The phrase the 12 and 12 is often used in AA meetings, and refers to a book written and published by one of the co-founders, Bill Wilson, entitled the 12 steps and the 12 traditions.
12 Steps and 12 Traditions
Much of the core AA literature was written by Bill Wilson, either as books, pamphlets, essays, or correspondence. Whilst the book Alcoholics Anonymous covered the experience of a lot of individual members, it was written entirely by Bill Wilson, and became the basic text of AA that it is today.
Many years later, Bill Wilson wrote this book, the 12 steps and 12 traditions, again on his own but with input from friends and other AA members.
The intent behind the book was to produce a series of essays that covered each of the individual steps and traditions. These individual essays were his own views, but also tended to reflect the broader experience of many AA members of the time.
The essays were intended to broaden and deepen his own experience and understanding of how each of the individual 12 steps worked, as far as to provide an insight into the thinking behind the 12 traditions.
Quite early on in AA’s history, meetings began to develop that were called step meetings. These were normal AA meetings that would focus on an individual step each week, starting with step one and finishing with step 12 in a 12 week cycle, and then start again with step one.
Most meetings adopted a format of reading the step, or a synopsis of the step, from the book the 12 and 12, before proceeding to individuals sharing their experience of it. In this way, the 12 and 12 established itself as a focus for each individual step around which people could share their understanding of what it meant to them.
This worked well for a lot of people, and still does. Some people find it slightly confusing, and find that the content of the essays in the 12 and 12 seems to contradict or at least not be in harmony with the writing of the relevant step in the book Alcoholics Anonymous.
It is important to remember that the 12 and 12, was written many years after the book Alcoholics Anonymous. It was not intended to replace it, but simply to give a deeper understanding after many years experience of how Bill Wilson understood the particular step to work.
On this basis, both books should work in harmony with each other. It should always be remembered that all the AA literature is intended to be used as a body of experience only, and that individual members are free to use the experience in any way they choose.