Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous (S.L.A.A.)

Fellowship-Wide Services (F.W.S.)

Meetings Referencing Outside Issues, Using Outside Literature?

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The comments below were given by various members of the Conference Steps, Traditions, and Concepts Committee and do not represent a group conscience of the entire committee. The opinions expressed here are solely that of the person giving them. Take what you like and leave the rest.

The Question

An individual has been holding monthly meetings about racism and “how to be anti-racist”. These “educational” meetings reference non-conference approved authors, videos and literature, and are named in the meetings as well as on a local intergroup website, where the monthly meetings are advertised. If these meetings were focused on how to help S.L.A.A. newcomers overcome these issues, or how to work the steps regarding these issues, this would be relevant to S.L.A.A. But that is not the focus of these meetings being held. The focus of these meetings is racism, and training S.L.A.A. members how to be ‘anti-racist’. Although S.L.A.A. members with time have stated their concern that racism and race are outside issues, the individual persists in holding these meetings, and in calling people ‘racist’ if they object to their focus on outside issues, or suggests that to oppose these meetings is equivalent to being racist. Tradition 10 in the AA 12×12 says that the Washingtonians discussed outside issues, including the abolition movement, and these outside issues tore their group apart. The same thing is happening in our fellowship. Our common focus is helping each other recover from sex and love addiction, and sharing experiences in recovery, not fighting racism or ‘becoming anti-racist’.

Further, the non-conference approved literature that are recommended in these ‘educational’ meetings are directly damaging to the integrity of S.L.A.A. The book “White Fragility” describes tears from white people, white women especially, to be harmful to every person of color. The extrapolated suggestion when discussed at a S.L.A.A.-sponsored “education” meeting, then, is for white people, and white women especially, to not cry in meetings anymore. Another example of the damage these non-conference approved books can do is in “How to be an anti-racist” by Ibram X Kendi. As discussed in the “educational” meetings, Kendi writes, “The only remedy to present discrimination is future discrimination.” As the individual often “educates” members of the meetings, 12 Step was invented by white men and is led mostly by white men today. So, the extrapolation of Kendi’s assertion would be that the only way to make 12 Step “anti-racist” would be to discriminate against white men moving forward. Some examples of this would be, perhaps, barring white men from attending certain meetings, disallowing white men to be of service, or not allowing white men to vote in business meetings any more.

Below are links to the literature referenced:

The ideas above have already circulated through many meetings and discussions in the fellowship. And that is the aim – to supplant the Traditions with the goal of having SLAA focused entirely on “anti-racist activism.”

The CSTCC’s guidance is requested on this matter.

The Discussion

Response #1:

The host of the meeting is using the SLAA name to promote a different kind of meeting. There is no question that this violates Tradition 6.

6. An S.L.A.A. group or S.L.A.A. as a whole ought never endorse, finance, or lend the S.L.A.A. name to any related facility or outside enterprise, lest problems of money, property, or prestige divert us from our primary purpose.

S.L.A.A.’s primary purpose is sex and love addiction. Not only should the meeting not be listed on an S.L.A.A. website, but legal action could be used to file for a cease and desist if S.L.A.A. is a trademark. It is no different than calling a meeting “The Lebron James Edition of the 12 Steps” without his permission.

Further in accordance with traditions 5 and 10,

5. Each group has but one primary purpose — to carry its message to the sex and love addict who still suffers.

The message is recovery from sex and love addiction, not recovery from racism.

Our doors are open to ANY sex and love addict even if they are racist, sexist, communist, capitalist, Republican, Democrat, police officer, BLM protester, or Proud Boy so long as they leave these outside activities at the door in order to focus on their sex and love addiction, and their behavior in the meeting doesn’t violate the traditions. Our rooms do not exist to attack or support anyone’s beliefs outside of sex and love addiction.

10. S.L.A.A. has no opinion on outside issues; hence the S.L.A.A. name ought never be drawn into public controversy.

The vilifying of any racial, religious or political group may draw SLAA into public controversy. Further, an SLAA meeting under the SLAA brand should not endorse outside literature for the same reason.

