The First Tradition of Alcoholics Anonymous

“Each member of Alcoholics Anonymous is but a small part of a great whole. A.A. must continue to live or most of us will surely die. Hence our common welfare comes first. But individual welfare follows close afterward.”

In Alcoholics Anonymous, as with every cult, the individual’s welfare is subservient to the group’s. The first tradition threatens death as a consequence of a group’s failure with “AA must continue to live or most of us will surely die”. An AAer who questions an aspect of the program is considered a threat to the group, and is quickly met with put downs, typically in the form of a thought-stopping slogan. Most often they are labeled “angry” or “selfish” or the all-encompassing pejorative “dry drunk”. They will be told their ego is getting in the way, and that EGO is an acronym for “Edging God Out”. This is particularly effective on those who were convinced to make the AA group itself their higher power.

One thing never heard in an AA share meeting is a person telling how well their life has improved since they quit drinking, directly followed with “and I owe it all to myself”. In AA, all things bad are attributed to the individual, but all things good are attributable to the group – “the program does not fail, but some fail the program”. Any slip, for example, is a result of individual character flaws, or an individual not giving in fully to the program. This helps reinforce the strength of the group, to the expense of the individual.