A Study of Tradition 8

The 12 Traditions of AA and Al-Anon

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12-Step Work Is Non-Professional. Getty Images

Tradition 8 of a 12-step program says, "Twelfth step works should always be nonprofessional, but our service centers may employ special workers." This tradition allows contributions to be used for support services while the groups provide only non-professional, mutual support.

Tradition 8 ensures that any time a newcomer reaches out for help, he will receive it, free of charge. Members freely share their own experience, strength, and hope with the newcomer and by doing so, help themselves by reinforcing their own recovery in the process.

As Step 12 says, "Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to others, and to practice these principles in all our affairs." There is a saying in 12-step groups, "In order to keep it, you must give it away," with the key word being "give." 

Non-Professional Mutual Support

Many times, newcomers to the program will go to their first meeting expecting to find trained professionals who are there to help them. What they find instead is a fellowship of equals who are gathered together for mutual support. There are no doctors, therapists, or counselors, only other members who have or have had the same problem in their lives.

That's not to say, some of those members are not doctors and professionals, but they leave those outside affiliations at the door. It's how the 12-step programs work, by giving it away in order to keep it.

Tradition 7 says that 12-step groups are self-supporting through their own contributions.

These contributions are used to employ special workers and maintain the district, area, and worldwide structure. This tradition is reflected in the history of AA when John D. Rockefeller, Jr. rejected a giving a large donation as it would "spoil the thing" and they must become self-supporting to be successful.

Many people do not trust authority. This is true of those who want to become sober. Going to a professional counselor is different from going to a group of others who are in recovery. Twelve-step groups are different from professional recovery services, offering the support that the members feel in sharing and listening to each other's stories. There is no authority the member can rebel against.

Hiring Special Workers

Twelve-step organizations at the national, state, and regional level may have service centers which serve the fellowships as a whole by printing and distributing literature and meeting schedules, maintaining answering services, and other tasks.

These central offices and service centers many times involve more work than volunteer service workers can provide, so some hire full- and part-time employees to do the necessary labor to keep them running smoothly. Tradition 8, therefore, allows for the "special workers" to be hired and paid a salary to do the work that volunteers cannot cover.

Special workers may be employed to keep the AA message alive around the world through printing, communications, and other technology. This is not paying for 12th-step work but paying for the services needed to support it with literature and outreach.

Members understand the difference between paying for support services but not paying for professional counselors.

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