BOTTOM LINE DEFINITIONS IN A LEADERSHIP ROLE – is it appropriate for the chair of a meeting to share regarding activities which might break the bottom line of another member?

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:
In a group, one member considers that having sexual relationships with a married person is sober behavior. Since that person serves as the Chair of the meeting, there was strong preoccupation about the impact it might have on a newcomer. Members in the group thought it was not appropriate, but did not know what to do and are seeking counsel.


To me, this question presents a moral dilemma. In the Judeo-Christian world, this would be considered as a violation of morals; although that is not the focus of the response, you should know that I am highly influenced by these standards.

From the question is is difficult to ascertain whether or not this behavior is a Bottom-Line behavior for the inquirer. This is one of those situations where we must tread lightly due to the feelings of many within our rooms.

This sort of behavior could be a violation of Tradition 1, regarding “personal recovery depends on S.L.A.A. unity.” The fact that the group is divided on the issue, indicates to me that this is considered to be inappropriate behavior and could have a negative effect on both the newcomer and the long-timer.

Tradition 2 speaks to the ultimate authority: a loving God as this power may be expressed through our group conscience. If he group were to determine at a group conscience meeting that this is a behavior that is either wrong or inappropriate as a subject to be discussed within a meeting, every member should respect that decision and refrain from discussing this situation in a meeting.

Since the only requirement for S.L.A.A. membership is the desire to stop acting out in our personal bottom-line behaviors, according to Tradition 3, if having sex with married individuals were a bottom-line behavior for one member, the group should respect that as a boundary which should not be crossed by those who would not be opposed to this sort of activity.

By means of comparison, if we have members who have Internet pornography as a bottom line and there were one person in the group who could view it on occasion and not be affected, that one person should have the respect for other members for whom this is a difficulty. Another example would be masturbation; for one member it could be a bottom-line; but for others, it could be a healthy behavior.

We cannot dictate the bottom line of another member, but we should respect that member’s bottom-lines and not to encourage behavior which would have a negative effect on their recovery. Common sense and good judgment should prevail in the meeting in order to maintain the unity and focus of the opinion. If someone were to defend one of my bottom-line behaviors at a meeting, I would have to look for another meeting in which I would not be triggered.

That’s my opinion regarding this question; you may disagree, but please respect my right to hold this opinion, just as I respect your right to your opinion.

Questions about individual definitions of bottom line sobriety have always been left to the conscience of the person who has them.  The Basic Text reminds us that any short-sighted definitions of sobriety will surely result in that individual being drawn back into the addiction again. We do not answer to each other, but to the addiction itself. The autonomy of each individual in defining their own bottom lines has been an important principle in preserving unity in our fellowship (Tradition 1), because the disease of sex and love addiction has so many forms in which it may appear. Our focus has always been on sharing as individuals the message of how we use the 12 Steps and 12 Traditions to get sober and to preserve that sobriety.

The second concern about the individual in a leadership role in a local SLAA meeting openly representing sex with a married person as sober may suggest a need for some action to be sure newcomers do not come to believe that standard in some way has the stamp of SLAA approval.  In my opinion there is  no way to address this directly even when others do not agree with that individual’s own bottom line definitions.  However, I might share at a meeting how important it is in my own sobriety to be aware of others who may be hurt by my behavior, as well as the need to honor my own standards for sobriety. The question of hurt comes when I am dishonest about what I am doing. If I feel that it is bottom line sober to have more than one sexual partner, I believe each one needs to know that I am not being monogamous and am currently sexually active with more than one person, and about what precautions I am taking to prevent any transmission of disease. Honesty with ourselves and others is a basic spiritual value, so they are free to make their own choices. Deception of others, even with the pretense that such secrecy protects that person from harm who is being deceived, under any spiritual principles, is not honest.

If both, or all, sexual partners were fully aware that there were other sexual partners of mine, and were not hurt or troubled by that reality, I might consider it sober. Then my concern would be whether the pursuit of sex in those relationships was honoring each of them as whole, spiritual beings, preserving their dignity and my own as such. Finally, I would want to be sure that I was not neglecting some other important area of my life to pursue these multiple relationships. My time and activities must include an honest day’s work, other family members, my community, and my personal growth as an individual. My sober life needs to consider all my needs as a complex human being, including my own spiritual growth, and all my values and important areas of my life, work, family, and obligations to my community and my recovery family, should be in reasonable balance.

