Tradition Three Means Identity
Tradition 3 : The only requirement for OA membership is a desire to stop eating compulsively.
The Traditions tend to be a little boring because they focus on how I relate to others while the Steps are more my thing because they’re all about Me. I’ve even heard it described as The Steps prevent me from committing suicide and The Traditions prevent me from committing homicide. Well, that actually sounds pretty good to me because my anger can feel all-encompassing. And it was how I can help, and not harm, my fellow primates that brought me to these rooms and to The Twelve & Twelve. The spiritual principle behind Tradition Three is Identity; the knowledge of where I stop and where others begin, a boundary between what is mine and the business of all the rest of the world.
For most of my life I confused my own taking a stand on issues with minding other people’s business. This need to change or fix minds and opinions grew from a massive void in self-identity. I confused the ability to convince, cajole or crush people into agreeing with me with my own self-worth. In these rooms I’ve learned I am already enough—even if nothing at all changes—I am a beautiful child of God, both fascinatingly unique and remarkably insignificant at the very same time, no greater than or less than anyone else. Pride in reverse is still an excess of pride.
Recently, I met with a personal trainer and in 22 years in the field he had never met someone who has altered their phenotype in the extreme way that I have. One thing he mentioned was how he has clients who whine—his word, not mine—about 28 pounds to lose and give up, while I’m someone who has lost two hundred and eighty pounds and keeps on going. I smiled but I didn’t say anything because I’ve also learned that I don’t always need to correct people, that things don’t have to be either-or, they are often both-and. I’ve learned my mouth can sometimes yammer on trying to build me into something oversized. And, I have learned what Identity means.
We live in a time where lots of our friends, family and neighbors believe “my pain trumps your pain.” And “what I have suffered is so much worse that what you’ll ever know.” This collective sense of terminal uniqueness further divides us and is best summed up in the title of one of my favorite rock songs: You don’t know how it feels to be me.
In these rooms I’ve learned the exact opposite. There are others who know how I feel. I am not so diabolically, horribly unique. I’ve learned not to compare pain. The misery I have felt being 300 pounds overweight unites me with the individual who has struggled for decades with thirty—it does not make me better, or worse. This Tradition reminds me to smash isolation because my identity hinges upon connection to others; my disease craves isolation, not me.
To paraphrase an often used metaphor, we may have gotten here on different ships but we’re all in the same boat now, with a proper heading—Good Orderly Direction.
by Alex P
Lifeline Revisited: Check out some older articles from Lifeline.