DISCRIMINATION BASED ON PROFESSION – Is this a violation of Traditions?

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:
I am writing to you concerning the following matter;
We have invited a female SLAA member as a speaker.
However, when she passed on her email address, one member of the Intergroup has googled her.

He found out that she was having a company that supplied erotic devices, such as vibrators.
Based on this, the Intergroup has decided to refuse her to do service!
The claim was that she would be representing the SLAA in a negative way (?) and that she supplied tools that were addictive for some members.

Now I am outraged about this, first of all about the breach of Tradition 12
Furthermore; someone’s profession should not be an issue –
I am also an alcoholic and in the AA are respected members who work/ own restaurants, and are making money out of alcohol. – our drug of choice – but no problem there. He and she are free to do service.

One of my fellows is also a member of OA; they have a member there who has a bakery… and so making cakes (which also might be addictive)

We would like your view on this matter, since we do feel this situation, googling someone and based on private information, deciding that someone cannot do service based on very vague and unsubstantial reasons, is very harmful for SLAA as a whole.


Response #1:

I agree with the writer, our 12th Tradition says Anonymity is our foundation and we must place Principles before Personalities, so it was wrong to break the speaker’s anonymity.

First of all, they don’t know what she was going to share! It may have had nothing to do with her profession, and may have had a lot of recovery. Also, we’re here to learn healthy ways to express our sexuality, and “erotic devices” aren’t in and of themselves unhealthy.

Response #2:

I too am outraged when I hear about this incident. It seems to me our principles, those we are guided to practice daily, have been ignored.

Tradition Three tells us that only the individual can decide if they are a member of our Fellowship. Tradition Two states that our leaders are trusted servants; they do not govern. Tradition Five states we have but one primary purpose — to carry the message. Tradition Nine says we are not organized reiterating the fact that our servants, whom we trust, do not govern. Tradition Ten may be the most relevant here: we have no opinion on outside issues which erotic devices certainly are.

The Twelve Concepts are relevant to this issue as well. Not having been at the Intergroup meeting which is the subject of this question, it is unclear how democratic the process was. It is unclear if the minority opinion was allowed to be expressed and considered. It does seem that this is both an act of government and a personally punitive action, both of which are contrary to the Six Warranties as expressed in the Twelfth Concept.

Tradition Seven is also particularly relevant to this incident. We often think of Seven as it relates to the collection plate. Nevertheless, on a personal level it guides us to financially support ourselves. It does not tell us what kind of job we should have, nor what kind of business we might own. It doesn’t tell us we must have a business that fits someone else’s moral criteria. It does tell us that we need to take care of ourselves. Making a decision and a judgement regarding someone’s service based on their means of livelihood is clearly contrary to the spirit of this Tradition, and frankly to our entire program.

Tradition Twelve may not be particularly relevant in my opinion, at least not in terms of anonymity. This Tradition is about humility. It states that anonymity is the spiritual foundation of our program and that humility is our guidance for all of these principles. And so, having gone through a state of outrage, I’m reminded that my anger is an indication that there’s something amiss with my interior mental state. I must find that peaceful state of love and tolerance. It may be that the most relevant Tradition regarding this incident is Tradition Four: Each group is autonomous…

The question regarding any harm done to S.L.A.A. as a whole is a tricky one. I must remember that the Traditions, just like the Steps, are guidelines, not rules or regulations. Every time someone slips, someone loses their sobriety, it harms S.L.A.A. as a whole, but we are open minded enough to welcome them back, to encourage them to come back. For me, it is best to act the same way when a group, at whatever level, slips, when a group fails to live up to the spirit of the Traditions.

So, while I may frown to myself regarding the behavior of this intergroup, I also find it necessary to let go, to forgive.

Response #3:

I agree with the person writing the email. We are not to discriminate against others. It goes against the 12th tradition of anonymity. It’s their sobriety and recovery message that matter. Where we do draw the line is if they are actively involved in illegal matters. I personally know of a person in SLAA who sold adult toys, with very good recovery. This person did not bring the business into the rooms. Eventually the person chose to stop selling them after a long time in recovery. Such a person actually has a unique message and perspective which can be of great help to others who suffer. Some people have qualifiers at work they choose to still work with and they stay sober. They have a good message to share as well. It’s not easy or necessary for all individuals to break away from their economic means to stay sober.

