Tradition 9

Short Form:

“A.A., as such, ought never be organized; but we may create service boards or committees directly responsible to those they serve.”

Long Form:

“Each A.A. group needs the least possible organization. Rotating leadership is the best. The small group may elect its secretary, the large group its rotating committee, and the groups of a large metropolitan area their central or intergroup committee, which often employs a full-time secretary. The trustees of the General Service Board are, in effect, our A.A. General Service Committee. They are the custodians of our A.A. Tradition and the receivers of voluntary A.A. contributions by which we maintain our A.A. General Service Office at New York. They are authorized by the groups to handle our overall public relations and they guarantee the integrity of our principal newspaper, the A.A. Grapevine. All such representatives are to be guided in the spirit of service, for true leaders in A.A. are but trusted and experienced servants of the whole. They derive no real authority from their titles; they do not govern. Universal respect is the key to their usefulness.”


Overriding Idea of T9:
Organization and Service Aren’t Mutually Exclusive

Reading Assignment:
12&12: Pgs. 172-175


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.”


Organization and Service Aren’t Mutually Exclusive

In the beginning, our founders really felt like we didn’t need much organization and structure in the Fellowship, and then they went and created a bunch of it. “It is clear that we ought never to name boards to govern us, but it is equally clear that we shall always need to authorize workers to serve us. It is the difference between the spirit of vested authority and the spirit of service.” (12×12, Page 174)

One of the best examples of this is if you should ever find yourself needing to reach out to GSO for their ideas on a specific issue that your group, District or Area may be having; you can be relatively sure regardless of what you are asking about will garner a response that generally starts off with something like, “That’s a great question. Our shared experience in A.A. is….” and they will offer suggestions of solutions from those that have gone before us to help you with your concern. They cannot tell us what to do, but they can help us.

The organization of our Fellowship is crucial to our being able to carry the message to the still suffering alcoholic, but that structure is not there to govern, but to serve.

Step-Tradition Parallel

The first nine steps delivered us from the bondage of our past experiences with alcohol. We finally arrived at the place where we could say to ourselves, “I have totally faced my past. And there is nothing left in my past that I’m ashamed of. There’s nothing left that hurts anymore. There’s nothing left in my past that’s painful. There’s nothing left in my past I need to forgive or need to be forgiven for. I’m at total oneness and peace with my past.” Well, that’s a tremendous statement to be able to say. That’s an enormous statement for any person to be able to say about their life. And that’s what the first nine steps give us. And the ninth tradition assures me that once my ninth step amends have been made, I will be led to that profound place of peace I have always sought in my life: divine order.

The ninth tradition not only contains the secret of divine order but also contains the personal principle that will keep an alcoholic like me in divine order. It is so simple. I give up control. I stop organizing myself. I stop trying to organize God into my limited ideas of order.

How does this ninth tradition relate to the ninth step? My life gets unimpeded flow of divine love in a triangle consisting of you, myself and God. Whenever the divine order of that relationship is disturbed, I can restore order by making the unmade amend that put my life out of order. The ninth step poses the question, “After making amends, how do I stay reconciled with you today?” The ninth tradition answers that question by implying that I remain in the divine order by not organizing you, myself or God and spontaneously being of service to you and God.

(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 still try to boss things in AA?
  2. Do I resist formal aspects of AA because I fear them as authoritative?
  3. Am I mature enough to understand and use all elements of the AA program—even if no one makes me do so—with a sense of personal responsibility?
  4. Do I exercise patience and humility in any AA job I take?
  5. Am I aware of all those to whom I am responsible in any AA job?
  6. Why doesn’t every AA group need a constitution and bylaws?
  7. Have I learned to step out of an AA job gracefully—and profit thereby—when the time comes?
  8. What has rotation to do with anonymity? With humility?