I recently had a spiritual aha moment: Many of us learned that a proper noun is not just a person, place, or thing, but a specific person, place, or thing, usually beginning with a capital letter. If I’m talking about a proper noun in a meeting, I’m probably referring to an outside issue (and possibly breaking the spirit of anonymity).

In The Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions of Overeaters Anonymous, the chapter on Tradition Ten explains that talking about specifics—religions, eating disorder treatment centers, and even other Twelve Step fellowships—is really talking about outside issues. What do those specifics have in common? They all start with capital letters. If I share about any of them, referring to them by name, I’m not upholding Tradition Ten.

My husband came home from a meeting in another fellowship (it doesn’t matter which one) upset because several people had bashed the faith he was raised in (it doesn’t matter which one). He had enough recovery to know not to leave his program, but a newcomer might have stopped going altogether. If I really need to share about the impact a religion, treatment center, or other fellowship has had on my life, simply dropping any words with capital letters when I’m sharing keeps the focus off That Thing and on me and my recovery instead.

The chapter also talks about why we don’t sell outside literature but stops short of saying we should never mention non-OA-approved literature. My aha moment happened after a leader at a retreat read from and referenced outside literature. Some people were upset. While I felt she did it in a loving and respectful way, sharing about her own experience with those books, I realized the controversy could have been avoided if she had simply not mentioned specific book titles or authors. I find a lot of wisdom in non-OA books, and I am free to share what I’ve internalized from other sources, but I have to remember that I’m not writing a research paper and I don’t have to provide a bibliography. I can just say I got it from a book, a movie, or a celebrity (it doesn’t matter Which One). I realized my need to share A Name is part of my insecurity—it’s me wanting to bolster what

I say because I’m afraid my own words are not enough.

I also realized that if I talk about specific OA members, I’m not upholding Tradition Twelve. During sharing, I can talk about what I learned from a speaker, rather than thanking the speaker by name. If I tell people the name of my sponsor, I’ve shifted focus to that sponsor and away from my own recovery. If I share a fantastic recovery metaphor, it doesn’t matter Who shared it with me—we’re all just Overeaters. ANONYMOUS

Anonymous. “Tradition 10: Capital Idea.” Lifeline.org, October 3, 2016.