Response #4:

I see 2 separate issues. Issue 1 is about whether the Intergroup was justified in barring the woman from speaking. Issue 2 is about whether it was justifiable for someone to (a) google her and (b) report the findings to the Intergroup.
Issue 1 – The Intergroup should serve its member groups which in turn serve the individual members within the groups. Tradition 1 provides that “our common welfare should come first.” It would seem that if the woman in question has a valuable message for those attending, then she ought to be allowed to make her presentation.
On the other hand, Tradition 4 does provide that “each group is autonomous except in matters affecting other groups or S.L.A.A. as a whole.” Could this be acceptable grounds for the Intergroup to cancel the woman’s service? I don’t think it would be acceptable to bar her from S.L.A.A. as that would be a violation of Tradition 3. But that is not the question here; it is a question of accepting her offer of service. I believe it is up to each group (and Intergroup) to decide on the requirements for service by a member, and these requirements typically require a minimum length of time in the program, and sometimes a minimum length of time of sobriety. I have never heard of someone being denied an opportunity to do service due to their occupation or business.
Issue 2 – I think the acts of googling the woman, and reporting the results to the Intergroup were clear violations of Traditions 11 and 12. If the Intergroup’s motive was just to ensure the emotional safety of its other members, that is indeed commendable. However, it is important to respect each member’s anonymity and personal space. There is a reason that we do not reveal our individual last names in program. We need to be able to feel secure when we come into the rooms. In order to proceed with our recovery we have to allow ourselves to be open, honest and vulnerable; in order to do that, we need to be sure that our vulnerability is not exploited or exposed. We need to feel secure that we are not being subjected to judgmentalism. Even worse, the woman in question may be justified in feeling her privacy was invaded.

Response #5:

I am outraged by this as well but now my issue is that this is all hearsay and also gossip as I don’t have the whole story and I’m not a part of this fellowship. I think forgiveness and working towards education about the traditions is the best solution and, while I choose to focus and practice the principles of recovery (which are many) i have compassion for others who are stifled in the recovery process.

Response #6:

I unfortunately don’t feel I have enough information to form an opinion regarding whether the fellow in question should speak. It seems, at the surface reading of this situation, that the decision to reject this fellow’s service is based on her personal decisions regarding providing erotic toys to the public. My question would be “Is she sober? What does her program look like? What are her bottom lines? Does she have a reasonable period of time under her belt, where she is free from acting out behaviors? Does she have experience/strength and hope to share with other members of the fellowship?” These are all criteria I would think an Intergroup would base choosing their panel participants and speakers.

It seems in this day and age, people tend to be focusing more on what they perceive to be awful, horrible traits in people’s personal lives, rather than their record of service and current sobriety. I understand people have personal opinions and personal preferences regarding the “type of person” they want to see fulfill positions of public service. However at this level of spiritual recovery, where we are providing hope and acting-out alternatives for other members of the fellowship who need respite from a progressive and often aggressive disease, it seems the priority becomes investigating who this particular fellow in question is in relation to their program and their sobriety.

We also have to remember there may be more to the story than just “vibrators.” Would the entire intergroup be opposed simply because of vibrators? Is pornography a part of her industry as well? While not a personal issue for myself, I could clearly understand why that might be an issue for a lot of people who identify as sex addicts, or have had issues controlling their behaviors as sex workers, or as people identifying with addictions to pornography and/or masturbation. But without that information, I couldn’t make a practical decision. Based on the simplicity of what the question presents, it does not seem right to discriminate against a potential speaker because she sells vibrators. But in my experience serving at higher levels of public service, I find there is often more to the issue than is being presented. I am curious to hear from the Intergroup before advocating on behalf of this particular erotic-tool saleslady, because truly, the common welfare does come first. Personal recovery depends upon SLAA unity, and if the Intergroup is unified in not allowing this person to speak, it seems the group conscious has spoken. And perhaps the fellow who is outraged at the outcome of this vote within their Intergroup can examine where their outrage is limiting their ability to allow certain groups to perhaps make mistakes. Every group is autonomous, which means every group has the right to do things wrong. They may not have been able to let their fears regarding this particular fellow’s profession go; they may be exercising judgment based on those fears and the need to control; however it may be exactly the healing this individual needs–to recognize things don’t always go the way they individually would like, but out of respect for the fellowship as a whole, they can allow the decision to stand, and perhaps reach out personally to that fellow and invite her to speak at an individual meeting they represent.

Again, without knowing the full context of the issue, it’s difficult for me to navigate solutions. However one immediately popped into my mind, which would be to invite the fellow to speak about what it’s like balancing their program with a potentially acutely triggering profession, and what the challenges and victories have been for her over the years. Similar to having a successful alcoholic bar owner or a compulsive eater who also is a top chef speak to their recovery audience, about how when aligned with higher power and working the steps of recovery, they did not have to give up on important aspects of life that bring them joy and revenue.

A simple conflict like the one presented often ignites emotion; feelings of injustice and/or upset. However I sat on this question for quite some time, and after my initial flabbergasted thoughts quieted down, I recognized there are always multiple narratives in a story, not just the one. And I have learned not to make decisions if I am feeling even close to “outrage.” My emotional sobriety today leans on the recognition that I am safe, protected, and connected to a higher power. External threats no longer disrupt this core alignment I have since discovered by practicing living within the steps and traditions of the fellowships, as well as within the triangle of Unity, Service, and Recovery, which I practice in AA.

