My favorite part of Tradition Six is the idea of devotion to a primary purpose. In Tradition Five, we’re told that our primary purpose is to stay sober and carry the message. Tradition Six reminds us to protect that purpose above everything else. This speaks to me because, when drinking, I had no direction to my life. I just drifted from situation to situation. I was a person who stood for nothing, and would fall for anything. Alcoholics Anonymous taught me what it meant to have a purpose I believed in. Now, my life is shaped around the importance of my own sobriety, and my duty to pass on the message that saved my life. Having a purpose started me down the road of filling the emptiness inside that made me want the first drink. For that reason, I believe in the importance of protecting our primary purpose.
These days, it may not seem on the surface like A.A. tries to build hospitals or take sides in debates surrounding alcohol and public health. However, there are still insidious opportunities for us to step away from the heart of A.A. – helping other alcoholics for fun and for free. Quite a bit of money changes hands in residential alcohol treatment programs, and the extent to which members of Alcoholics Anonymous should participate in these speaks to the heart of Tradition Six. We each have to be guided by our own experience and our interpretation of the traditions, but it is important to remember the traditions are there, and remain willing to seek their input.
I remember hearing A.A. gossip about a large group in a big city that couldn’t quite keep up with constantly raising rent. Seats at this meeting were in demand every Saturday night, and the only way to be guaranteed one was to arrive about an hour early. A nearby treatment center wanted to bring their clients – how about they “help out” with the high rent, in exchange for a couple of rows of guaranteed seats each night?
The problems with such an arrangement are glaring. What about the newcomer that walks in and can’t find a seat? It could be a long time before they return. What about the dedicated member, looking to carry the message, who needs a seat and is willing to come early? The temptations to ignore Tradition Six are still around, and it is the responsibility of each group to remember our primary purpose.
-Annabel C. Salt Lake City