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"The First Woman Kicked Out of AA

Sybil and Matt on her porch.
  The Reason for Tradition 3

AA early member Sybil Corwin talks about AA history

I shivered at the thought of it, It was Christmas time, the stores were decorated and now poor Irma was all alone, I thought about how it was in 1984 with 2000 meetings a week to choose from in Southern California, and then I imagined having no other help for a hopeless alcoholic.

Sybil told me that Irma never came back to another meeting, left AA and died of alcoholism. She wrote to Bill about the incident, and I cannot tell you that is the reason that the following is a part of the 3rd Tradition, but it certainly seems to apply.

From Tradition 3, 12 & 12, page 141:

...that we would neither punish nor deprive any AA of membership, that we must never compel anyone to pay anything, believe anything, or conform to anything? The answer, now seen in Tradition 3, was simplicity itself. At last experience taught us that to take away any alcoholics full chance was sometimes to pronounce his death sentence, and often to condemn him to endless misery. Who dared to be judge, jury and executioner of his own sick brother?"

JUDGE, JURY AND EXECUTIONER I remember looking at those words again and again. They seemed to get larger and larger.


I hadn't really noticed Executioner when I had read it the first time at my 12 & 12 study group. Again I felt so bad for this poor lady. Wow, those words really had a different meaning than when I had read the traditions before, So here it is , 23 years later, and each Dec. 7th & 8th I always think about Irma Livoni, and how lucky I am, that we have traditions now, I also think of how lucky I was to have met Sybil and so lucky that she appointed herself my sponsor.

Years later I realized how everything she ever taught me was like gold, but in 1984 I had no idea who Sybil really was or how lucky I was to have her as my sponsor. She was like a piece of living history, but I really didn't realize how valuable that was in explaining WHY we do some of the things we do (like the story she told me about how they never said "Hi Sybil" and no one said "Hi my name is Matt and I'm an alcoholic" back then).

Besides being one of the first women in AA,. Sybil was the first woman west of the Mississippi. She also became the head of LA's central office for 12 years, and she became close friends with Bill and Lois. She and Bob even used to go on vacation with them. She used to tell me all sorts of stories about Bill Wilson and things he said to her.

He was very interested in how AA would work for women, as there were very few women worldwide in AA back in 1941. Marty Mann came in before Sybil did, but very few stayed sober.

I learned that night that no one can get kicked out of AA. We can ask a disturbing wet drunk that he needs to settle down or we might have to ask him to step outside for that day, but we don't vote to kick anyone out forever . And we don't shun people because our guidelines, our traditions tell us that no one has to believe in anything (they don't have to like me) and they don't have to conform to anything, they don't have to dress a certain way, or have no facial hair, or pay anything .) Even if I get drunk again, I am still welcome at any AA meeting.

That's the story about Irma Livoni.
So now you know a bit about how, and why the traditions got started. I think it sort of puts a face on Tradition 3: the face of a woman I never knew, who got kicked out of AA. Who got drunk and died.

Thank God for Tradition 3 and thank God for all of you.

Best AA love to you all.


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