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Guarding the Traditions

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At OA meetings, I often hear shares that include social issues. We members are products of our environment, after all, and those environments can include poverty, deprivation, abuse, harassment, homelessness, injustice, unfairness at work, and victimization by criminals. For my part, I have a social conscience, and my failure to live up to its demands is a factor in my anorexia. So, I find it hard to listen to OA members’ accounts of suffering from social evils without wanting to fix, preach, campaign, or otherwise apply the tools that I’ve acquired in social change movements to stand up against these wrongs.

One of the gifts of the OA program is that it’s made me more experienced, courageous, and perhaps more effective as a social activist. But an OA meeting isn’t the place to apply social justice skills. For starters, many OA members who are working the Steps and using the Tools are overcoming (or have already overcome) these social problems in their lives. Even if they haven’t yet and are still struggling, do they really want personal advice from me? After all, I’m not their sponsor, and in any case, all I have is website knowledge about social issues—not real experience.

What I can do for them is respect the Traditions and share about those aspects of their OA experience that I can identify with: the struggle with food, the low self-esteem, the self-deception, working the Steps, and trying to realize the promises.

Because of my experience inside Overeaters Anonymous, hearing of the social ills my OA friends are enduring, I feel more motivated outside OA to sign petitions, give money, write to my political representatives, and take part in demonstrations on behalf of OA members who are less fortunate. But I will always guard Tradition Twelve and not say who these friends are or how I know them.

One of the reasons I need to keep coming back to OA is that social activism is hard and, at times, can lead to despair, which can tempt me back into self-abuse. So I need to be reminded of Step Three, which teaches me to do my best and leave the outcome to Higher Power.

— Sheila, United Kingdom

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