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Outside Issues

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A concern arose as I was reading the April 2017 issue. The article in “What Works for Me” and the “Send Us Your Stories!” box imply that OA is a place to set forward personal likes or dislikes as advice or suggestions. They also imply that exercising, taking baths, and having pets are promoted by OA. They may be good ideas for some, but as these alternatives are not suggested in OA-approved literature, they are outside issues. For me, it is important to focus on the Twelve Step program of recovery and not become distracted by things that may make me feel good but are not part of this recovery program.

How did my pet relate to my program? I had to stop hitting her when I was angry and make amends for all the times I hit. I had to get honest and consider whether it was even a good idea for me to have a dog. I ended up keeping her for thirteen years, but not because she helped me work the Steps, Traditions, or Tools of OA. I kept her one day at a time because it was the next right thing to do, and I learned to care for her in an appropriate way.

I did not confuse her with my Higher Power or the Steps and did not rely on her to keep me from isolation and self-pity—for that I work Steps Ten, Eleven, and Twelve instead, and I work those Steps when my defects rear their ugly heads. I follow the directions of the Big Book and throw myself the harder into working with others.

I have no opinion on whether to own a pet or whether to give one away. One person I sponsored had abused a cat, so her amends were not to  get another cat and donate to an animal charity. Today, I foster cats as part of a living amends, but I do not uphold that as part of my OA program, nor do I recommend it to others. We each find our own path as we diligently follow directions and take the Steps with the help of a sponsor and a Higher Power.

I do many things to feel better—swimming, walking, shopping, flossing, cleaning—but they are not OA-recommended, and they do not belong in a  discussion of how I work the Steps, Traditions, or Tools, at least not in a public forum like Lifeline.

Before we start giving opinions on pets, exercise, and bubble baths, we should consider Tradition Ten: “OA has no opinion on outside issues; hence the OA name ought never be drawn into public controversy.”

— Anonymous, United Kingdom


Editor’s Note: We thank this contributor for being vigilant about Tradition Ten. There will be an adjustment to the focus of our “What Works for Me” department. We suggest that the writer of the April story is describing use of the Tools: reading, writing, literature, telephone, and an action plan consisting of the activities in question. Regarding “Pets and Recovery,” the stories published focused on how abstinence and recovery have been made evident in OA members’ personal lives and relationships.

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