The Twelve Traditions Explained

Highest Standards, Nationally Recognized:


When some people recognize that they have an addiction problem, their first instinct may be to try and overcome it on their own instead of getting help. They might be in denial or feel ashamed to reach out for help. However, this approach’s problem is that the techniques used to get sober on your own rarely sustain lasting recovery and perpetuate addiction when deciding to drink or use again. 

Attaining lasting recovery takes work, and being able to connect with others. It all begins with taking the first step to reaching out for help. 12-Step programs are some of the most effective ways to overcome and manage your addiction. If you feel intimidated to attend, understand that these programs uphold traditions that serve as staples of maintaining the process’s safety and integrity – including your identity. Looking at each tradition in-depth to better understand may help you become more confident about seeking the help you need. 

Practicing Unity

“Our common welfare should come first, personal recovery depends on [AA, NA, CA, etc.] unity.”

You cannot manage lasting recovery alone; it requires support and unity from others who share similar experiences. Unity not only helps you make more progress, but it also shows you that your journey is not unique and, therefore, you will not place yourself or circumstances above others. It is about moving together to help one another reach personal goals using motivation and accountability. Unity begins with our recognition of the value of one alcoholic or addict, helping another. 

Creating Leadership Roles

“For our group purpose there is but one ultimate authority – a loving God as He may express Himself in our group conscience. Our leaders are but trusted servants; they do not govern.”

There is no singular authority when you operate within a group; instead, entrusted and appointed leaders help serve the group. Leadership roles help provide a sense of belonging within the group. Leadership is also reciprocal in that this role will also call for participation on your part to help hold other group members accountable.

Eligibility for Membership

“The only requirement for membership is the desire to stop drinking or using.”

There is only one requirement in 12-Step groups, which is the desire to stop drinking or using. It is there to ensure that each meeting’s purpose does not diminish and that the primary focus remains on addiction. Desire is not a measurable commodity. It lives in the heart of each individual member of a 12-Step program. You cannot judge the sole requirement for membership and are encouraged to keep the doors of meetings open to any alcohol or addict who wishes to join. 

Practicing Autonomy

“Each group should be autonomous, except in matters affecting other groups or [AA, NA, CA, etc.] as a whole.”

Autonomy lends group meetings the freedom to vary each week, including the location and how to begin and end meetings. However, it also cautions not to stray too far from the program’s basic tenets because it is crucial to stay focused on the meeting’s intended purpose. So, while you might get some variety from meeting to meeting, you never have to worry about straying away from the primary reason you’re attending. 

Carrying the Message

“Each group has but one primary purpose – to carry the message to the alcoholic or addict that still suffers.”

With guidance from a loving Higher Power and a clear focus on the purpose of carrying the message, 12-Step programs become a channel for the healing power of recovery. These groups help individuals find freedom from active addiction. Groups carry the message of 12-Step programs: that anybody can find hope and freedom. 

Outside Enterprises

“An [AA, NA, CA, etc.] group ought never endorse, finance, or lend the [AA, NA, CA, etc.] name to any related facility or outside enterprise, lest problems of money, property, or prestige divert us from our primary purpose.”

Tradition six helps to preserve integrity by preventing groups from endorsing outside organizations, religions, political parties, or charities that they wish. Such a measure helps prevent any misrepresentations of 12-Step programs. It helps keep the focus on the disease of addiction.

Practicing Self-Support

“Every [AA, NA, CA, etc.] group ought to be fully self-supporting, declining outside contributions.”

Declining outside endorsements protects the fellowship structure and spiritual foundations. Supporting these groups financially is a choice among members. However, accepting outside contributions can create conflict and harm the system of the fellowship.

Recovering as a Group

“[Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous, Cocaine Anonymous, etc.] should remain forever nonprofessional, but our service centers may employ special workers.”

12-Step programs offer a distinctly nonprofessional approach to the disease of addiction. They have no hospitals, no treatment centers, no outpatient clinics, or other facilities associated with a professional enterprise. This tradition reminds the group that members do not need any professional credentials to carry the message of recovery. The heart of 12-Step programs comes from one alcoholic or addict helping another. Your experience in recovery from addiction is all the credentials you need. 

Organization of the Group

“[AA, NA, CA, etc.], as such, ought never be organized, but we may create service boards or committees directly responsible to those they serve.”

Tradition nine helps to keep the emphasis on true fellowship as the primary purpose. Due to this fact, there might be committees to help with handling all contributions. 

Outside Opinions

“[Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous, Cocaine Anonymous, etc.] has no opinion on outside issues; hence the [AA, NA, CA, etc.] name ought never be drawn into public controversy.” 

When choosing not to comment or offer opinions over politics, alcohol reform, or religion, 12-Step programs avoid controversy both publicly and within. Being in the throes of controversy could diminish the program’s reputation and create a divide within its members. It aims to help members maintain focus on their shared purpose: recovering from addiction.

Public Relations

“Our public relations policy is based on attraction rather than promotion; we need always maintain personal anonymity at a level of press, radio, and films.”

Anonymity helps to protect the fellowship as a whole. It also helps the group focus on the principles rather than the personalities. It is the policy for the fellowship to attract, not promote. This includes not using full names or naming groups. Additionally, if a member wishes to discuss the benefits of being a member, it is encouraged that they identify themselves by their first name only.

Remaining Anonymous

“Anonymity is the spiritual foundation of all our traditions, ever reminding us to place principles before personalities.”

Anonymity is a common thread throughout the traditions, and this is because your identity and progress are of the utmost importance. Anonymity must remain at all levels of participation in the fellowship, including within the meetings and in sponsorship. The purpose of these meetings is to continue to expand upon a recovery community that inhibits a safe and secure environment.


Upholding these traditions takes work on everybody’s part; however, you offer yourself the best recovery opportunity when you successfully support them. It is essential to understand that your personal comfort and growth are primary when seeking treatment, so you should never feel intimidated to reach out for help. If you are struggling with alcohol or drug addiction and have not reached out for help, it may be time to do so now. At Avalon Malibu, we have created a safe atmosphere. Our facilities are comfortable and will protect the identity of each individual. We believe in the purpose, not the promotion. With Avalon Malibu, your needs come first – this means that your recovery always comes first, too. Avalon Malibu is also here for the times when you might make a mistake or slip up. With 24/7 admissions, there is never a wrong time to reach out. To learn more, call Avalon Malibu today at (844) 857-5992. 

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