A Study of Tradition 7

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

Chairs in a circle
Each Group Is Self-Supporting. © Getty Images

By being self-supporting and declining outside contributions, twelve-step groups protect the fellowship structure and basic spiritual foundations.

Tradition 7: Every group ought to be fully self-supporting, declining outside contributions.

One of the principals of the twelve-step support groups is that each member is responsible for his or her own recovery. The first part of Tradition 7 makes it clear that responsibility extends to the members of each local group as it passes the basket for contributions to pay the rent and maintain its literature library.

If the group collects more than is necessary to meet its expenses, the group can contribute to its World Service Office, which also follows this tradition by accepting no outside contributions.

Although such contributions have fallen off in recent years, they are important in helping to carry the message worldwide.

The second part of this tradition addresses the issue of the fellowship not becoming involved with outside issues or conflicts that could arise by accepting "outside contributions."

If such contributions were accepted the group and its members might feel obligated to make some kind of concessions to the individual or organization making the donation. Declining these contributions keeps the fellowship independent from outside influences.

Tradition 7 Practiced Online, Too

As the Internet became a part of our daily lives, members of twelve-step groups naturally began gathering together online for mutual support.

Many of those online groups (but not all) were able to adhere to Tradition 7 and remain self-supporting and kept outside advertising off of their websites and out of their online meetings.

Visitors to this site have taken their time to share their experiences with Tradition 7 in our 12 Steps and Traditions study on the bulletin board.

Here are their comments:

Taking Responsibility

There are so many benefits to this tradition for the alcoholic and for the group and for all AA as a whole. When we first come into AA we were at a bottom -- nothing was working for us. Many did not have a job or a place to stay, but most could still find the money for the next drink. We surrendered to the fact that we could no longer drink, because of the price it required of us, and that wasn't money.

So slowly we put in a basket what little we had and began to acquire a life worth living. It made us responsible for the first time (for many of us) to become a part of taking care of ourselves.

Many times we look at AAers who have been around awhile who feel they have paid enough dues, and leave the burden of being financially responsible to newcomers who believe in the 7th tradition. Our co-founders understood they protected this program from outside help, so we would not have to lean on others, otherwise we would not be able to show how an alcoholic who was socially irresponsible came to be responsible.

As in most of our other traditions this one also keeps outsiders out of our fellowship that will continue to want to take control, offer new and "improved," or unrealistic changes to a program.

If that were to happen, we would rarely find someone who receives this gift of sobriety.


The Dignity of Supporting Ourselves

Tradition 7 is very important for us. A lot of us would not have anything to do with each other if it were not for our common goal. I believe Tradition 7 helps keep out conflicts that would arise if we were to accept outside money.

It would be like putting logos on our packs as we climb this mountain of sobriety together. God knows we have enough conflicts without adding those brought on by money and corporate or private sponsorship.

I think it also helps us maintain dignity by taking care of our own needs.

For a long time some of us were "that pitiful drunk" some people felt we were only looking for a handout in life. Maybe some of us were, but no more. Now with our pennies, we help maintain our own sobriety. We need only rely on ourselves and each other for the most precious gifts: dignity and sobriety.


A Tradition 7 Case History

I was recently listening to a talk-back radio show host who was interviewing a long time member of The Salvation Army here in Australia. He asked the good man what had changed in his 40 or so years working with the disadvantaged, the downtrodden and the down-and-outs.

"Well", he said, "when I started you could be assigned to go help anywhere there was a need. They'd just say, go help that family or go do this work or that. Then we applied for grants from the government to do certain work and eventually the restrictions set in. Now you just about have to have a Ph.D. and be well insured to help a drunk up off the pavement in some of our funded programs! Guys like me with lots of experience and plenty of love just can't get a look in sometimes."

I almost had to pull the car off to the side of the road, as my eyes filled with moisture! Gratitude welled up within me as I realized that during that same amount of time Alcoholics Anonymous began in Australia and is the same today (more or less) as then, because of this Tradition 7.

We didn't and don't take money from outsiders, no matter how kind or well-intentioned. W.H.O. stands for We Help Ourselves!! Or as Bill W. used to love reminding us: "The good is often the enemy of the best"!

Aussie Chuck

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