ANONYMITY BREAK IN A SHARE – how can we handle a breach of confidentiality by a 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:
During the getting current portion of a recent meeting, one member began to share about other members of the program who are currently suffering with their sex and love addiction issues. If he had just shared in a very general way that he knows of certain members who are currently struggling, I would have had no problem with what he was saying. However, he gave enough pertinent information regarding these individuals that everyone present knew the identity of the persons about whom he was speaking.

I feel that by sharing that information, he was definitely gossiping about another member but also violating the anonymity of the persons who are currently struggling. I might add that both of the persons spoken of had recently visited this particular meeting.

I am asking for some feedback regarding this incident.


This is a very delicate situation which the group will have to deal with very carefully. I know of many groups who have a statement which is read at the beginning of the meeting that says that if someone is sharing something which is inappropriate or triggering, that anyone may quietly hold up their hand so that the person might be aware and change the manner of sharing. Every meeting I have ever attended has a statement at the end of the meeting which says that the things which we have heard at the meeting should stay at the meeting.

The heart of the matter is that to share about another’s struggles in such a way that everyone knows who is being referenced appears to be a violation of Traditions 11 and 12 regarding anonymity. Although I do not make any secret of the fact that I am in S.L.A.A., I still do not want any difficulties which I might be experiencing spread around to other meetings by a member who does not regard the necessity to keep these matters confidential. This sort of behavior seems to fall into the area of being gossip which could be seen as a violation of

Tradition 1 because it disrupts the unity of the group. In spreading gossip or rumors about another member we would appear to also be in violation of the spirit of Traditions 4 and 10 regarding personal inventory, not a public inventory. The only inventory I am qualified to do is that of myself and no one else.

If this sort of activity were going on at a meeting I attend, I would be hesitant to share anything which I am struggling with due to the fact that what I had shared would likely be shared at another meeting. We all need a place where we can feel safe in sharing about our difficulties and where I can go for the support of the group; to not have that available to me puts me in jeopardy of acting out. I realize that some members have very poor boundaries, but we cannot allow our meetings to become weak or even sick because of one individual.

I believe that a Group Conscience is in order for a situation such as this and that two or three members speak with this individual in order to attempt to rectify the situation. The reason for multiple members meeting with the individual is for the safety of the spokesperson and to demonstrate the unity of the group regarding the matter of safety and security.

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For me, the first tradition hit by such a situation is Tradition Twelve, about anonymity being the spiritual foundation of all our traditions. I believe that in every way we share we should, of course, place principles over personalities,  but also respect any other member’s anonymity. Practicing this spiritual principle might be a good vehicle for recovery, while ensuring security in the group.

Also, Tradition Three could also be concerned. Since the only requirement to belong to the fellowship is to want to stop living out a pattern of sex and love addiction, I don’t think anyone should be allowed commenting on anybody else’s recovery or struggles.

Finally, with regards to Tradition One, in order to support unity in the group, security of the group ought to be fostered as much as possible.

This might have to be discussed in group conscience (Tradition Two) in this particular group, but many groups have in the Animator’s Guide some encouragement to share about one’s own experience and stick to an I message. Furthermore, once such invitation is provided before the shares, members can also be invited to raise their hands to allow the Chair to intervene

if someone does not respect the request for anonymity, or, as another example, if someone is being too explicit about what they are going through. The Chair could then gently remind the member to come back to an “I message”, as, if one needs to talk about somebody else’s path, it really is usually because something in being triggered in that person. In raising his/her hand to express discomfort in such a setting, the member takes responsibility for oneself while receiving support from the Chair. Also, I believe it can teach members in the group that you have some power on protecting the meetings environment and sense of safety.

I have personally raised my hand a few times in such circumstances and was respected. Eventually we had a group conscience to discuss how we could discourage discomforting attitudes or behaviors and either modified our Facilitator’s Guide or designated some member to talk personally to a person which might share in an inappropriate way in a recovery group setting.


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.