PROFANITY IN MEETINGS – This question contains language some may find offensive

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.

Please note, the following question contains language some might find offensive. In the spirit of preserving the originator’s intent, we have left the original text.

The Question:
Is there anyone who would rather see me act out than say fuck in a meeting? I have never been kicked out of a face to face meeting because I said fuck. Exactly where is it in the traditions that gives anyone the power to enforce a dress code? I did not come on to anybody. I did not verbally abuse anybody. I just said fucking awesome to celebrate someone’s freedom from acting out.

Then the “gentle” reminder came. So I’d like to “gently” remind to whom it may concern, that we are dealing with a potentially fatal illness here, and quibbling over my choice of words has no place here.  I fucking need recovery and no one has the right to deny me because of my choice of words! This is bullshit!  I’ve never been kicked out of a face to face meeting because of cuss words, so what makes you think you have the right to deny me recovery over cuss words?!?

I’m not apologizing for my choice of words, but I was a little harsh coming down on them about it.  They did not give me a chance to negotiate at all.  This is not a matter on the group level like what the format of the meeting should be.  This is an issue involving access to the tools of recovery.  This group is clearly in breach of the traditions.  You are absolutely capable of requiring adherence to the traditions for all groups.  You are capable of letting them know that if they do not wish to follow the traditions, then they will have to start their own group. If there ever was a time to intervene, this is it.  A group has no right to deny any member access to the tools of recovery based on petty personal peeves.  Verbal abuse and sexual harassment are the only reasonable grounds for dismissal and if a group kicks someone off without just cause, there needs to be a way to hold them accountable.  Minorities are granted the right to appeal any decision according to the traditions and concepts.

My view is that it is your responsibility to provide access to ALL addicts seeking recovery.  That means if I am facing discrimination in a meeting and you are not willing to hold that meeting accountable, then it is your responsibility to provide me with an alternative.  Personally, I think you owe me and people like me a meeting where we are welcome, where we do not govern, the only requirement for membership is a desire for recovery, and we place principles before personalities.

I am going to be appalled if there is no means in this fellowship to seek the redress of grievances and hold groups accountable.  Groups can not be allowed to discriminate and kick people out without just cause.  Certainly not for some hypothetical person with severe PTSD who pisses themselves every time somebody says fuck.  I’m ok with separating meetings, but these separate meetings should be equally available.


Response #1:
My comments are not binding and do not speak for SLAA as a whole. I include the CSTCC
committee’s mission statement here for reference:

Mission Statement
The mission of the Committee is to provide thoughtful comment and insight from our personal experiences, to any questions relating to the Steps, Traditions and Concepts. These comments come from various members with varying lengths of experience from all parts of the world. Our comments are neither binding nor authoritative; we do not speak for the whole of S.L.A.A.

You are absolutely correct that this is a fatal illness. We have the Steps to personally recover, and we have the Traditions to protect us — all of us — from the ravages of this disease. One of the key concepts in the Traditions (as well as in the Twelve Concepts) is the upside down triangle. That is, the meetings are the top level of our structure. Also, the Traditions remind us that this is a service structure, not a governing body. We do not, we cannot, intervene. That is, FWS, the Board of Trustees, the Conference, the Intergroups — no one — can tell a meeting what to do.
It seems odd, but the meetings—each meeting in SLAA—is free to operate how it wishes. They are even free to ignore the Traditions and there is nothing anyone in SLAA can do about it. We have only two authorities (the same as any Twelve Step fellowship) which are a spiritual Higher Power and the disease itself. If any meeting is, as you suggest this meeting is, “in breach of the traditions” then they will have to face the disease as it manifests itself by their failure to operate within the spirit of our Traditions.

You suggest that kicking a member out of a meeting is a breach of the Traditions. On the contrary it is the responsibility of the meeting to maintain its safety. If it feels threatened in any way by someone at the meeting, then, for the safety of every other addict at that meeting they must take action. They even have the responsibility, the duty, to call in the legal authorities if it’s a serious situation.  Your case, in my opinion is benign, however, it is not up to me to judge. Nor is it up to you to make a judgment on their actions.

You suggest we “owe” you a meeting. I don’t believe we owe you anything. However, I’m sure the office would be happy to send you the material for starting a meeting. If there is a cost, maybe one of us could help out. We always like to see more meetings start up. Many of us have started meetings and it’s been good for our recovery.

I had a related experience to yours a few years ago. My local intergroup did not like how my home group was working and voted, six to five, to not list the group in the meeting directory.

The action was clearly outside the spirit of the Concepts as well as the Traditions. We started a new Intergroup, created a new web site, and listed my home group. It’s still going strong. In fact there are more meetings now then there were at the time. Still a long way to go before we are able to serve all sex and/or love addicts.

The point is we do not hold groups accountable. As mentioned, they are accountable only to their Higher Power and, if they stray, the disease will hold them accountable.
As far as “redress of grievances,” we are quite concerned about the freedom of the individual within the society of Sex & Love Addicts. No one will tell you how you should work the Steps, but we will provide advice if you ask. No one will tell you how to live within the spirit of the Traditions, but we will offer advice if you ask. Just as we will not get involved with an addicts amends, we will not get involved with a resentment over a meeting. In whatever way possible a dialog with this meeting — a dialog filled with love, tolerance, patience, and understanding — will be the only way to overcome any grievance.

You may be thinking “that’s a hell of a way to run an organization!” You are correct. But we are not an organization. We are not organized except for service. We are a Fellowship, a Society, of addicts who try to help each other.

I’m sorry you fell into a group that is rigidly opposed to obscenities. There are groups that have no opposition to obscenities. Hopefully you will find, or found, a meeting like that. Some people don’t like when I quote from the Big Book. After all, we’re not alcoholics. Nevertheless I find the instructions there to be extremely helpful. Here’s one that may be relevant: “Burn the idea into the consciousness of every man that he can get well regardless of anyone. The only condition is that he trust in God and clean house.” (page 98, Alcoholics Anonymous).

Response #2:
I stand firmly in support of the autonomy of Meetings, but I experience more than “damn”, and in particular anything related to body parts, as triggering to my PTSD and to emotional stability.  That relates as much to the aggressiveness of obscenity as much or more than other features of particular expressions with obscenity.  I would never eject a member who used such words on rare occasions. But, repeated use after the group expressed that less inflammatory language be used would certainly justify a group conscience on the issue, with several possible outcomes. We should not forget that members with dissociative issues can be present, for whom obscene language would literally be experienced, perhaps, as a child hearing the language of their abusers.  We are not allowed to use such language in several places in our larger culture.  It is not a hardship for an individual to restrain their use of obscenity and serious profanity until after the Meeting and outside of the protected space that should be maintained for our Meetings.


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.