Tradition 3 is also being violated

3. The only requirement for S.L.A.A. membership is a desire to stop living out a pattern of sex and love addiction. Any two or more persons gathered together for mutual aid in recovering from sex and love addiction may call themselves an S.L.A.A. group, provided that as a group they have no other affiliation

The host of this meeting clearly has an outside affiliation. The meeting alienates other members who do not share the “outside belief” who seek recovery from sex and love addiction.

In addressing this issue, it is important to understand that those who feel racism around them often feel alienated and unheard. They cry for a voice, like many victims of social injustice. However, SLAA’s purpose is not to give them a voice on this issue. SLAA exists to counter the destructive consequences of sex and love addiction, Not to counter the destructive causes of racism. Further, not allowing then unheard voice to be heard outside the bounds of sex and love addiction does not make SLAA racist. It makes SLAA focused on its traditions. The SLAA preamble states:

As a fellowship S.L.A.A. has no opinion on outside issues and seeks no controversy. S.L.A.A. is not affiliated with any other organizations, movements or causes, either religious or secular. We are, however, united in a common focus: dealing with our addictive sexual and emotional behavior. We find a common denominator in our obsessive/compulsive patterns, which transcends any personal differences of sexual orientation or gender identity.

Perhaps SLAA should add the word “Race” to the end. For we do not exclude based on race. That would be racist.

Lastly, discussing a book called “White Fragility” could itself be viewed as racist. Would we discuss a book called “Christian Persecution of Homosexuality”, or “Misogyny and Date Rape” or “Misandrist Gold Diggers”? We would not. That doesn’t make us any less or more compassionate to these issues if and when a fellow has felt the boot of these issues as it pertains to sex and love addiction.

Response #2:

Without question this meeting is running contrary to the Traditions. It is not a recovery meeting, not an S.L.A.A. meeting.

Nevertheless, we have no opinion on this “meeting” nor on the issues of racism.

The questioner is asking for guidance. Don’t be afraid. Study the Concepts as well as the Traditions. Find a position of neutrality where we can be an example of recovery. Be confident that the Steps, the Traditions, and the Concepts will do their job leading us to the light. Trust that Higher Power will sort it out. Stay sober.

Response #3:

While I understand the concern with systemic and endemic racism that exists in the world and this country, addressing it in an SLAA meeting or workshop is very much in conflict with Tradition Five. Our common purpose is to help the addict who still suffers. This type of “educational” workshop is well outside of that common purpose.
This also presents a significant conflict with Tradition Ten, which states that we have no opinion on outside issues as it is the best way to stay out of public controversy. Aligning with any outside movement or philosophy could draw the fellowship into controversy, but this one is especially politically charged at the moment. It could be quite destructive to the membership if allowed to continue.

Response #4:

The traditions serve to protect and include people of all identities and ALL people (including people we disagree with politically) are equally deserving of inclusion, gentleness, tolerance, and adherence to the principles we embrace in this fellowship. And that both white people and people of color are capable of intolerant behavior and that perhaps intolerance is NOT a spiritual approach to undermining systemic racism. Wasn’t it Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. who said ”Hate cannot drive out hate. Only love can do that. Hate multiplies hate, violence multiplies violence, toughness multiplies toughness in a descending spiral of destruction.…?”

And yet…. we have the right to get it wrong. The traditions are principles. They cannot be used to “silence” anyone—because the only authority is a loving higher power. And while I agree that the workshop in question is outside the scope of our common purpose, the only authority on that is a loving higher power. Maybe it serves a purpose for now. When its purpose is served, it will cease to be attended. People are autonomous. People are free to attend or not attend. In my opinion, no person or group has the authority to “denounce” a workshop or a meeting, really—nor do we need it! We are self-governing. Each group is autonomous. I also believe it’s within the traditions for us to do nothing. Let God. Again, these are Traditions, not rules. In my opinion, race and identity are extremely relevant to sex and love addiction. I don’t feel that the traditions have any opinion one way or the other about people sharing about how their identity, race, sexuality and gender impact their sex and love addiction—to me it seems most relevant and within the traditions to acknowledge this.

