I heard a dear friend from out of town speak at a meeting tonight and it was wonderful to hear her talk about the traditions, especially tradition one:
“Our common welfare should come first; personal recovery depends upon A.A. unity.”
“Each member of Alcoholics Anonymous is but a small part of a great whole. A.A. must continue to live or most of us will surely die. Hence our common welfare comes first. But individual welfare follows close afterward.”
In her personal story, the speaker shared about how this tradition applies to her life in and outside the rooms of Alcoholics Anonymous. Divorced at 17 years sober, she, her soon to be ex-husband, and his soon to be bride, were all members of the same home group. By practicing the first tradition, she did not claim “custody” of the meeting, and no member of the group felt like they had to take sides in her personal dilemma. By practicing unity (the opposite of divisive), the welfare of the group was more important, and therefore remained in tact. This tradition also promotes personal growth. When keeping unity first, self-obsession temporarily takes a back seat.
Bill Wilson expanded his view on tradition one in the AA Grapevine:
Our whole A.A. program is securely founded on the principle of humility–that is to say, perspective. Which implies, among other things, that we relate ourselves rightly to God and to our fellows; that we each see ourselves as we really are–“a small part of a great whole.” Seeing our fellows thus, we shall enjoy group harmony. That is why A.A. Tradition can confidently state, “Our common welfare comes first.”
So we learn that in matters deeply affecting the group as a whole, “our common welfare comes first.” Rebellion ceases and cooperation begins because it must; we have disciplined ourselves. Eventually, of course, we cooperate because we really want to. We see that without substantial unity there can be no AA, and without AA there is no recovery for anyone. Therefore, we happily set aside personal ambitions if they may bring harm to our group, the meetings we attend, or AA as a whole.
As Bill W. stated, “we humbly confess that we are but a small part of a great whole.”