A Study of Tradition 8

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

Chairs in a circle
12-Step Work Is Non-Professional. © Getty Images

There is a saying in the twelve-step groups, "In order to keep it, you must give it away," with the key word being "give."

Tradition 8
Twelfth Step works should always be nonprofessional, but our service centers may employ special workers.

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."

The 8th Tradition ensures that anytime 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.

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. Giving it away in order to keep it.

Hiring Special Workers

On the other hand, twelve-step organizations at the national, state and sometimes regional level do 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 do 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.

There are other factors involved in this tradition, as visitors to this site pointed out on the bulletin board. Here are some of their stories:

Nonprofessional Help

Tradition 8 is after tradition 7. Seven says we are self-supporting through our own contributions. Tradition 8 follows 7 and states that contributions can be used to employ special workers, for literature, for group conscience process from group to district, from district to area, from area delegate to GSO, from GSO to A.A. worldwide.

Today in modern society carrying the message is not only accomplished face to face or by telephone but online as well. Technology does not hinder carrying the message to the alcoholic that still suffers, it helps it. But, we AAs have to keep true to our traditions and reject the million dollar donation, because money will spoil this thing. That is what Rockifeller told Bill W. when he solicited funds for AA in the 1930s before the traditions were written.

The steps are to the individual as the traditions are to the group. Keep the group strong with the Traditions but special workers may be employed to keep the AA message alive around the world.


Recovery Is a Gift

The 8th Tradition is so very simple but greed no matter how you try to rationalize it, is still greed.

We know nothing good comes from a negative action, except a negative reaction.

As it is implied in our 8th Tradition: "freely ye have received, freely give". Twelfth-step work should not be paid for! Both AA members lose, the newcomer is already in an outsider's position because of paying for services, the paid "professional" offering the message of AA is put in a position to compromise all that he is offering because of his profit. He loses what AA has given to him big time.

Paying someone for their services outside of twelfth-step work does not compromise AA's message, it just gets other jobs done so the recovering alcoholic has the freedom to be there and reach out and help another alcoholic, have the literature to give, have meeting list printed, etc.

"Our 12th-step is never to be paid for, but those who labor in service for us are worthy of their hire." This very important Tradition is the very rock on which the freely given program of AA is built. Kept it a gift!


Tradition 8: Special Workers

There is a funny tale in my area about a guy being asked to read the traditions before a meeting and when he got to 8 he read the last phrase as "but our service centers may employ social workers".

That is used quite often for laughs now because we all know that if that were the case, that there were AA "professionals" the beautiful identification we drunks feel when sharing with and listening to one another might go down the tubes.

I couldn't trust authority when I was first getting sober and I don't think I am unique as a drunk. And who does an AA authority go to when he or she hits a wall? Certainly not a meeting full of the folks he has been practicing his profession on. Professional AA's just wouldn't work.

On the other hand AA has to keep itself running, therefore, having an employee to run day to day operations at the local intergroup office right on up to the folks that do the same at GSO is probably a necessity, bills have to be paid and phones answered after all, while the rest of us get on with our regained lives until the next meeting or call.


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