Alcohol and Drug informational resource

Thrice,Tradition Three

3) “The only requirement for A.A. membership is a desire to stop drinking.”


3) Our membership ought to include all who suffer from alcoholism. Hence we may refuse none who wish to recover. Nor ought A.A. membership to ever depend upon money or conformity. Any two or three alcoholics gathered together for sobriety may call themselves an A.A. Group, provided that, as a group, they have no other affiliation.

Without a sense of urgency, desire loses its value.

Jim Rohn


A desire presupposes the possibility of action to achieve it; action presupposes a goal which is worth achieving.

Ayn Rand

This Tradition is packed with meaning. For A.A. is really saying to every serious drinker, “You are an A.A. member if you say so. You can declare yourself in; nobody can keep you out. No matter who you are, no matter how low you’ve gone, no matter how grave your emotional complications — even your crimes— we still can’t deny you A.A. We don’t want to keep you out. We aren’t a bit afraid you’ll harm us, never mind how twisted or violent you may be. We just want to be sure that you get the same great chance for sobriety that we’ve had. So you’re an A.A. member the minute you declare yourself.”

“I also beat my wife and skewer innocent babies while in my cups” Dickens

Your welcome here, a seat right next to Lizzy Borden has just opened up, and as a word of caution we have defrocked priests and some fresh from the asylums and we even let in Lawyers it stretches our tolerance but they too are also welcome here, I do declare.

To establish this principle of membership took years of harrowing experience. In our early time nothing seemed so fragile, so easily breakable as an A.A. group. Hardly an alcoholic we approached paid any attention; most of those who did join us were like flickering candles in a windstorm. Time after time, their uncertain flames blew out and couldn’t be relighted. Our unspoken, constant thought was “Which of us may be the next?”

And it seems to me you lived your life

Like a candle in the wind

Never knowing who to cling to

When the rain set in


A member gives us a vivid glimpse of those days. “At one time,” he says, “every A.A. group had many membership rules. Everybody was scared witless that something or somebody would capsize the boat and dump us all back into the drink. Our Foundation office* asked each group to send in its list of ‘protective’ regulations. The total list was a mile long. If all those rules had been in effect everywhere, nobody could have possibly joined A.A. at all, so great was the sum of our anxiety and fear.

We had considered calling the group Paranoids anonymous, the only problem was that nobody would tell you where the  meetings were being held



“We were resolved to admit nobody to A.A. but that hypothetical class of people we termed ‘pure alcoholics.’ Except for their guzzling, and the unfortunate results thereof,

they could have no other complications. So beggars, tramps, asylum inmates, prisoners, queers, plain crackpots, and fallen women were definitely out. Yes sir, we’d cater only to pure and respectable alcoholics! Any others would surely destroy us. Besides, if we took in those odd ones, what would decent people say about us? We built a fine mesh fence right around A.A.

Only the elite (as any alcoholic women was considered fallen and beyond redemption), the real alcoholics would be permitted, otherwise just any rabble could taint our good name and to what havoc employ. If the flood gates were open to the flotsam and Jetsam of society’s cast away we would be saddled by a jaundiced judgment of assignation by association.  (the town drunks were now in fear of their reputations,what would people think?)


“Maybe this sounds comical now. Maybe you think we old-timers were pretty intolerant. But I can tell you there was nothing funny about the situation then. We were grim

because we felt our lives and homes were threatened, and that was no laughing matter. Intolerant, you say? Well, we were frightened. Naturally, we began to act like most everybody does when afraid. After all, isn’t fear the true basis of intolerance? Yes, we were intolerant.”

Anger is fear in action as intolerance is acceptance in a comma.

As no roads are so rough as those that have just been mended, so no sinners are so intolerant as those that have just turned saints.

Charles Caleb Colton

How could we then guess that all those fears were to prove groundless? How could we know that thousands of these sometimes frightening people were to make astonishing recoveries and become our greatest workers and intimate friends? Was it credible that A.A. was to have a divorce rate far lower than average? Could we then foresee that troublesome people were to become our principal teachers of patience and tolerance? Could any then imagine a society which would include every conceivable kind of character, and cut across every barrier of race, creed, politics, and language with ease?

Fear can be headier than whiskey, once man has acquired a taste for it. Donald Dowries

We are more often frightened than hurt; and we suffer more from imagination than from reality.

Marcus Annaeus Seneca

The doors flung open and we were both pleased and amazed we would become a society like had never been seen before, all accepting all tolerating you were invited to learn to grows and the only requirement was a desire to stop drinking or if you think you have a problem with alcohol. Come join us in the fellowship of the spirit. It was the original glass house where no one could afford to cast the first stone



Why did A.A. finally drop all its membership regulations? Why did we leave it to each newcomer to decide himself whether he was an alcoholic and whether he shouldjoin us? Why did we dare to say, contrary to the experience of society and government everywhere, that we would neither punish nor deprive any A.A. of membership that we must never compel anyone to pay anything, believe anything, or conform to anything?


