Tradition 5

Short Form:

“Each group has but one primary purpose—to carry its message to the alcoholic who still suffers.”

Long Form:

“Each Alcoholics Anonymous group ought to be a spiritual entity having but one primary purpose—that of carrying its message to the alcoholic who still suffers.”


Overriding Idea of T5:
We Only Have One Purpose

Reading Assignment:
12&12: Pgs. 150-154


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.”


We Only Have One Purpose

It is the great paradox of A.A. that we know we can seldom keep the precious gift of sobriety unless we give it away. This Tradition delineates pretty clearly our individual primary purpose, as well as the group’s. Each of us is but a small part of the whole, but by joining AA’s primary purpose to our own, we become something bigger than our individual selves.

Am I willing to surrender my old primary purposes?

To work this tradition means that I am willing to say “yes” to this question and rearrange the rest of my priorities. Devoting myself to a new primary purpose means that I am willing to let go of many old ideas. I have many thinking patterns that are automatic that I need to change in order to consecrate myself to a new primary purpose.

Step-Tradition Parallel

The relationship of the fifth step to the fifth tradition is that the fifth step taught me the exact nature of my wrongs, “I’m not in charge.” In the fifth tradition I learned just the opposite, I learned what my exact nature should be: my talent to carry the message to the alcoholic who still suffers, my primary purpose.

In the fifth step I learned what’s wrong about me and in the fifth tradition I learned what’s right about me. What’s right about me is my ability to carry the message when no one else can because of the experiences that I have had which were transformed into a message of hope in the fifth step. My alcoholism is my greatest talent, not my talents as a husband, father, son, or my job. I can fulfill my primary purpose for being born by carrying the message to the alcoholic who still suffers.

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

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. Do I ever cop out by saying, “I’m not a group, so this or that Tradition doesn’t apply to me”?
  2. Am I willing to explain firmly to a newcomer the limitations of AA help, even if he gets mad at me for not giving him a loan?
  3. Have I today imposed on any AA member for a special favor or consideration simply because I am a fellow alcoholic?
  4. Am I willing to twelfth-step the next newcomer without regard to who or what is in it for me?
  5. Do I let fear get in my way by not addressing issues in my home group when members are disrupting meetings and getting in the way of our group carrying the message to the still suffering alcoholic?
  6. Do I help my group in every way I can to fulfill our primary purpose?
  7. Do I remember that AA old-timers, too, can be alcoholics who still suffer? Do I try both to help them and to learn from them?