I might also want to share that about myself to newcomers, but without seeming to be accusatory or referring to the other members. Newcomers cannot be led into sobriety by any one individual’s conception of sobriety and recovery from sex and love addiction. They will always have to make the decisions themselves what they have decided they want in our Fellowship, and whose examples they will choose to follow. I did my own pre-recovery research on multiple sexual partners and deception. No one could have sold me on the idea that recovery involved the same behaviors.

In S.L.A.A., since Tradition 3 allows for belonging to the Fellowship only on the basis of the desire to recover and since the definition of sobriety stems from self- defined bottom lines, it becomes difficult to judge such definition.

Of course, moral standards in a said society will influence the view on somebody else’s bottom lines, but I see that it is true that what is triggering for somebody might not be for somebody else.

There is also the question of honesty towards our powerlessness and sobriety itself. Step one warns us about various strategies Sex and Love Addicts might resort to in order to avoid admitting total powerlessness and surrendering. But such issues will usually evolve with step work and continued recovery and would be most likely addressed in a sponsor/sponsee relationship or through individual sharing.

However, as I understand from the preoccupation expressed in the question, the group feels threatened by the impact of someone in a “leading” position with a sobriety definition that is not seen as sober on a newcomer.

That’s when I think this becomes a unity issue that should be considered with respect to Tradition one which is, in turn, usually addressed through group conscience.

However, it is a delicate issue, and Tradition 3 about the sole desire to recover in order to belong should be considered carefully. Maybe the group conscience could address the issue through using Triggers as a resource. Personal communication with the member can also be used.

Finally, a Chairs position in a group is usually a one month term only. The impact might be minimal. Although I believe loving flexibility and guidance can be used, traditions 1 and 2 allow for the groups to discuss their position about such an issue.  For example, the group might want to set general standard on occupying a leading position with regards to personal bottom lines’ sobriety, again with the guidance of a loving Higher Power.

That was not a simple and easy question to answer. I just humbly shared my view on it today with my today’s level of recovery. May it be of some use for your reflection.

I think each member sets their own bottom line and determines their sobriety themselves.

It seems to me like the group might be selecting which newcomers they want and which they do not.

What about an older person who has adult children and grandchildren, but is gay or bisexual and no longer interested in having sex with their spouse. Can they make an agreement to each have sex with others, but remain married for a large number of financial and social reasons as they enjoy living together and having their children, grandchildren and many friends come to visit their home?

Why should they have to get a divorce or have to be celibate? Perhaps their religion suggests this.  But in S.L.A.A. religion is an outside issue.  Perhaps their religions permit being legally married to one person and having sex with another.

I have friends who are not in 12 Step programs, who will soon be celebrating 40 years together. They are both male and one is still legally married to his wife after 40 years living with his male partner and not with his wife. They go to church and their church accepts there relationships. If one of them soon became a newcomer to S.L.A.A. what would the Steps, Traditions, and bottom lines say about their relationships? In my opinion there is nothing to say. Their relationships and sobriety are of their choice. SLAA has nothing to say about their relationships which are an outside issue.

A number of years ago I attended an S.L.A.A. meeting where, regularly, every week, a man shared about having sex with a married woman. No one ever said anything to him and as far as I could tell no one ever said anything negative about it to anyone. It was considered something which was his business and his business alone and no one discussed it positively or negatively.

I believe that some newcomers would feel safer if the chair of the meeting shared about having sex with a married person. This might vary depending on the religious values of the newcomer. Do we cater to newcomers with certain religious values?  I think we should not.

Tradition 1 is about unity. I do not think we can have unity if we pick, choose and discriminate regarding the different religious values of our members, accepting some and trying to change others.

Tradition 3 is about membership requirements. I do not think we can require specific religious values of our members.

Tradition 4 states that each group should be autonomous except in matters affecting other groups or S.L.A.A. as a whole. I think creating requirements about religious values for chairs would affect S.L.A.A. as a whole and would therefore be in conflict with Tradition 4.

Tradition 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. I think having sex with a married person, all by itself, is an outside issue. There might be reasons to not have sex with a specific person, who happens to be married. However, some people are in committed monogamous relationships and are not married. So the legal or religious status of being married is an outside issue. There are many reasons to not have sex with specific people, the status of marriage is not a defining factor that applies in all situations.


What do you think?
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.