We are an unruly lot, and lots of rules would have no effect and drive some insane as  we would live in search for the exception anyway We forgo the plague of rigid convention and all in all We have found that we can only pose an informed well-meaning suggestion, while an individual’s choice remains the cornerstone of prevention

The answer, now seen in Tradition Three, was simplicity itself. At last experience taught us that to take away any alcoholic’s full chance was sometimes to pronounce his death sentence, and often to condemn him to endless misery. Who dared to be judge, jury, and executioner of his own sick brother?

Hey, who made you Judge Judy and executioner? -Homer Simpson

“I’ll be judge, I’ll be jury,” Said cunning old Fury; “I’ll try the whole cause, and condemn you to death.”  The mousses tail Lewis Carroll

As group after group saw these possibilities, they finally abandoned all membership regulations. One dramatic experience after another clinched this determination until it became our universal tradition. Here are two examples:

It was the time before dimes, Anno domini 1937, A.A. 02

On the A.A. calendar it was Year Two. In that time nothing could be seen but two struggling, nameless groups of alcoholics trying to hold their faces up to the light. A newcomer appeared at one of these groups, knocked on the door and asked to be let in. He talked frankly with that group’s oldest member. He soon proved that his was a desperate case, and that above all he wanted to get well. “But,” he asked, “will you let me join your group? Since I am the victim of another addiction even worse stigmatized than alcoholism, you may not want me among you. Or will you?”

I was approached by someone with 8yrs of continuous sobriety as well as a regular sponsor, he inquired of me if I would be his sponsor? I had assumed that he wanted a change of paint and a fresh look at the Steps from another perspective. I questioned him as to his motives, goals and intent. After wrestling, wrangling, and relying on the coax used by a dentist to extract a decaying tooth by the root, he was embarrassed to a blush to openly admit a pornographic addiction He was willing to admit drug and alcohol abuse in open forum, but to whisper pornography in private with a perspective sponsor his shame of ridicule was more than he could bare. Once the particular spiritual malady is addressed I have found the Twelve Steps to be a spiritual panacea for most, If not all that ails you.



There was the dilemma. What should the group do? The oldest member summoned two others, and in confidence laid the explosive facts in their laps. Said he, “Well, what about it? If we turn this man away, he’ll soon die. If we allow him in, only God knows what trouble he’ll brew. What shall the answer be— yes or no?”

“Give us you’re beaten down, your broken and your addicts longing to be free, clean and sober, Ok we will settle for a reasonable facsimile


At first the elders could look only at the objections. “We deal,” they said, “with alcoholics only. Shouldn’t we sacrifice this one for the sake of the many?” So went the discussion while the newcomer’s fate hung in the balance. Then one of the three spoke in a very different voice. “What we are really afraid of,” he said, “is our reputation. We are much more afraid of what people might say than the trouble this strange alcoholic might bring. As we’ve been talking, five short words have been running through my mind. Something keeps repeating to me, ‘What would the Master do?’” (Referring to Jesus) Not another word was said. What more indeed could be said?

A reputation once broken may possibly be repaired, but the world will always keep their eyes on the spot where the crack once stood even though no wider than a hair



Overjoyed, the newcomer plunged into Twelfth Step work. Tirelessly he laid A.A.’s message before scores of people. Since this was a very early group, those scores have since multiplied themselves into thousands. Never did he trouble anyone with his other difficulty. A.A. had taken its first step in the formation of Tradition Three.

Make your life a mission not an intermission

Not long after the man with the double stigma knocked for admission, A.A.’s other group received into its membership a salesman we shall call Ed. A power driver, this one, And brash as any salesman could possibly be. He had at least an idea a minute on how to improve A.A. These ideas he sold to fellow members with the same burning enthusiasm with which he distributed automobile polish. But he had one idea that wasn’t so salable. Ed was an atheist. His pet obsession was that A.A. could get along better without its “God nonsense.” He browbeat everybody, and everybody expected that he’d soon get drunk— for at the time, you see, A.A. was on the pious side. There must be a heavy penalty, it was thought, for blasphemy. Distressingly enough, Ed proceeded to stay sober.

