My 12-Step Program, in addition to it's 12 Steps, also has 12 Traditions. In a Program that really doesn't have any rules or regulations, our Traditions lay down the groundwork under which we operate. Each of the Traditions has equal weight, and each is equally important.
Part of our Program's lore has it that "the Steps keep us from killing ourselves... the Traditions, however, keep us from killing each other."
Boy, ain't that the truth.
Oftentimes meetings dedicated to the Steps (cleverly entitled "Step Meetings") will reserve one meeting a month for a discussion of that month's Tradition. March, for example, being the third month would be reserved for Tradition Three, "The only requirement for membership is a desire to stop drinking."
Period. That's it. There are no other admission requirements to the Program. You're a member if you say you're a member, and nobody can throw you out or blackball you as long as you have a desire to stop drinking.
The Traditions have their genesis in the early days of the Program, when we were a far more secretive (and frightened) society than we are today. Some groups didn't want blacks as members. Or Catholics. Or Jews. Our literature (in a book we call the "Twelve and Twelve" - the Steps and Traditions) even mentions that in the old days groups would (or wanted to) bar "beggars, tramps, asylum inmates, prisoners, queers, plain crackpots, and fallen women..." (yes, this is a direct quote -- one which usually causes gales of laughter in meetings today).
Even a loose reading of that paragraph would've probably disqualified most of our membership, way back when. I, personally, qualify in several of those categories!
Tonight, at a meeting here in New York, I'll be speaking on the subject of our Third Tradition.
Apparently, the mere act of not picking up a drink, one day at a time for 10 years, qualifies me to hold forth at length on this subject.
What they don't know is that I'll be lucky if I don't throw up on the first three rows of attendees.
And this is how we keep each other sober (with a healthy serving of God's help along the way.)
God, please give me strength and inspiration to a.) not make a complete ass of myself and b.) to actually have something worthwhile to say.