “Divine Wisdom”

“Mention our Twelve Traditions, and I immediately think of the mistakes that early AA members made. that’s where our Traditions came from, and each chapter in our “Twelve and Twelve” is a brief, often humorous account of problems encountered by early groups because of the character defects of sober alcoholics and the mistakes they made out of good, if misguided, intentions. The Traditions gave us both a sweeping inventory of the problems that threatened early groups, and an analysis of how the problems were rooted in and sprang from the alcoholic personality.”

If our unity is based on our singleness of purpose, as stated in Tradition Five…Each group has but one primary purpose–to carry its message to the addict who still suffers–What then does its message look like to you?

3 thoughts on “Tradition One: A Pathway to Unity

  1. The purpose of the ‘Working with Others Group’ of All Addictions Anonymous is to work the steps and teach others how to work the steps. We connect suffering addicts to recovered addicts who guide newcomers through a personalized one on one study of the original, undiluted 12 step program described in the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous. We substitute terms and phrases related to alcoholism to include ALL obsessive-compulsive patterns such as drinking alcohol, using drugs, gambling, sex, self-harm or injury, food, anorexia, bulimia, sugar, smoking, co-dependency…anyone can certainly increase this list and all are welcome.

    We have found through our own experience that by stating specifically what ‘is’ our message and how we carry that message to others, we eliminate a lot of the superfluerous fellowship approaches to overcoming our addictions i.e. drunk-a-logs, telling war stories, frothy emotional appeals, discussing our personal problems or issues, celebrating medallions or sobriety birthdays, interpreting slogans or reading poetry — these so-called approaches DO NOT keep chronic relapsing addicts of our type clean and sober.

  2. The question I have and the problem I seek an answer to is that in my community and even in my area there seams to be a feeling that the statements about unity are mostly directed to the group. The groups seam to be doing well and maybe to well because we have to many. There is a problem when it comes to unity when it comes to the whole of our society or AA as a whole. This is where we are collapsing as each group has decided it is doing well without the other important entities. As a DCM and even before I was seeing decide they didn’t need anything else and therefore stop supporting AA as a whole. I am constantly reminding others that if Bill and Bob had felt that way we would not be having a meeting tonight.
    Please someone help me find information on how to get the true message of unity and the singleness of purpose across to my fellow members. As part of my gratitude I truly want to have my hand there fore the still suffering alcoholic whether they are in my group or in another country as I believe the program was decided and dedicated to do. Am I wright if so let me know, please!

  3. The book Narcotics Anonymous uses to elaborate on our steps and traditions is called “It Works: How & Why”… not “12 & 12”, that is Alcoholics Anonymous. Thank you for the blog.

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