A.A.’s Three Legacies


First presented in 1939 with the publishing of the book Alcoholics Anonymous, A.A.’s widely recognized Twelve Steps reflect the principles by which the co-founders and early members recovered from alcoholism. The Steps remain the foundation recovery principles of the Fellowship to this day. In addition to many chapters in the first part of the book Alcoholics Anonymous the steps, Bill W. wrote a series of essays on the Steps which appear in the book Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions. Known informally as the “Twelve and Twelve”, the forward to the book reads “Twelve Steps are a group of principles, spiritual in their nature, which if practiced as a way of life, can expel the obsession to drink and enable the suffered to become happily and usefully whole.*


A.A.’s Twelve Traditions present the principles which support the unity of the A.A. Fellowship at its group level. The Traditions were first presented in a series of articles by co-founder Bill W. in the late 1940’s, which appeared in The A.A. Grapevine, A.A.’s periodical newsletter. The essays are collected in the book Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions. From the Forward to the book “A.A.’s Twelve Traditions apply to the life of the Fellowship itself. They outline the means by which A.A. maintains its unity and relates to the world about it, the way it lives and grows.”*


Concerning service, A.A. co-founder Bill W. wrote in 1951:

Our Twelfth Step – carrying the message – is the basic service that the A.A. Fellowship gives; this is our principal aim and the mail reason for our existence. Therefore, A.A. is more than a set of principles; it is a society of alcoholics in action. We must carry the message, else we ourselves can wither, and those who haven’t been given the truth may die.

From “A.A.’s Legacy of Service”, The A.A. Service Manual, page S1.*

The Twelve Concepts for World Service were offered by Bill W. in 1962 as “an interpretation of A.A.’s world service structure.” They are the guiding principles by which A.A. world service activities are conducted. The Concepts are presented in detail in a series of essays by Bill W. in The A.A. Service Manual combined with Twelve Concepts for World Service.

Taken together, the Steps, Traditions and Concepts embody what are known as the Three Legacies of A.A.: Recovery, Unity and Service.

*From literature copyright A.A. World Services, Inc. Used with permission.