UNDER THE INFLUENCE-Regarding questioning members being impaired in committee meetings.

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.

Question:
Is it an S.L.A.A. Traditions violation on a conference committee call for a member on that call to be noticeably under the influence of alcohol? What if the chair doesn’t deal with the inebriated member either on the call or afterward?


Tradition 2 states that our leaders are but trusted servants they do not govern. Tradition 9 states that service boards or committees are directly responsible to those they serve.

When a member of a service committee shows up impaired, that person is not acting like a trusted servant.  And it is incumbent upon all members of the fellowship to hold the person accountable. Individual members of the committee can bring the issue up to the Chair either during the call or outside the call.  Members can ask that an item be placed on the call agenda to discuss sobriety requirements for the members and to discuss the comportment of trusted servants for the committee. Tradition 1 reminds us that SLAA Common Welfare comes first. If a member is on a Conference Service committee not acting responsibly, this affects SLAA as a whole. The Conference Charter Committee has a conflict resolution process to help Committees deal with disputes if the member’s concerns are not addressed by committee processes.

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This is a bit of a difficult question in that it is not about a blatant violation of a Tradition, but is a violation of the spirit of a couple of them.

I recognize that there are those who deal with various other demons in their lives so I am not passing judgment with my comments.  Tradition 1 comes to mind as my first thought. For a committee member to be under the influence could threaten the common welfare of the committee because we would not have a unity of focus on the call which could endanger other members.

The ultimate authority, according to Tradition 2 is “a loving God as this power may be expressed through our group conscience.” We are trusted servants who have been chosen due to maturity of judgment. It would be most difficult for the member who is under the influence to use good mature judgment and have necessary guidance of his/her Higher Power when the mind is not clear and it is difficult to think clearly. To be under the influence would seem to be a violation of the trust which was placed in the committee.

I have been in a similar situation at my home group.  We had two men who prior to each meeting would stop for dinner and have several drinks. When they came into the meeting a few minutes late they were noisy and disruptive speaking to people as others were reading.  (Their having been drinking was obvious due to the smell, which could be triggering to those who are also recovering from alcoholism.) When they would share they would begin to talk of other things or get into too much detail as to their sexual exploits during the past week. Finally, one night a member had had enough of the off subject sharing and objected to what was being shared as being inappropriate. A Group Conscience was called and all agreed that the sharing was inappropriate.

I believe that when a meeting, committee meeting or business meeting is disrupted by one who is obviously under the influence there are 2 possibilities which I can see. First of all, to call for a spiritual reminder so that everyone becomes refocused.  Failing that then to add an agenda item to the next meeting and ask for group conscience regarding the behavior.  This would hopefully end such a situation.

The chairperson should take the initiative to contact the member to see if the person were under the influence or possibly tired, ill or having some side effects to some sort of medication. We need to make sure that there is not some other sort of distraction before we accuse one of being under the influence.

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In studying the Traditions, the first Tradition comes to mind (Our common welfare should come first; personal recovery depends upon S.L.A.A. unity.) If a person attending a phone conference is distracting in such a way that common welfare and unity are affected, this person is breaching Tradition 1. I think a number of things might be considered in order to uphold this Tradition. Personally, I think the best approach is a preventive measure that would require the chair to be proactive.

  • Schedule meetings early in the day
  • Record the meeting
  • Set a respectful business-like tone for all meetings

I think these advance measures would make a person think twice before joining a call when he or she is under the influence.

Regarding “disciplining” the person after the fact: I think it’s important that we all remember 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.” If any action needs to be taken, then I would look to this Tradition for guidance. I would hope that if I were the chair, I would put this as an item on the agenda, ask for 60 seconds of silence to bring our Higher Power into the meeting, discuss this in round robin style giving everyone a chance to speak without interruption and then let the group conscience prevail.

More and more I’m learning that if we let the Traditions guide us in our business meetings, we can’t go wrong.

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This kind of situation is troublesome, because our traditions say that we have no opinion on outside issues. But this is an individual one, and the guiding principle is love and tolerance and honesty. None of us wants to trust the input of someone as a trusted servant of SLAA under the influence of a substance or other addiction instead of a loving God. I think at all service levels and meetings of all kinds of SLAA members, that we are to conduct ourselves by the spiritual principles of the Twelve Steps (….in all areas of our lives).

In my own opinion, that member should be told gently, without taking away all his/her dignity, something like…”It seems to me” (hopefully others on the call will do the “me too” thing)…”that your judgment and participation in this call today is affected in a negative way, perhaps by alcohol. Wouldn’t it be better for you to drop off this call, and we can let you know about our discussion later, and you can give your input then?”

Of course, I would understand that all those on the call who noticed, and said nothing were simply unsure of how to address the problem. Given that fact, the offending member needs to be confronted now, respectfully but firmly, about what was observed on the call (always present the objective evidence) and talk about the inappropriateness of “attending” the meeting without a strong spiritually-connected, sober mind.

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What a tough question. Our fellowship models after Alcoholics Anonymous. The Big Book and the 12 & 12 from that fellowship are suggested reading. I believe that the SLAA maxim of being in right relationship with ourselves, our higher power and with others is one of the most important practices we can observe in maintaining sobriety. If a conference committee member is noticeably under the influence of alcohol it represents a real lack of discernment. Even though it may be a non-paid position the member is responding to filling the position of trusted servant. From the Basic Text I quote, “…those individuals needed to have shown sustained sobriety in S.L.A.A. over a considerable period of time: they had to be credible. If they were not sober and credible, then the very fabric of safety which had to form the background for each and every S.L.A.A meeting would be threatened. We needed to be constantly on guard that what happened within our Fellowship was consistent with our Fifth Tradition: “Each group has but one primary purpose—to carry its message to the sex and love addict who still suffers.” (Page 124 paragraph 4)

So even though I can reference additional traditions that would be breached when a conference committee member attends a meeting inebriated, the image of the sex and love addict still suffering is sufficient motivation to deal with the member by calling an impromptu group conscious vote or rescheduling the meeting so that the other members attending are clear that the behavior is at cross-purposes with the goal of the conference committee member meeting.


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.