The third tradition of Alcoholics Anonymous, "The only requirement for AA membership is a desire to stop drinking" , defines who can and who can not be a member.
This is perhaps the least restrictive club in the world. Prospect members do not have to complete an application or submit references. There is no evaluation or waiting period. If someone decides that they have a desire to stop drinking alcohol all they have to do is go to a meeting and say "I would like to join". It's that simple.
While tradition three is simple, it has huge implications and ties into other AA traditions. Anyone who walks into alcoholics Anonymous meeting anywhere in the world is welcome. This openness guarantees diversity, which brings a wealth of knowledge and wisdom, which brings immense healing power.
From day one, members of Alcoholics Anonymous witness tolerance in action. Any given meeting may represent a huge swath of humanity. Members are likely to see white and black people at an AA meeting. That same meeting may be made up of men and women as well as people from a wide variety of religions … or no religion at all. All types of professions are represented. One meeting may have a laborer, a business owner, a housewife and a lawyer. Where else is this type of diversity represented?
Alcoholics Anonymous teachers tolerance and acceptance of other people. It is important that they practice what they preach, so to speak.
"And acceptance is the answer to all my problems today. When I am disturbed, it is because I find some person, place, thing, or situation-some fact of my life-unacceptable to me, and I can find no serenity until I accept that person, place, thing, or situation as being exactly the way it is supposed to be at this moment. Nothing, absolutely nothing, happens in God's world by mistake. " – Alcoholics Anonymous , page 417
During my first year of sobriety, I was in a meeting when a guy stated being disruptive. He was talking loudly and out of turn. He was using language that was vulgar enough to make even me wince (which is saying something). He was given fairly loose reign. Finally the chair of the meeting was gently reminded that that it might be a good idea to let others share a bit.
After the meeting I was talking to a friend who had been in the program for a long time. I mentioned the disruptive member, saying someone should have kicked his butt out of the meeting.
"Why would we do that?" my friend asked. "He needs this program as much, or maybe more than, you or me. That's what Alcoholics Anonymous is all about."
My friend was exactly right. The guy in the meeting may have had all sorts of problems about which I knew nothing. I should have viewed him with kindness and tolerance … as a sick person describing of compassion. After all, tradition three says that anyone who wants to quit drinking, with no other requirements, can be a member of Alcoholics Anonymous.