LANGUAGE FROM OTHER FELLOWSHIPS – Is this acceptable in an S.L.A.A. Meeting?

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 recently moved to a new city and have found that many members of SAA go to SLAA and bring the SAA language to the SLAA meeting, such as saying “inner circle”, etc. (meanwhile there are plenty of SAA meetings they could go to but they do not choose to go them). Also they talk about how they worked the steps but leave out how they work them from the SAA green book. I feel this is very confusing to newcomers and other members as well. The fellowship is very new here so I am worried it will affect the groups. I have been reading the SLAA traditions and have read the AA traditions and I am wondering your opinion on this issue. Is that considered an “outside issue” or is this up to each group to decide if they will tolerate another groups language at their SLAA meeting?


Response #1:

The question being asked it whether using terminology from another program is an outside issue or if it is up to each group to decide if they are okay with it. My interpretation of the Traditions is that both statements are correct.

Tradition 5 indicates that our primary purpose is to carry the message to the addict that still suffers. When we use terminology from another program, it can be confusing for newcomers and even for people with some time in program. It would be an outside issue, and could affect the ability of the meeting to carry the message of our fellowship.

Tradition 4 indicates that each meeting is autonomous except where it could affect the fellowship as a whole. Since it seems very unlikely that it would affect the fellowship, it really is a meeting issue. The meeting could choose to limit use of non-program terms, or to leave things as they currently are.

I have experienced some version of this issue for the whole time I have been in this program. It is fairly common for SLAA members in my area to speak of other addictions and often other programs in shares. I have and will continue to bring up Tradition 4, but during the meeting it is only when someone is making announcements about other program meetings and functions. To me, that is clearly over the line. But, when it comes to contents of an individuals share, I typically give that over to my Higher Power. I have spoken to members about using conference approved literature and keeping the focus on SLAA, but then left the outcome to the individual and group conscience.

I recommend bringing it up for discussion in the group, and explain why it concerns you. It could bring the whole group together in working out a solution.

Response #2:

Certainly the Traditions guide us that each group makes their own decisions and that is what your group should do. The spirit of the Steps and Traditions also suggests that “everybody is welcome.”

I have strong opinions on this issue. I really love the sentence in the AA’s Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions in the long form of Tradition Three: “Our membership ought to include all who suffer…” I feel the same way about S.L.A.A. as Bill W felt about AA. All who suffer ought to be included.

It’s unfortunate that there exists five or six different Twelve Step organizations focused on sex and/or love. In my opinion there is only one Fellowship, and that Fellowship includes all who suffer. Perhaps there are even other organizations dedicated to serving sex and/or love addicts that I am unaware of. There is only one disease. It is a disease of intimacy. We can certainly point out the defects in many of the organizations. Mostly they focus too much on lust and not enough on relationships. After all, it is our broken relationships with our fellow human beings that is the foundation of our addiction. All of us in ‘S’ recovery, no matter which organization we include ourselves in, have a disease of intimacy whether we call it that or not.

None of the ‘S’ fellowships are perfect. Neither are any of us.

I suppose we should be flattered that five different 12 Step Service organizations are competing for our loyalty and attention. It would be much better, however, if we had only one organization that served our needs. Our service would be more focused, our costs would be reduced, and we would serve more addicts. The fractured situation we find ourselves in hampers our ability to serve the addict who still suffers. We should be focussed on the addict who still suffers — the Fellowship of all sex and/or love addicts — rather than on the purity or clarity of one particular organization.

The question submitted brings up a number of Traditions and touches on the Concepts as well:
● The key for me is Tradition 9 — “S.L.A.A. as such ought never to be organized, but we may create service boards or committees directly responsible to those they serve.” — we tend to think we have a leadership, a governance, when in fact we have trusted servants. The Fellowship of all who suffer, guided by their Higher Power, is our only authority
● Tradition 2 (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) makes this idea clear.
● In Tradition 1 we focus on “our common welfare.” We could be narrow minded and contend that Tradition 1 refers to the organization S.L.A.A. or, preferably, in a more spiritual way we could understand that all sex and/or Love addicts are united by their common disease.
● Tradition 3 clearly states the one and only requirement for membership in our Fellowship is a desire to stop acting out. The specific words in each Organization’s rendering of the Tradition vary slightly. They are not really any different. It is in this Tradition that we often get hung up. The purpose and meaning of “no other affiliation” is to make sure we focus only on our primary purpose and not on anything else. This Tradition was not developed to create barriers between us as addicts. It was created to maintain independence from political causes, therapeutic or medical approaches, religious affiliations and the like. I know we are different than AA, but the members of each S Fellowship are not that different from each other.
● Tradition 5 provides us with our one and only primary purpose. Can it be stated any more clearly that it is our job now to help the addict who still suffers no matter which tribe he or she belongs to.
● Tradition 10 enforces Tradition 5 by guiding us to avoid outside issues. The multiplicity of organization dedicated to recovery from sex and/or love addiction is not an outside issue. We are talking about addicts with our disease and how we can help each other.
● Tradition 12 is about our spiritual foundation which is humility. Are we humble if we focus on the differences between all of the sex and love addicts that belong to multiple ‘S’ organizations? Are we humble if we focus on separating ourselves? I think not. We exhibit humility by being willing to learn and support each other.

