Unwritten Codes of AA
Most AA members instinctively know not to crosstalk at meetings, play with their smart-phones,
mill around the room during speaker meetings, over-speak at discussion meetings, give unwarranted
advice and most of us remove our hats during the Lord’s Prayer. These are not AA laws or rules,
but unspoken customs generally explained by one’s sponsor early on. But these are simply customs,
not traditions. I believe our Twelve Traditions rise to a higher level and should hold us to a
higher standard. Members standing in violation, there of, often wax repentant when kindly explained
of their importance. Traditions, like customs, are not subject to rules or laws.
There generally exists a working respect for our Twelve Steps as well. However, I have recently
noticed a growing irreverence for our program-of-action by certain groups who mock the
wording during the reading of Chapter Five. This practice – I think of it as a virus – tends to
diminish the authenticity of our basic text, at least in the minds of newcomers. Indeed, we are
not a glum lot, yet it is a disservice to all of us to laughingly dissolve the glue that binds us
together and helps us recover from our deadly malady. It is sort of like a minister at the
pulpit making fun of, or mocking, the deeply held beliefs of his respective religion. This said
disrespect may not be actually breaching the Traditions, per se, but yet it flies in the face of their
Another unwritten code is that against mooching at meetings, and one can easily see why. One newcomer
told me that she was asked for a cigarette three times during her first meeting – she continued to come
back, but not to that meeting!
One happy custom, practiced at most meetings and recovery clubs, is the special attention that I so often
receive when making a first time appearance. If not noticed, I often start a conversation and am
inevitably rejoined by a welcome friendliness. Someone said that AA is a place where complete strangers
can immediately discuss old times. I remember, as a newcomer, I landed in Oklahoma City, one morning,
and found a friendly club. I was thereby entertained for throughout the day and invited to supper, then
taken to a meeting, then to a coffee shop with a small group of happy chattering AAs. Then, this one
member took me to his home, introduced me to his wife and proudly showed me his new baby. Then he drove
me to the bus station and sent me on my way. What a fellowship!
Long ago, an important decision was to be made and Dr. Bob simply asked, “What would the Master do?”
Well, I think He already has! He has given us Twelve Traditions and an array of inherited codes and customs
to help solve our ongoing AA fellowship problems.
Bob S., Richmond, IN