Tradition of the Month: 8 ways to live OA unity every day

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

Is there anyone in our program who doesn’t believe in OA unity? In order to be a listed OA meeting, a group need only meet a precious few requirements. Primarily that it welcomes all compulsive eaters and that it follows the 12 Steps and 12 Traditions of OA. This is the most basic unifying principle of OA. It’s everything after that where things get tricky. After all, no one in OA believes in the power of factionalism to arrest our illness.

Whether it’s our disease talking through our pride, or it’s our zeal to share our experience with others, we sometimes get a little off the beaten path. As we do we may find ourselves feeling apart from other members and perhaps even recruiting others to help us make things “right” with our meeting or the program. Thus disunity emerges from a wish to do good.

Here are ways that we can ensure we don’t interrupt the unity of OA and jeopardize our recoveries and those of our fellows. There are many others, but these represent seven common situations that can arise in OA (and all human endeavors).

  1. Let others use the food plan of their choice.
    In the past, OA has been so divided by the question of what food plan is best that factions broke away and formed their own independent recovery program. When we advocate for a specific food plan, we may be making others’ plans “wrong” without even realizing it.
  2. Identify as a willing sponsor.
    The Steps and Traditions of the program are best learned from an informed sponsor. When we raise our hands for sponsorship at a meeting, we create opportunities to pass along the message of OA unity.
  3. Let other do the 12 Steps by whatever means they wish.
    We all have our own path to finding recovery through the 12 Steps. Just because one way works for us or many of us doesn’t make it right for all of us. Besides, it may be that a person needs to do it one way at first and will eventually try it your way. In which case, you may find yourself able to help them.
  4. Let others make mistakes.
    Decades after its inception, it should be clear that no one person can topple OA by making mistakes that violate a Tradition or a part of a meeting format. Take the opportunity to gently remind the mistake maker of the Tradition in play. Most of these mistakes arise from ignorance, not belligerence. Live and let live.
  5. Give those we disagree with the benefit of the doubt.
    Our OA fellows are not enemies or extremists. We’re all trying to get better together, and we’re all going to be sick with this disease for our entire lives.
  6. Keep speculations between our ears.
    When we begin to place motives on people or divine their true intentions, we engage in a form of dishonesty that can be harmful to our abstinence if we let it fester. But gossiping with others about those speculations can lead to rifts between members and lay groundwork for factionalism.
  7. Let God guide the group’s conscience.
    If ever we find ourself rallying consensus and counting votes, we’re politicking rather than seeking God’s will as expressed through our group conscience.
  8. Ask our Higher Power to open our minds and our hearts.
    If we are in intense disagreement with another member, perhaps we are clinging too strongly to our own beliefs. We can ask God to show us why. Better yet, we can ask our HP to show us the question at hand from the other person’s point of view. And even better, we can ask God to show us how to be loving to that person even when we are in disagreement.

In the end, we could surely sum up these and many other ways to adopt a unity stance this way: Practice OA’s 12 Steps and 12 Traditions in all our affairs. If we can embody those principles and practices, we’re going to feel great, our fellows will respond with greater kindness and respect to us, and we will be doing our part to keep OA unity healthy and strong.

Together we get better!!!

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.

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, 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.

Food addict or compulsive eater?

Hi, I’m _______, and I’m a _______. That’s a staple of 12-Step culture. It’s one of the ways we remain equals in our meetings and put principles before personalities. In some fellowships, the second blank probably doesn’t have much variation: alcoholic for example. OA is a little different in this way because there are as many food compulsions as there are members. Here are a few of the many self-descriptions that members in our area and elsewhere use:

  • Compulsive overeater
  • Compulsive eater
  • Food addict
  • Compulsive eater and food addict (or vise verse)
  • Binge eater
  • Sugar addict
  • Sugar and flour addict
  • Anorexic
  • Bulimic
  • Exercise bulimic.

It doesn’t matter what we call ourselves, we still get to be members as long as we have a desire to stop eating compulsively. The important thing is that we are in a meeting, seeking a solution, and no longer in denial about what our problem is. There are as many names for this disease as there are members. No matter what we call ourselves, we all belong, we can all be loved unconditionally by this fellowship, and we can all find a path to abstinence that meets our own personal needs if we keep coming back. That’s what OA’s new Unity in Diversity Checklist is all about. In OA we’re all the same, yet we’re all different. It’s what gives us strength and the ability to help members with a wide range of compulsive food behaviors. The Unity in Diversity Checklist is now linked on our Meetings Resources page.