SAA and S.L.A.A. use the same Traditions and the same Steps. One was founded in late 1976 in Boston and the other in early 1978 in Minneapolis. They each have a basic text and each guards their individual organization rigorously. All of the ‘S’ Organizations have developed an organizational ego that gets in the way of serving those who suffer. There are some S.L.A.A. meetings that are like SAA meetings and some SAA meetings that are like S.L.A.A. meetings. Whether we say “bottom lines” or “inner circles” is simply a matter of dialect.

Reading the texts of each organization suggests that the differences are cosmetic. Each talks about sexual and emotional anorexia; each talks about romantic obsession; each talks about compulsion, shame, denial. The similarities are too great to deny.

Not tolerating any specific language at a meeting — which is suggested in the question — is an action of government, something the Traditions guide us against, and the Concepts clearly advise us against (Concept 12 “The Conference observes the spirit of S.L.A.A. Tradition taking care…that it never perform acts of government…”). The openness to speak from our experiences both in sickness and in recovery is key to our program.

One other point that is slightly off topic, but still relevant, is how we all find our way to an ‘S’ fellowship. I have only met one person in the last twenty years that researched all the Organizations before committing to one of them. Everyone else was guided to one or another by a therapist, a member of the clergy, a sponsor in another 12 Step Fellowship, or even by a random internet search for a meeting. Generally once we attend our first meeting we are loyal to that meeting and that organization no matter which one it happens to be. My early sponsor encouraged me to attend all of them and see which one was right for me. I did that and I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s not about the individual ‘S’ Organizations, but about the personality of the individual meetings no matter which organization they say supports them, no matter which book they use. We are all trying to achieve sobriety and a comfortable, peaceful life. We are all trying to trust our higher power, clean house, and help others.

I hope my rambling response has been helpful. I do believe my opinion is in the minority. Nonetheless I feel strongly about this issue. All of the ‘S’ Organizations are disregarding, even violating, Tradition 1 by failing to be unified. Nonetheless, this is the reality we have been given. The question is only how we go about living with fragmentation. The opportunity you have been in front of you, to interact with members of another tribe, is a great gift.

Our goal is to work with all Sex and/or Love Addicts. Exclusion of one or the other because they belong to a different tribe is contrary to the spirit of the Steps, is contrary to our principles. We are given a blueprint that steers us toward finding the similarities, not the differences. While your meeting may handle this situation in whatever way it wishes, I hope that the spirit of camaraderie, friendship, and cooperation will win out.

Response #3:

This is an interesting question, and I’m not sure there is a black and white answer.

Tradition Three tells us that the only requirement for membership is a desire to stop living out a pattern of sex and love addiction. Therefor, these SAA members are welcome to attend SLAA meetings, as long as they have that desire. However, Tradition Five speaks to our singleness of purpose. Discussion of outside issues (including other 12-step programs) can certainly cloud that purpose and should be avoided. However, it is also ultimately up to the only authority – a loving higher power as expressed in our group conscience – to decide how important this is to the group. It’s possible that there may many other people in the group who also see this as a problem, but it’s also possible that there may be many people in the group who feel that it’s not that big a deal.

I’m reminded of Tradition Three in the AA 12 & 12, where it talks about how, in the early days of AA, they were all scared that “something or somebody would capsize the boat and dump us all back into the drink.” I think it’s only natural to worry for the health of our meetings, which we depend so heavily upon, many of us for our very lives. I do find that it’s usually worth speaking up when I see something that goes against the Traditions. But I also must remind myself that the meeting has a higher power, and that things will work out in the way that they’re supposed to.

Response #4:

The short answer is that each meeting is autonomous unless it affects the fellowship as a whole. So each meeting can decide whether the meeting allows SAA terminology. (Tradition 4)
It is good that the new city you live in has thriving ‘S’ fellowships, many areas do not have that choice. I was at a SLAA retreat and my roommate was from a state where they only 3 ‘S’ meetings in the state, 1 SLAA and 2 SAA so many people would go to both.
I believe that you work the steps as your sponsor has you work them, not based on a share you hear at a meeting or fellowship. Those are for people to share what worked for them and not necessarily to be taken as direction on how you should work the steps. However, if something in how they worked the steps resonates it might be worth it either to ask the speaker to sponsor you, or to discuss that with your sponsor. The purpose of the program is not to work the steps perfectly, but to learn how to stop living out a pattern of sex and love addiction. (Tradition 3) My sponsor came from AA and I worked the steps more from the AA ‘Big Book’
I started in recovery in SAA, then I found it didn’t focus enough on the love addiction aspect of my disease. I also go to a third fellowship. For me working the three programs complement each other and makes my recovery stronger. I am active in all 3 fellowships.
I don’t think you should say just because you go to another program, you can’t be a member of SLAA. Where the traditions might come into play here is the last clause of Tradition 3 “provided that as a group they have no other affiliation.” Does this meeting consider itself a combined SAA / SLAA meeting or an SLAA meeting? If so it may violate tradition 3.
Our Primary purpose (Tradition 5) is “to carry its message to the sex and love addict who still suffers.” Quoting Deng Xiaoping “It doesn’t matter if a cat is black or white, so long as it catches mice”, to me it doesn’t matter how you work the program or if you use other fellowships materials as long as it helps you to “stop living out a pattern of sex and love addiction.”


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.