Tradition of the Month: Contributing to Our Own Recovery

7. Every OA group ought to be fully self-supporting, declining outside contributions.

We all know that Tradition 7 is why we pass the hat. But what’s in it for us as individual OA members? Quite a lot, as it turns out.

In order to be free from the monstrous  and insidious influence of fiduciary affairs, we are self-funding, and we only keep what we need to meet expenses. The rest goes onto service organizations that carry the message to the many out there who still suffer. We do our part as individuals to fund the rent and the literature. We are under absolutely no obligation to contribute, but we are strongly encouraged to do so. We are all responsible for OA’s health.

Yet for many of us, a lingering sense of unease comes with the Seventh Tradition. Simply put, many of us have a fear of financial insecurity. Virtually all of us have experienced this feeling. We may be on a fixed income and worried that the money will run out. We may be out of work and on unemployment. We may be over our heads in debt. Or we may simply have grown up impoverished and have trouble letting go of a buck or three. Perhaps several of these conditions and many others apply to us. Or none. Nonetheless, fear of falling of a financial cliff afflicts so many of us that it’s listed in The Book Book as an affect in the third column of our inventory of resentments!

As individual OA members, we can use Tradition 7 as a safe means to feel, heal, and deal with the fear of financial insecurity.

  • FEEL: When the hat gets passed, we can notice whether our fear arises, even a little bit.
  • HEAL: We then can say the fear prayer found in The Big Book on page 68: “We ask Him to remove our fear and direct our attention to what He would have us be.”
  • DEAL: Finally, we chip in.

For those who feel scared to put in anything, any amount will do. For those who put in less than they could, adding a little more than usual can help. No matter what we put in, what we are really doing is expressing faith that our Higher Power will both change us by helping us with this fear and work through us and OA to help others.

What do we get out of it? A low-risk opportunity for instant spiritual growth. A healthier OA. Freedom from the bondage of self that the Third Step prayer talks about. One dollar buys about 0.4 gallons of gasoline: We might walk somewhere during the week when we usually would drive. One dollar buys a bottle of premium seltzer water: We might have tap water one day a week instead of the bubbly. One dollar buys half a cup of coffee: Is there a cup we could do without once a week? Heck, we used to use that dollar on penny candy or cheap snack cakes, and we would gladly trade that for relief from compulsive eating!

As often is the case in OA, when we take courage from our Higher Power and do the thing we don’t want to, we receive a reward much greater than what we hesitatingly put it. Each time we do so, we take another step toward serenity and another step away from a life of anxiety and worry.

Tradition of the Month: Tradition 7

7. Every OA group ought to be fully self-supporting, declining outside contributions.

There’s nothing like money to spoil a perfectly good program of recovery. Its accumulation, handling, and dispersion lead to more fights in society than nearly anything else. Look at how marriages dissolve over it, how towns can be factionalized by it, how companies can be ruined by it. Multinational money crises occur all the time with countries demanding certain reforms of other countries, pitting peoples and countries against one another.

In other words, money divides people and institutions. That’s a big problem for a fellowship like ours. Our individual recoveries, says the first tradition, “depend upon OA unity.” Luckily, we also have a primary purpose, courtesy of the fifth tradition:  “carrying the message of recovery to those who still suffer.” The 7th tradition, therefore, shows us how to deal with our fellowship’s monies in a way that avoids disunity and helps us move our funds in the direction they are needed.

When we pay the rent or buy the literature for a meeting, it’s obvious what the money is going to: our primary purpose. Rarely do matters such as these cause any friction in the least among our members. In fact, they seem sometimes so utterly mundane that we might wonder why we stayed for the business meeting to begin with. Meetings in the Seacoast area are, however, quite small. Consider a group from a big city that might take contributions in one night that our bigger meetings receive in one month. These meetings could run considerable surpluses, and if so, what do they do about the money?

Luckily OA’s service structure and 7th tradition work together. OA’s World Service, which performs numerous crucial tasks related to carrying our message (especially, creating literature and operating OA.org), depends upon contributions from OA’s Regions. The Regions, which coordinate the activities of the Intergroups within them, in turn depend upon donations from their Intergroups. Finally, the Intergroups depend upon donations from their local meetings. In order to continue to enjoy the benefits of OA’s World Service, meetings are encouraged to only maintain a balance sufficient for operating expenses. The rest goes to the Intergroup, which either spends it on workshops and other ways of carrying the message or sends the money onward. Because our fellowship has taken a vow of poverty, because it ultimately depends upon local contributions, we need never keep extra funds on hand at the local level. To do so would curtail OA’s primary purpose. So we pay our group’s operating expenses, then send the rest on.

When we follow these suggestions, we rarely or never have to negotiate matters such as:

  • Which bank is giving the best rates?
  • Is the money safe with that institution?
  • What kind of account should we open?
  • What do we do with the interest money or dividends?
  • Who in this group do we trust to handle all this money?

We avoid suspicion of profit motive, hysteria about whether to buy or sell an investment vehicle, and worry about the liquidity or illiquidity of our money. We also have reassurance that the money is being used in a way that benefits people who need help (us!) rather than sitting idly without a primary purpose.

Money is often said to be the root of all evil. That may or may not be true, but it brings with it a host of decisions and consequences that can distract us from our primary purpose. Just like our food plans give us freedom from food obsession by structuring our relationship with food, the 7th tradition does the same for our meetings around money. We are free to think about how we can help others find abstinence and recovery instead of ever thinking about the status of our funds.