A Study of Tradition 6

The 12 Traditions of A.A. and Al-Anon

Chairs in a circle
Focus on Primary Purpose Only. © Getty Images

In order to preserve the integrity of the program and maintain their primary spiritual aim, 12 step support groups do not endorse any outside organizations and causes.

Tradition 6: Our groups ought never endorse, finance or lend our name to any related facility or outside enterprise, lest problems of money, property and prestige divert us from our primary purpose.

And the Al-Anon version adds: Although a separate entity, we should always cooperate with Alcoholics Anonymous.

As individuals, members of Twelve Step Support Groups are free to endorse, finance, or affiliate with any organization, religion, political party, charitable or civic organization they wish. But as a group, such endorsement could lead to misunderstanding and confusion.

With so many outside organizations in recent years attempting to "use" the name of Alcoholics Anonymous or Al-Anon Family Groups to promote their treatment programs or therapy approaches, it is more important than ever that Tradition 6 be observed.

Although individual members may recommend, or even be employed by such organizations, the group should avoid associating its name with these outside enterprises, namely professional treatment facilities or therapists.

Primary Purpose

Even such worthy projects as starting a 12-step "club" or supporting a shelter for abused spouses, should not be entered into as a group project, but rather as an effort of members as individuals, if they so desire.

Invariably, these situations can involve into struggles over finances and control and can divert a group and the fellowship away from its primary focus on recovery.

Members come into the rooms each week seeking help from the experience, strength, and hope of others members. This process can be diverted if the group spends part of the allotted time for discussion of outside activities.

There are other issues involved with Tradition 6. Visitors to this site have added their comments in our 12 Steps and Traditions study on the bulletin board. Here are their comments:

Tradition 6: Staying Focused

Our Group, which is an online group, Serenity by the Cybernet, a closed AA online meeting every Saturday night midnight EDT, should not endorse any outside interest or lend the AA name to any entity. We should keep strictly with this principle in order to keep us as individuals focused on our primary purpose, which is to carry the message the alcoholic who still suffers.

The traditions are to the group as the steps are to the individual. After we meet as individuals in groups or online we may retain our friendships etc. but stick we need to stick to the traditions.


Tradition 6: Cooperation?

I moved to a new town and frankly it took me a while to get around to going to the only Al-Anon meeting in the area, for various different reasons, but I finally made it after a long time away from the rooms.

I was comforted to hear the familiar opening read along with the preamble, the steps, and traditions. But when the chairman asked if anyone had anything they wished to discuss, my comfort soon disappeared.

I sat in amazement as I listened to the members of the group plan the menu and discuss arrangements for the upcoming A.A. speakers meeting!

Well, being new to the group and not wanting to get off on the wrong foot, I decided to just listen. But when they got to the part about who was going to bring which covered dish and where was the best place in town to buy prepared cole slaw, I raised my hand!

As gently as I could, I tried to explain if they as individuals planned to attend the A.A. speaker's meeting and wanted to help with the arrangements, that was fine, but they should discuss it after the meeting.

I explained that during the actual meeting, it was against tradition to even announce that there was going to be an A.A. meeting of any kind because A.A. was a separate entity.

I had hoped someone else in the room would speak up and say, "Yes, he's right!" But it didn't happen. You could have heard the proverbial pin drop at the A.A. meeting in the building next door!

Well, reminding myself of my very own words to newcomers in the past to "try at least six meetings before making up your mind" and decided to return to the room the following week. The first topic for discussion? A member announced that she had just received in the mail a copy of the latest Codependency guru's video and asked if there was a VCR available so that we could all watch it!

Thankfully the video equipment was locked up tight, but when the member then proceeded to tell the group about the content of the video, I found myself raising my hand again against my better judgment.

Again, I tried to explain that "codependency" was a professional or therapeutic label and was not an Al-Anon topic or issue and that the word "codependency" did not appear anywhere in Al-Anon Conference Approved Literature. When that comment was met with blank stares, I added that the opening that the chairman read specifically mentioned that the group conscience requested that we refrain from the use or mention of non-Conference Approved Literature.

This time, my comments were not received silently. I was basically shouted down on the spot. I supposed the group conscience then and there decided that codependency was an appropriate topic of discussion because they continued with their discussion.

Needless to say, I did not keep coming back to that particular meeting.

Codependency is an issue, but it is not an issue for discussion during an Al-Anon meeting. When a group's discussion becomes dominated by outside issues, it robs individual members of their meeting time.


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