Tradition of the Month: “Ever Reminding Us”

12. Anonymity is the spiritual foundation of all our Traditions, ever reminding us to put principles before personalities.

Ever reminding us? Really? What kind of nag was Bill Wilson when he wrote this, anyway? Do we really need constant reminding that spiritual principles come before personalities? Well, all of the human history, and especially the collective Twelve Step experience, vociferously say Yes!

Human history is filled with good gone wrong. There’s the idea of “lethal mutation” where a good idea becomes popular and, like in a game of telephone, is turned into its opposite by excited people retelling and incorrectly or selfishly implementing it. Many helpful notions turn dark once other human beings discover how to leverage them for personal gain, or out of sheer ignorance of core principles.

These are lessons we OAers need to heed. If we are to overcome the killing disease of food addiction one day at a time, we must have OA to help us, and OA won’t survive if we don’t take special care to see that our spiritual principles are followed.

But “ever reminding us”?

Turns out we do need continual reminders. We addicts are prone to strange moods and twists of mind, and our disease is opportunistic. It will use our own sense of pride and our ego to kill us. We think we can sharpen up the spiritual principles that our founders presented. We’ll make them even better. Maybe discard this one in this situation to make that one better. We’ll add a little here and nip and tuck a little there to get it just right. Or maybe we’ll flout those principles all together because, hey, we got this. Next thing you know, it’s not OA anymore. Next thing you know, no one is recovering anymore, and meetings close. Next thing you know, we’re back in the food.

We need to be endlessly reminded because our disease doesn’t take vacation days. Instead it constantly works on us. Addiction is a chronic illness that cannot be cured. Our therapy is a one-day-at-a-time spiritual toolkit that leads us to our Higher Power who helps remain free. Are we so arrogant as to think that once we’re recovered we can start calling the shots for a program we were given and asked to protect?

Who among us forgets that the first bite leads to madness? We know this like we know our names. Yet, some of us nonetheless reach for it again, even after years of recovery. We absolutely accept that we need to be reminded of our vulnerability to food all the time. The same is true of our vulnerability to the emotional aspect of our disease. The control we like to exert and the egoic thinking that leads to the first bite lurks in even more nooks and crannies than the physical compulsion to eat. We desperately need to understand that our mind, even in recovery, can be a place where what we think is our best thinking is actually our worst.

Ever reminded? We can’t hear it enough. But thanks to Tradition Twelve we can easily remember how valuable this program is to us and how to put that value into action by upholding our traditions.

Tradition of the Month: Tradition 12

12. Anonymity is the spiritual foundation of all these Traditions, ever reminding us to place principles before personalities.

Many of us compulsive eaters do a lot of people pleasing. We share frequently about our dread of conflict, our willingness to do anything to avoid other people’s bad opinion. We seem in general to hurt ourselves with food rather than take it out on those who are hurting us.

The reasons why this might be the case are debatable, and we will each arrive at our understanding of those reasons as we take fourth-step inventory. What’s important as OA members is that we end people-pleasing behaviors, and the Twelfth Tradition points us in that direction.

Another way of thinking of people-pleasing, conflict-avoidance, and their many sibling behaviors is codependence. We don’t want to put anybody out because we feel overly responsible for their feelings. The reality is that we can hardly control our own feelings, so why in the world should we control another’s? Tradition 12 tells us that principles come before personalities, just as we learn in Steps 4 and 5 that feelings are not facts.

Tradition 12 is telling us something very, very important. When we deal with one another, we must put to use the most important life-strategy we learn in OA: Trust and rely on God. When we ask someone publicly or privately to keep the Traditions, we are taking right action and letting God handle the results. We are not in the results business. We can’t make anyone do anything. What we can do is speak gently and kindly about the importance of the Traditions and let the other person decide for themselves. Which is the other important aspect of all this. By letting people hear our suggestion and do with it as they will, we treat them as adults. We let them have their own feelings. We are not trying to shape or control those feelings like we used to. That’s old behavior we are trying to get rid of after all!

We need not worry that we’re being a “Traditions Nazi” or anything like that. What we are doing is safeguarding the program that saves our lives. Isn’t keeping OA going more important than our worries about offending or disappointing a single person on a single day? And anyway, we never know what can come of such an interaction. For example, that person may see the courage that making your suggestion takes as evidence that this program works.

Beside which, personalities are fickle. We addicts know that one day we can be hale and hearty and the next day fearful and paranoid. We can’t begin to know what someone else will be like from one day to the next. Our fellowship has survived not by trying to gauge one another’s moods but by giving us all structure and consistency within which to safely have those moods. That structure is the Traditions, and the consistency comes from the principles they embody.

Remember the old saying: The Steps keep me from killing myself; the Traditions keep me from killing everyone else.