Hear me; a single twig breaks, but the bundle of sticks is strong.
Every newcomer, every friend who looks at A.A. for the first time is greatly puzzled. They see liberty verging on license, yet they recognize at once that A.A. has an irresistible strength of purpose and action. "How," they ask, "can such a crowd of anarchists function at all?" How can they possibly place their common welfare first? What in Heaven's name holds them together?"
Those who look closely soon have the key to this strange paradox. The A.A. member has to conform to the principals of recovery. His life actually depends upon obedience to spiritual principals. If he deviates too far, the penalty is sure and swift; he sickens and dies. At first he goes along because he must, but later he discovers a way of life he really wants to live.
Twelve Steps & Twelve Traditions pg. 130
The life of each A.A. and of each group is built around our Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions. We know that the penalty for extensive disobedience to these principals is death for the individual and dissolution for the group. But an even greater force for A.A.'s unity is our compelling love for our fellow members and for our principals.
Twelve Concepts pg. 11