AA Preamble Changed

First International AA Convention, Cleveland, Ohio, 1950
The AA Preamble dates back to 1947. It was written by Tom Y., editor of the Grapevine, and introduced in the June issue of the magazine that year. According to aa.org, much of the phrasing was borrowed from the Foreword to the First Edition of the Big Book, the relevant passages of which we reproduce below: 

“We, of Alcoholics Anonymous, are more than one hundred men                 and women who have recovered from a seemingly hopeless state                of mind” (p.xiii).

“There are no fees or dues whatsoever. The only requirement for membership is an honest desire to stop drinking” (p. xiv).

“We are not allied with any particular faith, sect, or denomination., nor do we oppose anyone” (ibid.).

As we can see from the above, the first paragraph of the Preamble is straight out of the  Big Book. 

However, its second paragraph clearly shows that the Preamble’s language was significantly influenced by  Traditions 5 and 10, which Bill had already written. In fact, the magazine had published the 12 Traditions in summary form in 1946 and would start publishing their final, longer versions in December of 1947. 

Tradition 5: “Each group has but one primary purpose—to carry its message to the alcoholic who still suffers” (p. 150).

Tradition 10: “Alcoholics Anonymous has no opinion on outside issues; hence the A.A. name ought never be drawn into                     public controversy“ (p. 176).

We can see the influence of Tradition 10 in the Preamble's broadening of the “not allied” principle in the Big Book’s Foreword. It now applies not only to religion (“faith, sect or denomination”) but also to any “politics, organization or institution.” According to the Tradition, all of these involve “outside issues” on which AA has “no opinion.” Hence it “neither endorses nor opposes any causes” associated with them. Borrowing a keyword from the Tradition, the Preamble declares that AA does not wish to engage in any “controversy.”

The point is driven home with a key phrase borrowed from Tradition 5: our “primary purpose.” This is simply to “carry its message to the alcoholic who still suffers,” or as the Preamble puts it, to “stay sober and help other alcoholics to achieve sobriety.”  

The reasons for not getting involved with any outside issues, avoiding controversy, and sticking to our primary purpose, are explained in the text of Tradition 10 of the 12&12 and illustrated with the story of the Washingtonian Society (pp. 178-179), a predecessor of AA which got involved in the hot issues of its time—slavery and Prohibition—and subsequently divided into warring camps and fell apart.

Below is the Preamble as it stood until 2021, when the General Service Board changed it as noted in red. The change is ascribed to a desire to use inclusive language that represents the current composition of the Fellowship.  

[Image: 1950 First International AA Convention, Cleveland Ohio, where the 12 Traditions were adopted. The Cleveland group of alcoholics was the first to adopt the name Alcoholic Anonymous. For audio readings of Traditions 5 and 10, and for a related post, 12&12 Changed, please click on links.]

A.A. Preamble     

Alcoholics Anonymous is a fellowship of men and women people who share their experience, strength and hope with each other that they may solve their common problem and help others to recover from alcoholism. The only requirement for membership is a desire to stop drinking. There are no dues or fees for A.A. membership; we are self-supporting through our own contributions.      

A.A. is not allied with any sect, denomination, politics, organization or institution; does not wish to engage in any controversy; neither endorses nor opposes any causes. Our primary purpose is to stay sober and help other alcoholics to achieve sobriety.
- A.A. Grapevine 

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