Tradition 8

Short Form:

“Alcoholics Anonymous should remain forever nonprofessional, but our service centers may employ special workers.”

Long Form:

“Alcoholics Anonymous should remain forever nonprofessional. We define professionalism as the occupation of counseling alcoholics for fees or hire. But we may employ alcoholics where they are going to perform those services for which we might otherwise have to engage nonalcoholics. Such special services may be well recompensed. But our usual A.A. Twelfth Step work is never to be paid for.”


Overriding Idea of T8:
Paid Staff Help Make 12 Step Work Possible

Reading Assignment:
12&12: Pgs. 166-171


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.”


Paid Staff Help Make 12 Step Work Possible

The eighth tradition makes it clear that A.A. may employ professional secretaries and other professional staff members. Their job is not to DO Twelve Step work; but to make Twelve Step work possible. “Our Twelfth Step is never paid for, but those who labor in service for us are worthy of their hire.” (12×12, Page 171)

There is a difference between doing twelve step work for pay and working for a master’s degree as a counselor in the field of alcoholism and being of service in a hospital where more and more newcomers first find sobriety. Professional counselors do their counseling job and THEN go to A.A. meetings and carry the message “for free and for fun” just like the rest of us. Their job is not a substitute for working an A.A. program.

We must always remember that we cannot do the work of carrying the message to the still suffering alcoholic if we don’t have people in our various service centers assisting us in the logistics of US carrying out our primary purpose.  We see that our few paid workers are performing only those service tasks that our volunteers cannot consistently handle. Primarily these folks are not doing Twelfth Step work. They are just making more and better Twelfth Step work possible.

We give freely what has been given freely to us.

Step-Tradition Parallel

The spiritual principle behind the eighth step is “willingness and love” to work the steps. The eighth tradition takes that idea one step further and teaches me that to have good relationships with other people, I must be “zealous” in carrying the message. Otherwise my message is suspect. In our meditation, let us examine the sate of our “zeal” in our relationships with God, A.A., mates and work. Let us begin with the state of our “zeal” in carrying the message to the sick and suffering alcoholic.

(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. Is my own behavior accurately described by the Traditions? If not, what needs changing?
  2. When I chafe about any particular Tradition, do I realize how it affects others?
  3. Do I sometimes try to get some reward—even if not money—for my personal AA efforts?
  4. Do I try to sound in AA like an expert on alcoholism? On recovery? On medicine? On sociology? On AA itself? On psychology? On spiritual matters? Or, heaven help me, even on humility?
  5. Do I make an effort to understand what AA employees do? What workers in other alcoholism agencies do? Can I distinguish clearly among them?
  6. In my own AA life, have I any experiences, which illustrate the wisdom of this Tradition?