If you’re in a 12-Step program, you’ve no doubt seen or heard about many different symbols. But what is the meaning behind them? Here is a quick summary of some 12-Step groups’ most popular symbols:
The AA Unity Symbol
Simply put, the circle stands for the worldwide fellowship of AA, and the triangle stands for AA’s Three Legacies of Recovery, Unity, and Service.
Now, some history. The Unity Symbol was adopted as an official AA symbol at the International Convention in St. Louis in 1955. In Bill W.’s 1955 speech, printed in Alcoholics Anonymous Comes of Age, he says:
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“Above us floats a banner on which is inscribed the new symbol for A.A., a circle enclosing a triangle. The circle stands for the whole world of A.A., and the triangle stands for A.A.’s Three Legacies of Recovery, Unity, and Service. Within our wonderful new world, we have found freedom from our fatal obsession. That we have chosen this particular symbol is perhaps no accident. The priests and seers of antiquity regarded the circle enclosing the triangle as a means of warding off the spirits of evil, and A.A.’s circle and triangle of Recovery, Unity, and Service has certainly meant all of that to us and much more.” (p. 139)
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He picks up his load with the greatest of ease.
He walks through the day with his head held high
And stays for that day, completely dry.”
© 1980, Dr. Bob and the Good Oldtimers, page 229
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On page 276 of Alcoholics Anonymous (The “Big Book,” fourth edition), it reads, “Now there is a sense of belonging, of being wanted and needed and loved. In return for a bottle and a hangover, we have been given the Keys of the Kingdom.”
The NA Symbol
In the fifth edition of NA’s basic text, Narcotics Anonymous, on pages vi and vii, the symbol is described in detail. This is a condensed version:
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The outer circle denotes a universal and total program that has room within it for all manifestations of the recovering person. The square denotes goodwill and the ground of both the Fellowship and the members of our society. The four sides of the square represent Self, Society, Service and God.
The Al-Anon Symbol
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Al-Anon's main text, Paths to Recovery, states this about their symbol:
“Al-Anon’s logo is a triangle symbol with a circle inside. The three sides of the triangle symbolize our three legacies: Recovery through acceptance of the Steps, Unity through acceptance of the Traditions and Service through acceptance of the Concepts. All three sides are necessary for the triangle to remain a triangle, just as a three-legged stool needs all three legs in order to stand.”
The butterfly symbol signifies beauty and transformation. The butterfly is sometimes described as the "kiss of God."
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