The Twelve Traditions

Principles That Keep Groups Focused

Chairs in a circle
A Study of the Twelve Traditions. © Getty Images

The Twelve Traditions contain the spiritual principles that keep 12 step support groups focused on their primary purpose. Without such guidance, it would be impossible to maintain worldwide fellowship and keep the message undiluted.

Over a three-month period, visitors to the site participated in a study of the Twelve Traditions by sharing their experience, strength, and hope. The result is a multi-faceted, in-depth study of the principles which guide 12-step support groups and help them to maintain unity.

Tradition 1: Unity
Without unity within the group, members of 12 step support groups will find it difficult to make progress.

Tradition 2: Authority
In 12 step groups there is no such thing as individual authority, but there are leaders.

Tradition 3: Eligibility
The emphasis on this tradition is to keep the primary focus of the fellowship from becoming diluted.

Tradition 4: Autonomy
The freedom individual groups have in this tradition carries with it the admonition to protect the fellowship as a whole.

Tradition 5: Carrying the Message
The primary purpose of any 12 step group is to carry its message and give comfort to others who are still suffering.

Tradition 6: Outside Enterprises
In order to preserve the integrity of the program, groups do not endorse any outside organizations and causes.

Tradition 7: Self Supporting
By declining outside contributions, the group protect its basic structure and spiritual foundations.

Tradition 8: Giving It Away
There is a saying in the rooms, "In order to keep it, you must give it away, with the key word "give."

Tradition 9: Authority
By not being highly organized, support groups keep the emphasis on true fellowship and their primary purpose.

Tradition 10: Outside Opinions
By avoiding opinions on outside issues, support groups attempt to avoid controversy.

Tradition 11: Public Relations
Anonymity in the media protects not only the individual member but the fellowship as a whole.

Tradition 12: Anonymity
A hallmark of 12 step recovery programs is the offer of anonymity to participants, but the principle goes much deeper than just not revealing last names.

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