Today we’re going to continue examining the Twelve Traditions of Alcoholics Anonymous. Yesterday we covered the first three, today we will discuss traditions 4-6. Content warning for sexual abuse of teens in this post. Let’s begin.
4th Tradition. With respect to its own affairs, each A.A. group should be responsible to no other authority than its own conscience. But when its plans concern the welfare of neighboring groups also, those groups ought to be consulted. No group, regional committee, or individual should ever take any action that might greatly affect A.A. as a whole with conferring with the trustees of the General Service Board. On such issues our common welfare is paramount.
Short: Each group should be autonomous except in matters affecting other groups or A.A. as a whole.
This tradition seems reasonable enough on first reading. It presents a decidedly hands off philosophy, projects a laissez faire attitude that can be seen as non authoritarian. “Let go and let God,” as the AA slogan goes. However, this should be understood as a face saving measure. A claim to detachment and little oversight makes holding AA accountable for bad acts of members or groups harder to do.
The Midtown Group in the greater D.C. area made national press in 2006 when a teen member revealed a culture of sexual abuse at her meeting. Midtown attracted mostly young alcoholics like her, with a few much, much older oldtimers. Those oldtimers were assigning sponsors, ordering mentally troubled teens to go off their meds, instructing them not to see their own families without another Midtown member present, and ordered minor teens to have sex with them.
In the above story, the party who violated the fourth tradition was the teen victim and whistleblower. Midtown group had no responsible authority but their own depraved conscience. They didn’t care what other groups did. They didn’t tattle to the press. She did. She made a decision which could have impacted AA as a whole and neighboring groups.
Midtown group still holds meetings, at a high school in Bethesda, Maryland. The group known for criminally and sexually preying on teen girls meetsin a high school, because AA’s undeservedly good reputation is more known than Midtown’s deservedly bad one. AA made no attempt to shut them down, and refused to condemn them when the group became notorious. By the rules of AA, abuse is okay as long as it stays secret.