A Study of Tradition 7 in AA

The 12 Traditions of Alcoholics Anonymous and Al-Anon

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By being self-supporting and declining outside contributions, 12-step groups protect the fellowship structure and basic spiritual foundations. Tradition 7 of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) says, "Every group ought to be fully self-supporting, declining outside contributions."

Being Self-Supporting

One of the principals of the 12-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.

Rejecting Outside Contributions

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. It also cuts out the need to constantly chase donor funding and government grants.

As the Internet became a part of daily life, members of 12-step groups naturally began gathering together online for mutual support.

Many of 12-step online support groups (but not all) were able to adhere to Tradition 7 and remain self-supporting, keeping outside advertising off of their websites and out of their online meetings.

Taking Responsibility

AA member Althea notes the many benefits of this tradition for the alcoholic, the group, and for AA as a whole. Many come to AA at rock bottom, without a job or place to stay. No payment is required at AA, but as the alcoholic gets sober and begins to make progress in other areas of his life, he is able to place a contribution in the basket at the meeting. It makes him responsible for the first time (for many) to take care of himself and give back to the group.

Those in AA who have been in the program for years might think they have contributed enough and leave the burden of being financially responsible to newcomers. The AA co-founders understood this and Tradition 7 protects the program from getting outside help. The program shows how an alcoholic who was socially irresponsible came to be responsible.

Enhancing Dignity

The dignity of the member is also built by allowing him to take care of the group's needs. AA member Tigger notes, "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 to only rely on ourselves and each other for the most precious gifts: dignity and sobriety."

AA member Chuck notes, "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."

1 Source
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  1. Country-to-Country Sponsorship: Carrying the A.A. Message Worldwide. Alcoholics Anonymous® [aa.org].

By Buddy T
Buddy T is an anonymous writer and founding member of the Online Al-Anon Outreach Committee with decades of experience writing about alcoholism.