Unity: The First Tradition


What is it those who live by the principles of the Twelve Traditions mean when they say: “Our common welfare should come first; personal recovery depends on our fellowship’s unity.”

Right! You “sharpies” saw that I changed the wording to be general when it comes to the type of recovery program you live by, because AA was generous enough to share these principles with the many fellowships that use it, i.e. NA, OA, GA, CA, al-Anon, etc. It is the first and most fundamental of our traditions emphasizing the underlying value that summarizes them all: Humility.

Unity is our most cherished of qualities. Yet only second to it, we fiercely guard the democratic principle of the right of the individual to act, talk and think as they wish,……..sometimes to the point of strain. We refrain from saying “don’t” and “you must” replacing it with the more tolerant posture of suggesting: “We ought….”

There are times where we think this liberty verges on license, but we remember our unified principle of primary purpose: to live in recovery helping the person who still suffers from their addiction or alcoholism, even though sometimes we have to bite our tongues. And while we do, we remember: without our groups we are alone. We all remember where that got us.  You see we need each other. We must bury our personal ambitions for power and recognition for the good of the group’s survival, else we quarrel and lose the cohesiveness that insures our individual and group sobriety.

That old adage definitely rings a bell we can all chime with: “United we stand; divided we fall.”  There are other slogans that history has provided us with: “All for one and one for all”!

When I first came to recovery, people were yapping all the time about Universal Love. “Love” I thought! “The most abused word in the English language. The ultimate expression of feigned sincerity. These people are already pouring the Kool-aid,” I muttered under my breath. But one man stood to explain that what it meant to him was: “a genuine concern for the common welfare of his fellow man and alcoholic.” Those were words that spoke truth to my understanding. Straight away, I was on my path to comprehending the lessons of the First Tradition: Unity.

For you “Star Trek” Fans, you surely remember when Mr. Spock selflessly went into the Dilithium Crystal Generator, repairing its damage but exposing himself to deadly radiation in “The Wrath of Khan.” In his final moments he said to Captain James T. Kirk: “Jim, the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few and the one. I am, and always shall be your friend.” So lies the value of the spirit of our First Tradition: Unity. When we feel as though we must jump into the Frey, we refrain and practice restraint and tolerance, for the good of the many. We rely on rather than defy; we co-operate rather than compete, for we know that our collective sobriety as well as our own depends on the principle of Unity.

We must indeed, all hang together or, most assuredly we shall hang separately.” – Benjamin Franklin

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