But the traditions come into play when people use their identity politics to exclude anyone, to tell anyone else what to believe or how to act, or to justify any kind of abusive or violent behavior or speech. THIS is outside the traditions that bind us in unity. The traditions serve to remind us about the principles and there is wisdom within them that resonates with the God-given wisdom in each of us. I mean, I think the answer is, yes, its outside the scope of our common purpose, and if you’d like, you are free to attend. If it’s not helping people recover from SLAA, I think people won’t continue to attend it, and that’s all that needs to happen, really.

Response #5:

Tradition 2 states “For our group purpose there is but one ultimate authority — a loving God as this Power may be expressed through our group conscience. Our leaders are but trusted servants; they do not govern.” Based on Tradition 2, do we really have the authority to “do” anything about these meetings? Anyone can call themselves an SLAA group, doesn’t mean they are one. For example, I started a private SLAA Men’s Meeting with some friends in SLAA who weren’t vibing with the other Zoom meetings. This meeting is not on the SLAA Meeting List, but we do read the steps and traditions. We don’t deny people, but we also rarely invite new members. My point is I wouldn’t want anyone to try to shut our meeting down, nor do I think anyone would have the authority to. So, I guess, while I’m not crazy about some of the apparent messages in these new meetings, I trust that God’s got it!

Response #6:

Tradition 3 is helpful here I think. ” Any two or more persons gathered together for mutual aid in recovering from sex and love addiction may call themselves an S.L.A.A. group, provided that as a group they have no other affiliation.”

This definition is extremely roomy, which allows members to experiment and innovate with all kinds of meetings.

I do not think a Special Interest meeting of this kind would help me recover from sex and love addiction, but it may help our members of color. Who am I to presume to know best for other sex and love addicts?

The meeting might grow and multiply. Or it might remain small. Or close altogether. This has always been the organic way that 12 Step Fellowships grow and change over time to meet the needs of our diverse membership all over the world.

I prefer to live and let live, hand it over and let Gods Will be done.

Response #7:

First, we must remember that SLAA does not have any ‘rule enforcement’ body, nor any rules to speak of, so even if this meeting is found to be breaking traditions, there is nothing we can do to change what that meeting is doing. Tradition 4 reminds us that this meeting is autonomous, and therefore can do as it pleases.

Tradition 4 does also state that groups are autonomous ‘except in matters that affect SLAA as a whole’, and one could suppose that i the extrapolated outcomes were to take place, SLAA would be changed as a whole. However, there are a lot more steps to be taken before this one “rogue” meeting begins to affect the entirety of SLAA. I have not heard these matters mentioned at Intergroup yet, and even if they were, it would take a good couple years for any of these ideas to change the way our fellowship operates at the national level, through a few years of elected ABM Delegates attending the ABM, etc. Therefore, I’m not extremely afraid that any radical ideas, these or others, would rapidly change SLAA.

Now clearly this meeting is in violation of many traditions, if this meeting is taking place as is described in the submitted question. Tradition Five reminds us that each group has one primary purpose – to carry its message to the sex and love addict who still suffers. It is pretty obvious that what this meeting is described as doing does not conform with its primary purpose. The meeting also is violating Tradition Six by bringing in outside literature, and tying up the SLAA name with outside movements. It is also clear that the meeting is violating Tradition Ten in having opinion on outside issues, and, unlike in many situations involved in outside issues, it is, in fact, involved in public controversy.

Any group gathered together for the purposes of SLAA recovery may call themselves may call themselves an SLAA group, and that group is autonomous from SLAA as a whole and may do as it pleases. However, the caveat for Tradition 3, which says they may call themselves a group, is that it be provided they have no outside affiliation. This meeting is clearly affiliated with outside literature and an outside movement, and therefore cannot call itself an SLAA group. However, since 12 step programs have no enforcement bodies, SLAA as a whole cannot do anything to enforce these traditions. Anyone who is concerned about the outcome of these events is counseled not to worry, however, as these sorts of things tend to fizzle themselves out over time. A group will begin to wonder why one member has been secretary for so long, or why SLAA matters are not discussed. A group conscience will be taken, or members will leave to attend other meetings. This manner of thinking, motivated by outside issues, cannot spread to affect other meetings without a good deal of change happening at local Intergroup, nor can the fellowship as a whole be affected without a good deal of change at the national level.

