Bill Wilson in his writing of the Big Book used italicized writing to emphasize important points. In A.A.’s long form, this Tradition is the only one where italicization is used. It is the only Tradition that is redundantly stated: “…one primary….” These two literary devices used together indicate the importance of this Tradition. All the other Traditions seem to support or revolve around this one. In Tradition One, we are unified by our one purpose. In Tradition Two, living the Twelve Step way of life is how we hopefully ascertain the will of our Higher Power, which can then be expressed in our group conscience. In Tradition Three, pursuing our common solution is how we tell if the newcomer truly has a desire to stop. In Tradition Four, if we are focused on how other groups conduct themselves, then we are not focused on our primary purpose. Traditions Six through Twelve show us the most common things that distract us from our primary purpose: property, money, prestige, celebrity, bureaucracy, controversy, authority and promotion to name a few.
Each group has only one reason to exist: to carry its message to the sex addict who still suffers. As a fellowship, we have only one message. It is contained in our Twelfth Step. “Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps,….” Spiritual awakenings have been happening long before the existence of the Twelve Step Program. We hold no exclusive. We agree that a spiritual awakening is the only solution, that we have found, to a malady such as ours. What we proclaim is a system which has been the most reliable at bringing about this spiritual consciousness. We believe there are other methods. We do not disparage them. We only claim to have found a way that works for us.
This is our only message. We have no other. Anything else is an outside issue (reference Tradition 10). If we are working any other program to gain freedom from our addiction, then we have not completely given ourselves to this one. Our experience is that the 12 Step Program will eventually fail us if we do not put all our efforts behind it as a solution to our addiction. As a fellowship, we do not have the authority to teach any other method. To do otherwise is the assumption that we can be all things to all people. This implies that newcomers recover by our power and not that of a Higher Power. It implies that the message is not as important as the messenger. That is arrogance. Humility is the understanding that we can only teach that with which we were personally successful. If we were successful by some method other than the Twelve Steps, we are simply in the wrong fellowship.
Our Program is how the individual group becomes a spiritual entity; the majority of its members having been spiritually awakened as the result of working these Steps. This is an important quality to have before starting the group. It allows the individual members to be like minded. Being like minded helps when conducting business and when conducting meetings. It keeps us all going in the same direction, doing the same work and supporting each other in that endeavor. It allows us to support each other and hold each other to account when and for practicing these principals. Originally, a newcomer was not permitted into the meeting until he/she had committed to this way of life (taken the 3rd Step). This usually occurred within a few hours of first meeting him/her. This is why “A Vision for You” concentrates on carrying the message when being asked how to build a fellowship (group/meeting). In that way the group or meeting starts on God’s schedule, not our own. Our focus, as individuals, should always be to carry the message. The meeting or group will happen when it needs to. When it does, it will be composed of men/women that are focused on a spiritual life via a method called the Twelve Steps. If meetings or groups are started before the important 12 Step work is done, then what message is the group/meeting carrying?
We carry the message, not the addict. It is not our job to coddle the newcomer. We don’t “love them until they can love themselves.” If a newcomer is truly ready for what we have to offer, then he/she is desperate for a solution. He/She is at the end of the proverbial rope and will not care whether we are gentle or not. What he/she really needs is a way to not die of his/her addiction. We don’t need to convince the newcomer. That would be promotion (reference Tradition 11). The newcomer must be convinced before he/she walks in the door. The “great persuader” is our addiction. When he/she has acted out enough, he/she will cooperate and follow directions. The newcomer may be the most important person in the room, but the most loving and important thing we can do for him/her is give him/her a harsh dose of the truth, no matter how painful that might be. That may even include telling such a person that he/she is not “done”; that he/she has some more acting out to do. We have learned this elemental truth: When the newcomer is truly ready for what we offer, then there is nothing we can say that will scare him/her away. No amount of coddling, loving, cajoling, persuasion or convincing will give the newcomer enough honesty, open-mindedness or willingness necessary to work this program like his/her life depends on it.
The most commonly missed word in this Tradition is “to.” It makes quite clear that while newcomers may show up at our meetings, we need to also step outside the comfort of our home group to let the larger community know that we exist. “But life among Alcoholics Anonymous is more than attending gatherings and visiting hospitals.”, reads pg 161 of the Big Book. Here it assumes that we are doing more than just going to meetings (gatherings). The book assumes that we are going to places where people like us find bottom. It assumes that we are making an effort to find those like us who have found the willingness to go to any lengths to get and stay sober. This will mean stepping outside of the comfort zone of our home group. It means we will have to risk our anonymity with individual members of our community as long as they are not film-makers or members of the press (ref. Tradition 11). We may have to talk with many helping professionals, clerics, legal and law enforcement professionals to find those who need and want what we have to offer. But it will definitely mean more than attending another meeting.
Helping others in a way that we are uniquely qualified is a theme that runs through and through the instructions contained in the Big Book. It should be obvious that this is the most important direction it gives. It implies that the entire reason we worked the first 11 Steps was to provide us with a message to carry and the tools to do so. We carry our message in 3 ways. We do service work within our fellowship. These are the jobs necessary for the fellowship to function. We must all take our turn, but these tasks should never serve as a substitute for the other ways we carry the message. These tasks are best left to those who do not yet have a message to transmit: our newer members still going through the work of the 12 Steps and those who have slipped and are going through the Steps again. Another venue is outreach. We each must make an effort to go out into our community letting its citizens know a solution to our problem exists. Many call this “H & I”, standing for hospitals and institutions. Jails, prisons, halfway houses, homeless shelters, public hospitals and treatment centers. We could increase the list considerably. We basically consider the best real estate to be the place where the sex addict is finding bottom or the willingness to go to any lengths. Lastly, we carry the message by practicing the program on its most fundamental level: one on one. We must always each be making our best effort to show the newcomer, whom we sponsor, how to employ the Program in our lives such that we live in a growing relationship with our respective Higher Power. We should each always be working with someone on Step work. If we do not currently have someone we are taking through the Steps, then we should be making the effort to find someone. Raising our hand or standing up at our meeting will not fill this bill. We must step out of that comfort zone into the world.