A mediocre idea that generates enthusiasm will go further than a great idea that inspires no one. Mary Kay Ash

A man without God is not a man, only an image of a man David E

Some of the best Christians I ever met were atheists



At length the time came for him to speak in a meeting. We shivered, for we knew what was coming. He paid a fine tribute to the Fellowship; he told how his family had been reunited; he extolled the virtue of honesty; he recalled the joys of Twelfth Step work; and then he lowered the boom. Cried Ed, “I can’t stand this God stuff! It’s a lot of malarkey for weak folks. This group doesn’t need it, and I won’t have it! The hell with it!”


People are in distress and religion provides solace, just as people who are physically injured receive relief from opiate-based drugs.Religion is a set of ideas, and ideas are expressions of material realities. Religion is a symptom of a disease, not the disease itself. Karl Marx

Religion was for people who didn’t want to go to Hell; spirituality was for people who had already been there



Maybe the atheist cannot find God for the same reason a thief cannot find a policeman.


Some of us had the belief in God that we had developed as children and never changed. Still others mouthed the words not giving much thought to whether we believed them or not. Some had no concept of God at all. For all intents and purposes, they were the God of their own understanding, if they could only manage well. Step three asks us to examine at the deepest and at the most profound level what our concept of God or even no God really was.

Step Three asks us to examine our concept of God and to work with it. We can change it if we find it necessary and desirable.


A great wave of outraged resentment engulfed the meeting, sweeping every member to a single resolve: “Out he goes!”

“Off with their heads off with their heads” The Red Queen

The elders led Ed aside. They said firmly, “You can’t talk like this around here. You’ll have to quit it or get out.” With great sarcasm Ed came back at them. “Now do tell! Is that so?” He reached over to a bookshelf and took up a sheaf of papers. On top of them lay the foreword to the book “Alcoholics Anonymous” then under preparation. He read aloud, “The only requirement for A.A. membership is a desire to stop drinking.” Relentlessly, Ed went on, “When you guys wrote that sentence, did you mean it, or didn’t you?”

Tradition One: Surely there is none which more jealously guards the individual’s right to think, talk, and act as he wishesNo A.A. can compel another to do anything; nobody can be punished or expelled.

Dismayed, the elders looked at one another; for they knew he had them cold. So Ed stayed. Ed not only stayed, he stayed sober— month after month. The longer he kept dry, the louder he talked—against God. The group was in anguish so deep that all fraternal charity had vanished. “When, oh when,” groaned members to one another, “will that guy get drunk?”

When you have got an elephant by the hind legs and he is trying to run away, it’s best to let him run. Abraham Lincoln

If you can’t help them up, then help them down


Quite a while later, Ed got a sales job which took him out of town. At the end of a few days, the news came in. He’d sent a telegram for money, and everybody knew what that meant! Then he got on the phone. In those days, we’d go anywhere on a Twelfth Step job, no matter how unpromising. But this time nobody stirred. “Leave him alone! Let him try it by himself for once; maybe he’ll learn a lesson!”



When you’re out of reach the lesson to learn is the one that only God can teach



About two weeks later, Ed stole by night into an A.A. member’s house and, unknown to the family, went to bed. Daylight found the master of the house and another friend drinking their morning coffee. A noise was heard on the stairs. To their consternation, Ed appeared. A quizzical smile on his lips, he said, “Have you fellows had your morning meditation?” They quickly sensed that he was quite in earnest. In fragments, his story came out.

“He will know loneliness such as few do” He will be at the jumping off point. And in that pain and in that moment the staff of life hidden in a cheap motels dresser drawer comes forth in the form of Gideon’s Bible.


In a neighboring state, Ed had holed up in a cheap hotel. After all his pleas for help had been rebuffed, these words rang in his fevered mind: “They have deserted me. I have been deserted by my own kind. This is the end . . . nothing is left.” As he tossed on his bed, his hand brushed the bureau nearby, touching a book. Opening the book, he read. It was a Gideon Bible. Ed never confided any more of what he saw and felt in that hotel room. It was the year 1938. He hasn’t had a drink since.


It takes what it takes; as God’s hand made sure that the doors stayed open and wide and that none of his suffering offspring would be denied he remains much too large to be insulted by the fever pitched ranting of his infirmed children


Nowadays, when old-timers who know Ed foregather, they exclaim, “What if we had actually succeeded in throwing Ed out for blasphemy? What would have happened to him and all the others he later helped?” So the hand of Providence early gave us a sign that any alcoholic is a member of our Society when he says so.

Count me in, for I surrender to win, and there is no if, ands or buts’ about it.

see you on the radio




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Our mission is to inform, inspire, and empower alcoholics anonymous sponsorship locally and internationally to be their very best --- both personally and spiritually.

I would like to acknowledge Hamilton B and his tireless work in the recovery community and his work "Twelve Step Sponsorship How it works" a Hazelton publication and his permission to use what ever was needed to make possible my ongoing sponsorship workshop and Step study and this website.