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common welfare should come first; personal recovery depends
upon A.A. Unity."
The unity of Alcoholics Anonymous it the most cherished
quality our Society has. Our live, the lives of all to come,
depend squarely upon it. We stay whole, or A.A. dies. Without
unity, the heart of A.A. would cease to beat; our world
arteries would no longer carry the life-giving grace of
God; His gift to us would be spent aimlessly. Back again
in their caves, alcoholics would reproach us and say, "What
a great thing A.A. might have been!"
this mean," some will anxiously ask, "that in
A.A. the individual doesn't count for much? Is he to be
dominated by his group and swallowed up in it?"
may certainly answer this question with a loud "No!"
We believe there isn't a fellowship on earth which lavishes
more devoted care upon its individual members; surely there
is none which more jealously guards the individual's right
to think, talk, and act as he wishes. No A.A. can compel
another to do anything; nobody can be punished or expelled.
Our Twelve Steps to recovery are suggestions; the Twelve
Traditions which guarantee A.A.'s unity contain not a single
"Don't." They repeatedly say "We ought..."
but never "You must!"
many minds all this liberty for the individual spells sheer
anarchy. Every newcomer, every friend who looks at A.A.
for the first time is greatly puzzled. They see liberty
verging on license, yet they recognize at once that A.A.
has an irresistible strength of purpose and action. "How,"
they ask, "can such a crowd of anarchists function
at all? How can they possible place their common welfare
first? What in Heaven's name holds them together?"
who look closely soon have the key to this strange paradox.
The A.A. member has to conform to the principles of recovery.
His life actually depends upon obedience to spiritual principles.
If he deviates too far, the penalty is sure and swift; he
sickens and dies. At first he goes along because he must,
but later he discovers a way of life he really wants to
live. Moreover, he finds he cannot keep this priceless gift
unless he gives it away. Neither he nor anybody else can
survive unless he carries the A.A. message. The moment this
Twelfth Step work forms a group, another discovery is made
- that most individuals cannot recover unless there is a
group. Realization dawns that he is but a small part of
a great whole; that no personal sacrifice is too great for
preservation of the Fellowship. He learns that the clamor
of desires and ambitions within him must be silenced whenever
these could damage the group. It becomes plain that the
group must survive or the individual will not.
at the outset, how best to live and work together as groups
became the prime question. In the world about us we saw
personalities destroying whole peoples. The struggle for
wealth, power, and prestige was tearing humanity apart as
never before. If strong people were stalemated in the search
for peace and harmony, what was to become of our erratic
band of alcoholics? As we had once struggled and prayed
for individual recovery, just so earnestly did we commence
to quest for the principles through which A.A. itself might
survive. on anvils of experience, the structure of our Society
was hammered out.
times, in as many cities and hamlets, we reenacted the story
of Eddie Rickenbacker and his courageous company when their
plane crashed in the Pacific. Like us, they had suddenly
found themselves saved from death, but still floating upon
a perilous sea. How well they saw that their common welfare
came first. None might become selfish of water or bread.
Each needed to consider the others, and in abiding faith
they knew they must find their real strength. And as they
did find, in measure to transcend all the defects of their
frail craft, every test of uncertainty, pain, fear, and
despair, and even the death of one.
has it been with A.A. By faith and by works we have been
able to build upon the lessons of an incredible experience.
They live today in the Twelve Traditions of Alcoholics Anonymous,
which - God willing - shall sustain us in unity for so long
as He may need us.
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