My instinct is to find the recovery in this situation, if the decision has already been made. If there is an opportunity for an appeal to the Intergroup, it may behoove the group to reexamine this decision and appeal to the minority, if there is one, who stands in favor of allowing this fellow to speak. Once the minority has been heard from, the group can take a second vote. And if not enough votes are cast in favor of allowing this person to speak to qualify as a majority (I believe it’s 2/3?) I think the decision needs to stand. And there is always the option for someone in the group to call a challenge to the group conscience, in which an immediate yes or no vote is called to determine whether the final decision of the previous vote truly represents the group conscience. There is no discussion at this point–the group simply votes yes or no, and the most number of votes in either direction will decide it the decision will be carried out.

I recognize there seem to be several tradition violations regarding investigating this fellow’s background, and that is a good learning opportunity to present to the group for the future, but it seems the damage has already been done, and the real question is how does this group move forward with their convention in an effective and healthy way?

Response #7:

I think we can all agree that googling a fellow member is an extremely unfortunate violation of their anonymity. I only hope that this experience hasn’t scared this member (or anyone else) away from the program entirely, jeopardizing her (or anyone else’s) sobriety and recovery.

The third Tradition strikes me as especially relevant in this situation. The only requirement for SLAA membership is a desire to stop living out a pattern of sex and love addiction. In the 12 & 12 of Alcoholics Anonymous, Tradition Three talks about how fearful they all were, in the beginning, that somebody would “break” the group, that “something or somebody would capsize the boat and dump us all back into the drink.” They didn’t want to be associated with “beggars, tramps, asylum inmates, prisoners, queers, plain crackpots, and fallen women.” Obviously, they soon saw the error of their ways, and Tradition Three was the result.

None of us has any right to judge another, their disease, or their recovery. The disease is self-diagnosed and sobriety is self-defined. Period.

One of the greatest things about anonymity is that, in the program, we are all equals. A recovering addict who also happens to work in recovery, or one who’s a therapist, is no more sober than anyone else. Not one of us is an “expert” on recovery from sex and love addiction. We are all equals, we are all in this together and we are all, every single one of us, only sober one day at a time. When we are asked to speak, whether it’s at a meeting, on a panel, or at a convention, we can only share our own personal story of recovery. We share our own experience, strength and hope. We are not a “representative” of SLAA. And as those fearful, early AAers discovered, no one member has the power to “capsize the boat,” no matter how sordid their past (or even their present).

Response #8:

I agree that the action taken by a one member to seek out personal information about a fellow member appears to be in conflict with Tradition 12. One of the important aspects of the spiritual principle of Anonymity is that who we are outside of the fellowship is not relevant to who we are in the fellowship. Outside issues such as jobs, income, living arrangement, faith, and political affiliation should not be sought out or brought into the program. Tradition 12 teaches us the importance of humility, and respect for others personal recovery and safety.
The action taken by the intergroup appears to be in conflict with Tradition 3. Tradition 3 indicates there is only one requirement for membership; a desire to stop living out a pattern of sex and love addiction. If there is a self defined desire, then that individual is an equal member of the fellowship. We are not entitled to sit in judgement of another members qualifications.
And, there could also be a conflict with Tradition 4. While each group (or Intergroup) is autonomous, an action should not be taken that affects SLAA as a whole. While this action may not affect the entire worldwide fellowship, it could have a very negative impact on the local region. The sharing of personal information and then passing judgment on an individual’s recovery could have a chilling effect on many members feeling of safety and trust.
Lastly, Tradition 1 informs us that personal recovery is dependent upon our Unity. These types of actions could lead to disharmony and distrust, and could cause members to leave the fellowship. My recommendation for resolving the issue is that the Intergroup take a Group Inventory using the Twelve Traditions, and then take the necessary Step based action indicated by the inventory.

Response #9:

I agree that the action taken by a one member to seek out personal information about a fellow member appears to be in conflict with Tradition 12. One of the important aspects of the spiritual principle of Anonymity is that who we are outside of the fellowship is not relevant to who we are in the fellowship. Outside issues such as jobs, wealth, living arrangement, faith, and political affiliation should not be sought out or brought into the program. Tradition 12 teaches us the importance of humility, and respect for others personal recovery and safety.
The action taken by the intergroup appears to be in conflict with Tradition 3. Tradition 3 indicates there is only one requirement for membership; a desire to stop living out a pattern of sex and love addiction. If there is a self defined desire, then that individual is an equal member of the fellowship. We are not entitled to sit in judgment of another members qualifications.
And, there could also be a conflict with Tradition 4. While each group (or Intergroup) is autonomous, an action should not be taken that affects SLAA as a whole. While this action may not affect the entire worldwide fellowship, it could have a very negative impact on the local region. The sharing of personal information and then passing judgment on an individual’s recovery could have a chilling effect on many members feeling of safety and trust.
Lastly, Tradition 1 informs us that personal recovery is dependent upon our Unity. These types of actions could lead to disharmony and distrust, and could cause members to leave the fellowship. My recommendation for resolving the issue is that the Intergroup take a Group Inventory using the Twelve Traditions, and then take the necessary Step based action indicated by the inventory.


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.