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July 1988


Tradition Three

First of all, I speak as a grateful member of Alcoholics Anonymous. I owe everything in my life today to the recovery given to me in our program. I would also like to say that I came back into AA on the Third Tradition: "The only requirement for AA membership is a desire to stop drinking." I would not be alive or a free man today if I had not already known that no one could stop me from attending and participating in a meeting of Alcoholics Anonymous. During my last relapse I offended and probably terrified many AA members in this city because of my violent and bizarre behavior while under the influence. My actions included carrying firearms into AA members' homes, spitting on a member and violently denouncing AA in local clubs and restaurants--behavior which I was not particularly proud of the next day.

My drinking stopped one morning when I screamed out to the God I understood for help. I had reached a bottom which I could not accurately describe with a pen or words, and I wanted to be sober again more than anything. Something happened inside of me that morning and I knew for some reason I would not drink that day. I managed a few days of sobriety on my own, but I knew I would not make it any longer without help, and I prayed for an answer: anywhere but AA, please. But there was nowhere to go except AA. So I decided if I were ever to live a normal life again it was necessary to somehow humble myself sufficiently to walk back into a meeting hall.

One thought gave me the courage to enter those doors: "They cannot refuse me admission." I had learned that in my prior experiences with the program, and it certainly was instrumental in this recovery. During that first meeting back an old friend requested that the group discuss the Third Tradition and read the first paragraph from our "Twelve and Twelve," and I knew he did it to make me comfortable, and it helped. When my turn came to speak I thanked him and announced that I intended to stay, that my life depend upon it, and that if anyone didn't like it they could leave (this last statement being a product of my arrogance and my will to live).

Now, after almost five years, I have decided to share this experience because of resentment, of course. I myself have been avoiding certain meetings here in our fair city because of certain rules being imposed on the membership. Apparently there are a few groups here in this city, in a country which has a Constitution that gives us freedom of speech and expression, which have decided that if you attend their meetings you cannot speak about sex (which wipes out almost all talk about the Fourth Step in the Big Book), or drugs (which of course our founders wrote and spoke about), and perhaps these groups would even like to remove the chapter in the Big Book, "Doctor, Alcoholic, Addict," which is one of my favorites.

Now tonight I have heard talk of another group imposing a rule which says you cannot swear if you are to speak at their open meeting. I am not sure what that would mean. Is it taking God's name in vain, or saying gosh darn?

If this trend continues perhaps we will need 500 or so different meetings in this small city of ours so we can all have a meeting to attend where we can meet the criteria for membership. Now I am not trying to make a case for or against sex, drugs, or swearing because, being a normal alcoholic, I have tried them all. All I would like is to be able to share my experience, strength, and hope the best way I can and if I fail to meet your expectations, dear members, please be patient with me because I'm not as sick as I used to be. In fact, I don't feel sick at all, thanks to the AA program which includes the Third Tradition--which, in my humble interpretation, means: no rules.