Much emphasis is put on the 12 steps in programs like Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous, but these programs also have what they call the 12 traditions. These are basically tenets and guidelines for how these programs work and why they do what they do. Tradition 11 in the 12 steps is based on the idea of “attraction rather than promotion” when it comes to gaining new members, which makes sense.
Think about it. When did you last see an advertisement for AA or NA? You might have seen a flier at a local community center or the library, but you’re unlikely to have ever seen an actual print, audio or TV ad for these programs. And yet, AA alone estimated it had over 2 million members globally in 2018. In a culture that focuses on marketing, branding and increasing audience, it may seem difficult to understand how a program that doesn’t advertise could be so popular, but that’s what Tradition 11 is all about.
What Are the Traditions?
Simply put, the 12 traditions of Alcoholics Anonymous are the main governing tenets of how the program and its groups and members operate. The traditions give some insight into why they do what they do, such as keeping things anonymous and not marketing the programs. The 12 traditions of AA are as follows:
- Our common welfare should come first; personal recovery depends upon AA unity.
- 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.
- The only requirement for AA membership is a desire to stop drinking.
- Each group should be autonomous except in matters affecting other groups or AA as a whole.
- Each group has but one primary purpose — to carry its message to the alcoholic who still suffers.
- An AA group ought never endorse, finance or lend the AA name to any related facility or outside enterprise, lest problems of money, property and prestige divert us from our primary purpose.
- Every AA group ought to be fully self-supporting, declining outside contributions.
- Alcoholics Anonymous should remain forever nonprofessional, but our service centers may employ special workers.
- AA, as such, ought never be organized, but we may create service boards or committees directly responsible to those they serve.
- Alcoholics Anonymous has no opinion on outside issues; hence, the AA name ought never be drawn into public controversy.
- Our public relations policy is based on attraction rather than promotion; we need always maintain personal anonymity at the level of press, radio and films.
- Anonymity is the spiritual foundation of all our Traditions, ever reminding us to place principles before personalities.
So, for example, Tradition 10 explains why the group doesn’t take any political stances, and Tradition 7 explains why it doesn’t accept outside funding for groups.
Tradition 11 Explained
As we see above, Tradition 11 says that AA’s public relations policy maintains that anonymity needs to be the focus, which is why the focus on “attraction rather than promotion.” So, what does this really mean? When it comes to marketing, for example, it wouldn’t be able to use real members in any ads if it did them because that would be violating the idea of keeping members anonymous.
What Is the Reasoning Behind It?
The idea of attraction rather than promotion also means that the program focuses on changing people’s lives one person at a time by helping them deal with their addiction, find sobriety and maintain a sober life. By keeping this clear focus, the group automatically attracts people who see other addicts get sober and have a better life. The idea is that a current addict will look at someone who has recovered and think “I want what they have, so I will do what they did.” Thus, this person would then join AA.
The focus on attraction over promotion also helps keep the focus on addicts and recovery instead of things like reaching certain membership number goals or worrying about whether there is enough increase in membership to justify the money spent on ads.
The bottom line is that AA has a program that works, and it believes that as long as it keeps the focus on that program and helping individual addicts get through the 12 steps and continue to stay sober as they help others, the rest will fall into place.
While clearly there are many good things that come from Tradition 11, there are some people who take the idea of “attraction rather than promotion” too far or don’t respect it all. For example, some people may believe that AA isn’t something that should ever be talked about or shared.
For example, someone who takes the idea to the extreme may know someone who is addicted to alcohol and needs help but doesn’t offer the idea of AA or talk about it because they see that as promotion. This could mean that some people miss out on the opportunity, even though letting someone know about an option is much different than engaging in outright advertising. On the other hand, some people think that Tradition 11 just isn’t that important and may disregard it and go ahead and engage in advertising measures.
Using the Idea of “Attraction Rather Than Promotion” in Your Recovery
The most important thing in your recovery journey is your own sobriety. However, there may be a time when you are stable enough in your own recovery that you want to reach out and start helping others. You can use the idea of attraction rather than promotion in this as well. For example, the way you act, dress, talk and treat others is something that other people notice, and if you want to be an ambassador for how sobriety can be a positive life change, it should be reflected in these ways. Keeping to Tradition 11 also ensures that as you try to help others, either by being a sponsor or just being a supportive group member to newcomers, you are focusing on showing how AA has helped you on your journey instead of just trying to win people over.
While FHE Health isn’t a 12-step program, we have seen many clients change their lives by using AA and other 12-step-based programs. We encourage our patients to use a variety of tools and resources in their recovery journey, and that includes the 12 steps. For more information on what FHE Health has to offer and how you can take another step toward sobriety, contact us today.