Tradition of the Month: Tradition One, Unity

  1. Our common welfare should come first; personal recovery depends upon OA unity.

We OAs are often people of extremes. In our dealings with others we might be people-pleasers or narcissists. As the Big Book tells us, our disease includes “an appalling lack of perspective” (5). Both of these extreme types, and everyone in between, learn slogans like: “Program first,” “Go to any lengths,” and “Put your own oxygen mask on first.” We need to be willing to do whatever it takes to gain a one-day-at-a-time remission of our disease.

But how does that square with the first Tradition? What happens if another member does or says things that feels threatening to our abstinence? Or if someone wants to change a meeting that has helped us a great deal? What happens when potentially divisive issues arise? Do the old tapes start playing so that the people pleaser seeks dishonest harmony to avoid conflict, or the narcissist casts aside others’ opinions en route to getting their own way?

This is the whole reason for Tradition One’s existence. In a program full of selfish people seeking to better themselves, how do we keep the group from falling apart over the molehills, let alone the mountains, in the path of any human organization? Tradition One answers this by implicitly referring us back to the Steps, especially the last three. Step 10 tells us that we continue to take personal inventory. This allows us to assess whether our reaction to the OA issue at hand is really a manifestation of fear, resentment, or dishonesty. Step 11 prescribes prayers and meditation to know God’s will, which may not be the same as our will. Bill Wilson describes the combination of Steps 10 and 11 in his story, “I was to sit quietly when in doubt, asking only for direction and strength to meet my problems as He would have me” (13). Just as we would use these Steps in our daily lives, so we use them in program situations.

Step 12 tells us that we should demonstrate the principles of the program in all our affairs and carry the message to the newcomer. Sometimes we hear the saying that “we are the only Big Book a person might ever read.” We are the message, and our conduct says as much about the power of OA as any words or literature can. When we encounter disagreement in OA, we must consider the other person’s point of view honestly and objectively. We try to see it from their side. After all, we’ve found out through the Steps that we really don’t know even half of what we thought we knew. We also try to see issues through the newcomer’s eyes. What’s best for the person walking in the door for the first time. How do the potential solutions to a situation help them?

When we stop, ask God for help, try to see things from another person’s perspective, and seek out the fear and resentment in our own approach to the issue, we can detach from the outcome. We remember that we are just another person in OA, and that God and our fellows will support us regardless. We let God’s will flow, and when a decision is reached, we do not hold grudges. Instead we see how we can be helpful and keep an open mind as it is implemented. If something doesn’t work out, we don’t wag fingers or roll eyes, or tell anyone that we told them so. We can instead calmly suggest returning to prior practices or seeking another alternative.

In any case, we have to remember that dissension begins in our minds, which is where our disease has its greatest hold on us. Our addiction is always trying to get at us and never stops trying. Without fellowship, we have little to no hope, and a house divided will fall. We need each other to get better, so we need unity to stay alive. Whether we are people pleasers or narcissists by nature, we should only listen to our minds with extreme caution and after prayer. Instead, we might turn our thoughts to how we can support the fellowship and how we might reconcile opposing viewpoints in contentious matters.