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The purpose of this writing is to help to clarify any misunderstanding about whether the Big Book Step Study group adheres to the principles of the Twelve Traditions of Alcoholics Anonymous. There are more than one hundred meetings of this type listed in the US and abroad, with the majority of them in the New England area. All are very similar in nature, and their meeting formats can be traced to 1980 and the Hyannis Men’s BBSS group, on Cape Cod, Mass. Most are open AA meetings, though some are closed.

We urge anyone who has concerns about this type of meeting to ask to see its format and inspect it, attend a BBSS meeting, and listen to the message being shared. We doubt that you’ll find any inconsistencies with the traditions. If you do, please put your concerns in writing so that they can be considered at our group conscience meetings. We want to know just which traditions are being violated, and how.

The matter usually most in question is this: can a chairperson tell someone that they aren’t allowed to share at a BBSS meeting? The issue will be taken up here.

The Big Book Step Study group asks that people share their experience with the steps as they are laid out in our basic text. If they haven’t done the steps that way or they aren’t sure, we ask that they be open-minded enough to listen. If one says that he has done so, he should demonstrate it by speaking on the step directly and accurately. If a person cannot do so, he or she may be questioned about their experience, or reminded about the step we’re on. The group’s intention isn’t to insult or intimidate, only to adhere to the directions in the book, so that the still-suffering alcoholic may have a chance to learn what AA has to offer. Also, people who are on first through the fourth steps are asked to listen as well, as they haven’t yet completed the process of the twelve steps. Nowhere in the 12 traditions does it say that AA members have a God-given right to share at every AA meeting.
We hope that this writing will answer any further questions. Thank you.

Tradition 1

Our common welfare should come first; personal recovery depends on A.A. unity.

What is our common welfare? That AA’s message of recovery is clear and accessible to the suffering alcoholic. We do this by focusing on the steps as they are laid out in the Big Book, Alcoholics Anonymous. We’re united in the common purpose of carrying this message. This BBSS group has a group conscience preamble that defines what we believe. This BBSS group asks that guests respect the format so we may have a unified group with a single purpose.

Tradition 2

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 don’t govern.

A BBSS chairperson leads the meeting for a month at a time. His or her job is to find a speaker to share on the step that week, and then lead the discussion. The chair’s duty is to carry out the wishes of the group by closely following the format, keeping the discussion focused on the step as it’s described in the Big Book. The group conscience gives the chairperson the right to remind people of the purpose of the meeting. The chairperson may suggest that a person listen rather than speak if they haven’t had the experience of the step being studied. If the individual insists on sharing, the standard five minutes is allowed.

Tradition 3

The only requirement for A.A. membership is a desire to stop drinking.

There are no other requirements to join a BBSS group. A home group roster is available for examination for the duration of each meeting. This roster makes up the group conscience. This BBSS group has no wish to interfere with any alcoholic who has a desire to stop drinking, nor keep anyone out of AA. All alcoholics are welcome. We only wish to be helpful by sharing the steps as they are laid out. If an alcoholic isn’t interested in the message we offer and the method in which the group has chosen to transmit it, they are free to seek other groups. In fact, this BBSS group starts at 7:30 in the evening so that there is time to help someone get to another meeting if they wish. Incidentally, there are “special interest” groups within AA with suggested membership requirements. They govern themselves, and choose the type of meeting they want. There are men’s, women‘s, doctors’, lawyers’, professionals’, celebrities’, gay meetings, and so on. They tend to be very exclusive, yet remain on area meeting schedules. This is an inconsistency with Tradition Three that is overlooked and tolerated AA-wide.

Tradition 4

Each group should be autonomous except in matters affecting other groups or AA as a whole.

BBSS meeting formats are defined by group conscience. Concentration on the basic textbook (cf. Alcoholics Anonymous, pages xxv–103) as a suitable meeting structure is similar to other structured meeting formats, such as speaker meetings in which only one person speaks and no other discussion is allowed. AA etiquette suggests that one ought to respect an AA group’s chosen format, and abide by that format. The only way a group can communicate its message is through its format and chairperson. Group members may express concerns about group policy at the monthly business meeting. If guests object to a group’s meeting format, they are free to voice the objection, yet they ought to respect the group conscience, and conform to the group’s wishes. If not, they are free to find or start a meeting that better suits them. Simply put, we have found a meeting and method that works for us.