I, myself, am far from a racist, and I do think the study of these books is very valuable. However, all politics are outside issues, as are ideologies and outside literature. Our common welfare comes first, as Tradition One teaches us, and we preserve this by sticking to our primary purpose, as outlined in Tradition 5. Meeting members can change this meeting from the inside, through their shares, through business meetings, through taking a group conscience, through leaving the meeting, etc. I have full faith that the group conscience, the manifestation of God leading our group affairs, as mentioned in Tradition 2, will solve this issue, in God’s time.

Response #8:

In my opinion the Fifth, Sixth and Tenth traditions are all being violated by this group. The Sixth Tradition -“A SLAA group ought never endorse, finance or lend the SLAA name to any related facility or outside enterprise, lest problems of money, property and prestige divert us from our primary purpose”- applies to this situation. SLAA is not an anti-racists organization. SLAA’s primary purpose is – to carry its message to the sex and love addict who still suffers- Tradition Five.

As a Black woman I do not look to SLAA for activism against the issues that affect me personally. One clarification that I would like to make is regarding the interpretation of Tradition 10. I don’t expect SLAA as an organization to take a position on the issue of Race and Racism. However, I do expect the meetings to be a safe place for me to share how Race and Racism affects my disease because that is a personal issue. I believe this is the correct interpretation of Tradition Ten. Tradition Ten has been used in meetings to silence People of Color from speaking about Race matters. I believe that is the incorrect interpretation of Tradition Ten. Many People of Color in SLAA do have a fear of being silenced by the White majority. But meetings for that specific demographic do exist in order to make it more comfortable for POC’s.

Because of the silencing of POC’s through the misinterpretation of Tradition Ten, I do understand why this group feels justified to promote their anti-racist curriculum.

Response #9:

I’d like to make two points. First, to me it seems clear that the type of meetings being held about racism diverges from two SLAA Traditions. Tradition 5: The member and the meetings described do not carry the message of recovery from sex and love addiction; rather, they focus on racism and how to be anti-racist alone, not how that’s relevant to SLAA. Tradition 10: The member and meetings can thus be said to be bringing in outside issues and drawing SLAA into public controversy (Tradition 10), most likely the Black Lives Matters and white supremacy movements very prevalent today. Members come to meetings to get sober and recover from sex and love addiction. Creating special topic meetings to support sobriety and recovery can be very helpful, but that’s not what the meetings seem to be doing. It might be more appropriate to refer SLAA members who want to learn how to overcome racism to another 12-step program called “recovery from white conditioning.”

Second, it wasn’t clear from the question what efforts have been made to engage this member in dialogue. Our society has changed a lot since AA was first founded. It’s important for SLAA and 12-step programs to be culturally sensitive to differences in members’ race, ethnicity, gender and sexual orientation, socioeconomic status, religious preferences, and so forth. Personally, when I first read the AA Big Book, which is often referenced at SLAA meetings I attend, I was taken aback by the heavy Christian and theistic overtones. I practice a very different spirituality and wondered how I could possibly work a 12-step program with so many references to God and that god was a “he.” I discovered that SLAA welcomes the use of Higher Power at meetings. Desperate to get sober from sex and love addiction, I learned to adapt. Through dialogue in fellowship and with my sponsor, I learned how to let go of feeling uptight when “God” was mentioned and to focus on recovery. I believe I am not alone in S.L.A.A. in this type of struggle with cultural sensitivity. However, there are ways to both honor the SLAA traditions and get our needs met, and dialogue is a great way to do that.

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The CSTCC is a group of volunteers, some of whom were ABM delegates, and others who volunteered out of interest. We do not represent a group conscience of S.L.A.A., but are committed to bringing thoughtful discussion and study of 12 Step Fellowship literature and experience to the questions that are brought to us. We offer this summary as the results of our discussions. We present the major points of concern in the hopes that wider discussion in the Fellowship will help us evolve our customs and practice of the S.L.A.A. program of recovery to better represent the loving guidance of a Higher Power. Always, we affirm the autonomy of each group and the need for each individual to follow her/his own conscience. No decision of this group, or any other, is ever forced upon another, even when we believe a practice is clearly in conflict with the Steps, Traditions, or Concepts.