Twelve Steps and 12 Traditions (lovingly referred to throughout the rest of this article as the ’12&12′), is a series of mini-essays written by Bill W and first published in 1953. The book is split into two halves, with an essay for each of the twelve steps and traditions of Alcoholics Anonymous.

For context we need to remember that AA was founded in 1935 with the first edition of ‘Alcoholics Anonymous’ (otherwise known as ‘The Big Book’) published a few years later in 1939.

After a period of rapid growth in the early 40’s after the Big Book was published, Bill W began to work with groups who had questions around how to deal with issues around things like membership, money, personal and public relations and management of groups amongst other things. AA’s Twelve Traditions were created as a set of principles under which AA as a society functioned. The first form of the traditions was laid out in 1946 in the Grapevine in an article titled “Twelve Points to Assure Our Future”, these were later confirmed at AA’s first International Conference in Cleveland held in 1950 with the 12&12 published three years later in 1953.

I find the 12&12 great to read as each section is self contained, unlike the Big Book for example which can be difficult to follow for newcomers as there’s no clear structure or easy way to read up on a certain step. The language can at times be difficult, especially to those new to recovery, however I find this means I have more reason to read, re-read and discuss the chapters to gain a deeper understanding of the steps and principles.

Each essay is around 6-12 pages long which makes them perfect for short reading either on your own or as part of a group meeting with discussion afterwards. I personally found reading and discussing each chapter after reading the relevant section in the Big Book during my step work with my Sponsor and Sponsees a very helpful and rewarding part of the process.

Some people are comfortable just using the Big Book for working the twelve steps during their recovery, personally however I find the 12&12 perfect for those who want something alongside the Big Book to help gain a deeper understanding of each of the steps and to find out more about the history behind the traditions which help recovery societies to function to this day.

  • You can view/download a copy of Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions from here.
  • You can buy a copy from AA’s webshop here.