The third tradition states, “The only requirement for A.A. membership is a desire to stop drinking.” There is only one requirement for AA membership. You don’t have to be a male or a female. You don’t have to make a certain amount of money. Your race does not matter. In short, everyone is welcome as long as they have a desire to stop drinking.
Some people even say that this tradition was originally stated an “honest desire to stop drinking” and they changed it. Apparently that statement wasn’t inclusive enough. So even if you’re faking it and you don’t really want to stop drinking, you’re still welcome.
This tradition has implications both on the fellowship as a whole and individual meetings. On the fellowship as a whole it is fairly apparent why we wouldn’t want to limit membership to anyone. We want to bring the solution to as many people as possible. At the group level are other important considerations with regards to this tradition. Certain groups might want to say something like this meeting is only for accountants who want to get sober. Or that meeting is only for people who live in this town or go to this church. That would be limiting, could potentially leave people wishing to attend with a bad feeling, and in the worst case could prevent someone from getting the tools they need to get sober.
At this point you might ask, well what about men’s meetings or women’s meetings. This is a good question. While these meetings are technically for men only and for women only, this is, in most cases, merely a suggestion. We have all heard many stories of the newcomer who unwittingly wanders into a meeting listed as only for members of the opposite sex. And when they sheepishly ask if they should leave all of the meetings attendees ensure them that they are most welcome. So in this case while the meeting is technically not a coed meeting, the spirit of the group is to never turn a person away who has “a desire to stop drinking.” Here we see the beauty and flexibility of this tradition. Many people feel more comfortable attending a meeting with only members of their own sex. However, if the group decided to allow a wayward member to stay in a meeting, it would be incumbent upon the person who felt uncomfortable with this to leave, rather than turn away someone who wanted to get sober that evening.
Another area where this tradition applies is in financial contributions for the meeting. The seventh tradition, which we will talk about later, is the opportunity for each group to be self-supporting through its own contributions. The basket is passed and members contribute one or two dollars at each meeting. However, no one is ever questioned if they are unable or even unwilling to contribute. This is totally voluntary. Again, the only requirement for membership is a desire to stop drinking. It is not uncommon for newcomers to be in somewhat dire financial straits upon arrival. You may even see homeless people attending meetings. For some, contributing a dollar or two in the basket is of little consequence. However, for these people, it could make the difference between eating or not eating that day. We would never want those people to feel like they were not welcome because they could not contribute. In fact, you will hear many seventh tradition announcements state not to worry if you cannot contribute and to “keep coming back.”
One of the great things about tradition three is that when we make the only requirement for membership a desire to stop drinking many other things seem to simply work themselves out. It is an excellent foundation upon which the rest of our attitude towards the program can be built. So if you’re thinking about attending but not sure if you fit in, ask yourself this simple question, do I want to stop drinking? If so, then join us. You are most welcome!