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the second tradition

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Mar. 24th, 2008 | 09:27 pm
posted by: kaleidescope in joyousfreedom

I just learned a huge amount about the second tradition!

I was really inspired to explore the traditions when we read about the first tradition in one of my meetings. And so I was thinking on the way home about what it would be like to work the second tradition and I realized I totally am. Maybe more than anything else.

So the second tradition is the one that says "For our group purpose there is but one ultimate authority - a loving higher power as expressed in our group conscience. Our leaders are but trusted servants; they do not govern." And the big deal here, for me, is that it means everyone is equal in 12-step programs. It means that the secretary is not the boss of anyone, and the literature person is not the boss of anyone, and I'm not the boss of anyone. These are some pretty big deals.

First of all, I think it's both perfect democracy and perfect anarchy in action, in different ways. That everyone has an equal voice, and that there isn't anyone making anyone else follow any rules - any meeting can be like, "Well, we think the traditions are trash and the steps are trash and we're going to do whatever we want!" It probably won't work that great, since the traditions and the steps are things that we know have worked to keep people and meetings healthy for decades and everything else is kind of up in the air, but they are welcome to do it if that is what they all decide they want. They can even try to convince everyone else in the whole program that it is a great idea, and if it is and it's the right time for it then everyone can totally change everything.

But on a personal level, I realized that I've really internalized the idea that we are all equal. I even had to go out and get a job in the recovery field because of it. Because like, at my last office job, it didn't make sense to anyone else that I (or they) might have good, useful insights about anything beyond our tiny administrative tasks. Like, we weren't supposed to have opinions about the same things as supervisors did. And it didn't make sense to ME that I (or they) WOULDN'T have equal insights and opinions about things. So I needed a job where people could respect each other's boundaries and equality and listen to each other and things. I mean: I think we're all equal to the point that I had to get a different JOB because of it.

And that strikes me as some kind of miracle. I mean, do you know how far I was from thinking I was as good as or smart as or worthy as anyone else? Pfshaw. It was insane to me. I had to work my ass off on the steps, and be around all these principles in meetings, for ages to internalize this. I think it had a lot to do with the fourth and ninth steps, with getting see where my boundaries were and where I was giving away power and where I was not respecting other people's boundaries. Because along the way, I got to see how much I tried to put people on pedestals or make myself better than them, and how much we are all the same and all have these same issues and struggles. How, in reality, nobody is a huge abusive giant who gets to slap me down and make me less-than.

And I realized that this tradition is so fundamental to recovery from abuse, and the codependency it causes. It's all, "Hey! You don't get to keep living in cowering fear of everyone's superior strength and power and worth and fury. That stuff is an illusion. It doesn't work if we act like that and live out the memories of what it was like to be abused. We get to and have to accept that we are equally awesome and worthy and important to this meeting and this program." And then the 12th step says that "Having had a spiritual awakening as a result of these steps," like in accepting our own worth!, "we try to carry this message to others, and to practice these principles in all of our affairs." So I CAN'T just accept that I am equal to everyone else in a meeting or a 12-step program. I have to accept this principle, that I am equally worthy to everyone else, everywhere I go in the world. Pretty crazy huh?

I think the other excruciatingly important part to this is the higher power piece. Part of it is getting that whatever we do, we are exactly where we are supposed to be. Finding meaning in things. Like how people always get just what they need from a sponsoring relationship, even if it turns out that what they needed was to have the experience of firing their sponsor. And part of it is that it means that when we vote on something, we can go to that connection with our higher power - our gut, our inner wisdom, whatever you want to call it - and look for the right thing to say or the right way for us personally to vote. And that totally translates to the third step in everyday life - the practice of looking to that connection regularly, following it to the next right action. That's something I am still working on, more and more all the time. In fact, it is the step I am on right now!

I just am consistently blown away by the traditions. They always seem kind of confusing and opaque and boring. And I get that they are insanely important to meetings and programs, but I don't always get how they are important to me personally. I thought that the "principles of the program" were the 12 traditions AND a bunch of ideas that floated around that came from people's experiences in recovery - like that we're all equal. And the better I understand them, the more I realize that those principles come right from the traditions and the steps. They're not boring - they are just not as widely studied in the meetings I go to. They are so cool!

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