Thursday, July 22, 2010

Are You Self-Supporting?

Above:  Two minutes before the meeting is supposed to start, the dude on left says, "Hey, my speaker isn't here."  Dude in the center says, "That's a bummer.  I gotta run to the restroom."  Dude on the right thinks, "Maybe if I don't make eye contact he won't ask me to step in and speak."

I spoke at a meeting on Tradition Seven, “every group ought to be self-supporting, declining outside contributions.”  Ironically, I haven’t been able to work in many months and have been anything but self-supporting monetarily speaking.  However, I have learned that monetary contributions alone do not sustain 12-step programs.  Service work is vital to the longevity of these programs.  Groups do not hire outside people to come in and set up chairs and tables and make coffee before the meetings.  Group members do it.  Groups do not hire outside individuals to chair meetings or give speeches or presentations.  Group members are the chairpersons and speakers.  We support ourselves by doing the work ourselves, not just by throwing a buck or two in the basket every week.

Would there be anything inherently wrong with someone outside of the program volunteering to help or wishing to make a monetary donation?  Probably not.  Except that we run the risk of being indebted to or at least influenced by the agenda of such individuals, whether it be religious, political, or social to name a few.  I am so grateful that the founders of these programs had the foresight to such risks and thus, put this Tradition in place.  12-step programs have, do, and will continue to save too many lives to take such a risk, wouldn’t you agree?

I thought about this Tradition as it relates to my life outside of the rooms of the program (as I was taught to do.)  While I haven’t been able to contribute to our household income lately, in the spirit of Tradition Seven, I perform service work daily (i.e., cleaning, cooking, laundry, raising kids, pet care.)  My kids have assigned chores around the house and my husband helps with all of the aforementioned plus provides financially for our family.  We are a self-supporting family.  As in the program, it is important to the survival of our family that we each do our part.

Then I thought about how this Tradition relates to me as an individual.  How do I support myself, my physical, emotional, and spiritual needs?  This is the stuff that no amount of money can buy!  Do I take care of my body, take the medicines my doctor prescribes, exercise regularly, eat healthy, get enough sleep?  Do take care of my emotional health by asking for what I need, setting boundaries with others, accepting what I can’t change, changing what I can, and depending on God for peace and happiness rather than on those around me?  Do I take care of my spiritual needs by “practicing the principles of the program in all my affairs” and spending quality time in daily prayer and meditation?

The short answer all of those questions is that I try to do these things to the best of my ability with varying degrees of effort depending on whether I am in self-will or in line with God’s will.  My experience has been that when I perceive the effort as great, then I am probably in self-will.  When the effort appears minimal, I am usually in line with God’s will. 


  1. Wonderful, thoughtful post. Thank you.

  2. marie, you always share yourself so completely, blessing everyone who reads your posts! i understand the need for each group to take care of themselves and their meetings, giving each person a chance to reach outside of themselves and into the precious lives of others. this was such a great post, and so relevant!

  3. I love this! I just had a sponsorship meeting (my sponsor hosts a monthly meeting for her sponsees and their sponsees) here meet once a month and this year we're going through the traditions as they relate to AA and relationships (we use the grapevine article questions as a basis for discussion) this month is tradition 7 of course.

    It's great to see more and more perspective on this.

    Self support means so much to me today, but really ... for me ... I've learned that I need God support so much more, because I cannot absolutely cannot do it alone.

  4. Dave: You are a man of few words, which is why each one means a lot to me.

    Sheri: I try to share - how complete I am remains to be seen. (smiles)

    Jesse: I agree with the God support idea. My God supports me by giving me the resources I need to live life on life's terms. The self-supporting part means I have to get off my rear and use the resources (i.e., Take Action!) Before our program of action, I used to sit around and wait for God, my husband, my parents, the dog? (if he could have) to do everything for me.


Thank you for sharing!