YOUNG PEOPLE IN MEETINGS – discussions as to whether it would be appropriate for minors to attend 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:
Is the banning of teen sex/love addicts from S.L.A.A. meetings a violation of Tradition 3?


This question goes to the core of what S.L.A.A. is all about; it’s about individuals recovering from their manifestation of sex and love addiction. Many of us, me included, have suffered from this addiction from a very early age. Because of early sexual abuse or trauma we became obsessed with sexual matters many years prior to having any sort of understanding as to what it was we were feeling.

This is a question which is very difficult to answer because there are other Traditions and even Steps involved in this question. With that said, we know that the only requirement for membership in S.L.A.A. is the desire to stop acting out in our pattern of sex and love addiction. Therefore, on the surface it appears to be a violation of Tradition Three to refuse a minor who wishes to attend the meetings. However; if I, as an adult, could not have any contact with a young person, having young people at a meeting would be a different sort of violation of Tradition Three because it would deny me the opportunity to be a member.

However, Tradition One speaks about our common welfare and unity. This is one of the great difficulties with this question; among the members who are attending the meetings there are those who have been convicted of or are awaiting court proceedings for sexual acts against juveniles. These offender addicts would likely not feel safe in a gathering which included minors which would disrupt the common welfare of the individual and the group as a whole because we could not be united in the common purpose of addressing and overcoming our personal bottom line addictive behaviors. In turn, the welfare of the young person could be jeopardized because there is the possibility that an adult member would be triggered by the young person and even attempt to have a sexual relationship with that young person.

Step Twelve speaks of our spiritual awakening and practicing the principles of the Twelve Steps in all areas of our lives. As one of that group who is a recovering offender addict, my spiritual awakening included the realization that I cannot be in close association with young people because it could endanger both them and me. The principles of the Twelve Steps tells me that I must stay away from my addictive bottom line behaviors; one of which was sexual contact with young people.

Tradition Four speaks of the autonomy of each S.L.A.A. meeting; for a meeting to decide that it is an adult only meeting would be no different from a meeting for men only, women only, LGBT only, etc. Each group is given the privilege to define who could attend which would not affect other groups or S.L.A.A. as a whole.

There are, however, other issues which must be considered in allowing young people to attend the meetings. Those are legal issues which would include among others restrictions placed on an offender addict by either the courts or a probation/parole officer. There is also the issue of registered sex offenders who might be attending the meeting; they also have restrictions placed on them and these can vary from state to state within the United States and from country and regions within the rest of the world. I have been in that position and had there been young people attending the meetings, I could have found myself being incarcerated for violating the rules by which I had to abide. There are also offenders who are released from prison who are not permitted to return home because they have children within their household.

Because of the various laws, a meeting should check to find out what the local laws are prior to allowing young people to attend the meetings. If allowing a young person to attend meetings and have adults, who had not gone through certain background checks, working with them in their recovery  were a violation of local laws, we would have a violation of Tradition Four because this would reflect on S.L.A.A. as a whole and could result in unwanted bad publicity which would be a violation of Tradition Ten due to bringing the Program into public controversy and Tradition Eleven due to the media attention which would be focused on S.L.A.A.

Another difficulty with this question is that there are many outside issues that are involved to which, according to Tradition Ten, we have no opinion.

I am aware that other “S-Fellowships” have addressed this issue and have come up with some policies as to how to deal with the issue. These policies had to include the legal issues as well as identifying a standard by which certain members could be safely permitted to work with young people. The important factor is the protection of S.L.A.A. as a whole and locally in regard to the liabilities which are involved.

I am aware that other Twelve Step Fellowships allow young people to attend and I have no difficulty with that. Those Fellowships deal with issues like alcohol, chemicals and other harmful substances, including the abuse of food; these are far removed from an addiction to sex. These are chosen behaviors; sex is an inborn, natural emotion and need which all of have. In an addiction to sexual things, we are dealing with feelings and emotions which for some reason have gone terribly wrong and can jeopardize the future mental and physical well-being of those with whom we come in contact.

You might ask whether or not FWS or the BOT could set a policy on this issue; there is no way that a fixed policy could be set due to the variations in the laws. This is a question which is best left up to each Intergroup and meeting.

I believe that there are young people who could benefit from involvement with S.L.A.A. and would hope that accommodations could be made to serve these individuals without jeopardizing the recovery of other members and the future of S.L.A.A. as a whole.

I write these comments for our inquirer to consider from the standpoint of one who is deeply committed to the Steps and Traditions of S.L.A.A. as well as from the viewpoint of one who has been through the legal system. A personal philosophy which I hold to is that I will do no further harm; I do not want to put myself in jeopardy nor do I want to jeopardize another person. This is my personal way of breaking the cycle in which I found myself for much more than half of my life.

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About teens in S.L.A.A., some A.A. guidance and reflections suggest, as Tradition three does anyway, that all who have the desire to live free from a said addiction is allowed to adhere to the fellowship. I have met someone, now in her twenties, who started attending S.L.A.A. meetings at age 16.

I do agree that anyone with the desire should be able to attend meetings. In that sense, excluding teens from meetings could be seen as a break of Tradition 3. However, the issue of sex addiction has legal implications which other fellowships, to my knowledge, do not have that should be taken into consideration.

Indeed, sex offenders are welcomed in meetings, as S.L.A.A. might be one of the only places where they can recover. Many, if not all convicted sex offenders, are not allowed to be in the presence of teens and there should be a safe and permitted place for them to recover. Furthermore, S.L.A.A. should be careful to avoid situations where addicts attracted to teens are put in contact, as any acting out, consensual or not, is generally or potentially sanctioned by law. This could put the fellowship at risk (Tradition 4), if legally punishable acting out should happen.  But in such instance, who would be allowed to attend? Which category of addicts would be chosen?

This is when, since no one should be excluded according to Tradition 3, and with the consideration of the above, it becomes a question of group conscience and autonomy with respects to Traditions 2 and 4.

Maybe a special interest group could be considered for teens, as it is done for men only and women only. This raises another area of discussion. We are all addicts and it might be difficult for certain addicts, at the beginning of recovery most likely, to be confronted. The Basic Text does refer to the special interest groups at pages 131-132 (of the 1986 edition). At the time of the writing, of the book nine years after the beginning of the fellowship, there seem to not have had many requests for such groups. The authors also suggest that recovering addicts need to eventually learn to deal with the attraction created by the addiction where ever is being triggered. However, I did not read anything that would suggest not allowing such groups.

I believe, the important thing for S.L.A.A. is to carry the message, according to Tradition 5.  If creating a special group is the way to do it, it might be considered an appropriate way.


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.