Each group has but one primary purpose—to carry its message to the alcoholic who still suffers. —Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions, p. 150

by Claire A.

Thank goodness for this Tradition: it reminds me of what’s really important. Following this tradition takes humility. Just like humility is the main key to sobriety, humility is a large part of having a functional group. As soon as I let my ego have free rein, it starts coming up with all kinds of “shoulds” as in “the group should do this or that.” The trouble with this thinking is that it reflects what’s going on in my own head rather than the group conscience. I may not be completely wrong, but I definitely don’t have the full picture. You have a part of the picture as much as I do. Humility allows me to participate as a piece of the whole. It allows me to voice my thoughts calmly and openly and vulnerably.

I don’t have to be a leader or a follower

It can be really hard to do this. I’m human: I want things. I think I know things. I do know some things. But I don’t know what is best for the group all the time or even any of the time! In the same manner that I trust my higher power, A.A., my sponsor, the Steps, I also have to trust that the group conscience is what is best for the group, and lean on the group conscience as a guide. Not just after a decision is made, but as a constant presence, always accessible simply by asking “What does the group think?” And truly, doing this is very freeing. I don’t have to have all the answers or even any answers. I don’t have to be a leader or a follower, I’m simply another alcoholic.

During this pandemic time, when so many meetings have moved to Zoom, occasional issues have come up. I’ve found myself worrying about how things will work out. It has been so comforting to see the group conscience at work these days. People working together to sort out problems and make decisions with each other? Amazing. This is not what I grew up with, and it’s wonderful to experience. I’m newly aware of a higher power, speaking through the group. I don’t have to worry. Our A.A. community will work together to carry the message. We are responsible.

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Coming back to our primary purpose of message-carrying: this Tradition makes me think of moments in meetings where I hear the voice of my higher power loud and clear, or even more when a newcomer pipes up to say they “got it” at a meeting. If you’ve been around the rooms of A.A., you have witnessed these extraordinary moments of grace. It doesn’t always happen in a moment. Sometimes it’s watching a newcomer transform over time from a desperate wreck to a functioning part of the world. It’s really miraculous, and the group carrying the message is at the start of that transformation.

People working together to sort out problems and make decisions with each other? Amazing.

Tradition 5 also shows up in those moments after a meeting where people surround a newcomer to exchange phone numbers and fellowship. Whether people are chuckling over remembered exploits or consoling someone in their grief or simply shaking hands and saying “Keep coming back!” We’re all unified in carrying the message.

Finally, this Tradition is such a great example of K.I.S.S. – Keep It Simple, Sweetheart. When the going gets rough or cantankerous, we can always come back to our primary purpose. Remembering the point of having meetings and our primary purpose helps to keep things in perspective.

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