Tradition 5

Each group has but one primary purpose—to carry its message to the alcoholic who still suffers.

This BBSS group has a single purpose and a single message, the message of recovery through the 12 Steps as laid out in the Big Book. We have no other. We feel that our group conscience preamble, as well as our format, clearly defines our message to the alcoholic who still suffers. We aren’t interested in studying any other methods or literature at our group, only the basic and simple approach the Big Book offers. We believe we do a service for the AA community at large by encouraging sharing on, and interest in, our basic text and the 12 Steps. Many BBSS groups go on regular commitments to other A.A. groups, detoxes, jails, and hospitals to carry the message to suffering alcoholics. “Sobriety—freedom from alcohol through the teaching and practice of the twelve steps—is the sole purpose of an AA group.” We include this wonderful quote from AA’s co-founder Bill W. in our group conscience preamble. We feel that we bear this out in a literal way.

Tradition 6

An A.A. group ought never endorse, finance, or lend the A.A. name to any related facility or outside enterprise, lest problems of money, property, and prestige divert us from our primary purpose.

As an AA group we believe in the policy of cooperation but non-affiliation. We’re bound to no other outside enterprise. We stand autonomous from other BBSS groups and each has its own group conscience. We answer to ourselves and to the Higher Power, yet we have a desire to be helpful anyway we can within our community.

Tradition 7

Every A.A. group ought to be fully self-supporting, declining outside contributions.

Like other AA groups we rely on the basket to pay our expenses such as rent, literature, coffee and supplies, donations to Intergroup, the District, the Area, and GSO.

Tradition 8

Alcoholics Anonymous should remain forever nonprofessional, but our service centers may employ special workers.

 We do what we do within AA because it’s a pleasure and a duty. We are, of course, AA members first and foremost, regardless of our personal endeavors outside of AA.

Tradition 9

A.A., as such, ought never be organized; but we may create service boards or committees directly responsible to those they serve.

This BBSS's trusted servants are members of Alcoholics Anonymous, elected by group conscience, for the purpose of upholding the group conscience. Their terms in office rotate according to the intervals recommended by the General Service Group Handbook. This BBSS group holds regular business meetings, open to group members.

Tradition 10

Alcoholics Anonymous has no opinion on outside issues; hence the AA name ought never be drawn into public controversy.

As an AA group, we oppose no one, and wish to have no opinion on any outside issues. We’re only concerned with how to best serve the alcoholic and meet his or her recovery needs. As expressed many times already, we choose the basic and simple approach the Big Book offers.

Tradition 11

Our public relations policy is based on attraction rather than promotion; we need always maintain personal anonymity at the level of press, radio, and film.

We believe that the changes that occur in the life of an alcoholic who commits to do the work of the program, and abandons himself or herself to the 12 Steps, is an impressive demonstration of what AA is capable of. No other promotion is necessary.

Tradition 12

Anonymity is the spiritual foundation of all of our traditions, ever reminding us to place principles before personalities.

Our singleness of purpose, defined in our Group Conscience statement, clearly shows that the group has agreed to use only the Big Book as a source of directions to apply the 12 Steps, which are the principles of the program. We have resisted the temptation to augment the basic and simple approach the Big Book offers (at meeting level) with any other religious, spiritual, psychological, or AA material, although our members often enjoy them in their own practice. We feel that the inclusion of such other material or methods at our meetings only clouds and diminishes the message of AA for our purpose. It’s an act of humility to temper one’s own enthusiasm for outside personal interests and discoveries, and keep them separate from the AA meeting. This humility is practiced at this BBSS meeting, and the credit given to the Higher Power, a Loving God that has seen fit to deliver this message through the early members of AA. Our aim is to try to preserve that message.



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