Tradition 3

Short Form:

“The only requirement for membership is a desire to stop drinking.”

Long Form:

“Our membership ought to include all who suffer from alcoholism. Hence we may refuse none who wish to recover. Nor ought A.A. membership ever depend upon money or conformity. Any two or three alcoholics gathered together for sobriety may call themselves an A.A. group, provided that, as a group, they have no other affiliation.”


Overriding Idea of T3:
Desire Is All You Need

Reading Assignment:
12&12: Pgs. 139-145


From the Foreword of the 12 & 12:  “A.A.’s Twelve Traditions apply to the life of the Fellowship itself. They outline the means by which A.A. maintains its unity and relates itself to the world about it, the way it lives and grows.”



Simplicity and perspective are the words that describe the third tradition. I work the third tradition in a personal way by eliminating all my desires in life other than pursuing sobriety.

There is nothing wrong in wanting emotional and financial security. However, when I make obsessions of these goals rather than seeing them as the by-products of giving service in working a program whose goal is to pursue sobriety – I’m screwed.

Whenever I complicate my life by having any goal other than pursuing sobriety, I notice that I become ungrateful and take it for granted. Thus, the beauty of the third tradition is that it restores perspective through an attitude of gratefulness for the miracle of my sobriety. The third tradition suggests to me that that I surrender all of the requirements and expectations I have in life beyond sobriety. Emotional and financial successes are the result of being of service. But when these are things that I demand in my relationships with God and others, then I have lost the simplicity and perspective envisioned in the third tradition.

Step-Tradition Parallel

The relationship of the third tradition to the third step is a profound one. The third step poses the question: What do I need to do in order to turn my will and my life over to the loving care of God as we understand him? The tradition answers the problem posed in the third step. The only requirement I need to fulfill in order to turn my will and my life over to God’s loving care is a desire to stop drinking. It is unbelievable that all the power of the universe is available to care for me if I only have one desire: to stay sober.

(Excerpts from the text above come from the Traditions Study developed by the Unity Insures Recovery Through Service A.A. Group, Los Angeles, CA.)

Listen to a talk on the “Origin of the Third Tradition”

Tradition Illustrated



As it states at the top of this page, the 12 Traditions were created to help each A.A. group maintain unity and relate better to the world about us.  With that in mind, they have been widely used in helping us learn how to be in better relationships with everyone in our life.  Below is a snapshot inventory you can take to see how well you are honoring the spiritual principle found in this Tradition (in and out of the rooms of A.A.).

(The foundation of this inventory is from the A.A. Tradition’s Checklist first published in the A.A. Grapevine)

  1. In my mind, do I prejudge some new AA members 
as losers?
  2. Is there some kind of alcoholic whom I privately do not want in my AA group?
  3. Do I set myself up as a judge of whether a newcomer is sincere or phony?
  4. Do I let language, religion (or lack of it), race, education, age, or other such things interfere with my carrying the message?
  5. Am I over impressed by a celebrity? By a doctor, a clergyman, an ex-convict? Or can I just treat this new member simply and naturally as one more sick human, like the rest of us?
  6. When someone turns up at AA needing information or help (even if he can’t ask for it aloud), does it really matter to me what he does for a living? Where he lives? What his domestic arrangements are?  Whether he had been to AA before? What his other problems are?