To SA Trustees, Delegates and members
Recently there has been some agitation within the fellowship against the 1999 Cleveland Statement of Principle (CSOP) which clarified the meaning of the term spouse in the SA Sobriety Definition as “one’s partner in the marriage of a man and a woman.” (Sexaholics Anonymous p192)
In a recent recorded meeting those agitating against the Cleveland Statement made numerous inaccurate statements about SA history. This letter responds to those inaccuracies and some notable omissions.
I was part of the “team” that in May 1998, along with SA founder Roy K, put forward the challenge to those members promoting the “spouse as understand spouse” concept in the SANET meeting and elsewhere within the fellowship. This challenge eventually lead to the Cleveland Statement in July 1999.
Half that “team”, including myself were same-sex attracted. Prominent amongst intergroups that pushed for a clarification of the Sobriety Definition were same-sex attracted members. As same-sex attracted members we knew the SA we had joined and needed.
We knew that the proposed “spouse as you understand spouse” version of SA would not be helpful to our recovery. Without “a firm and clear bottom line, our “cunning, baffling, and powerful” sexaholism takes over sooner or later.” (Sexaholics Anonymous p2). The “spouse as you understand spouse” concept was neither firm nor clear!
I had been one of the founding members of Sex Addicts Anonymous (SAA) in my country. I could no longer in conscience carry their message. In 1992 I left SAA along with 2 other same-sex attracted men to start SA in my city. We needed a fellowship that completely ruled out all same-sex behaviour. That is what we found in SA. That is what helped us get sexually sober. For many years that has been the story of myself and others in SA: a story that would not belong in the different SA being advocated.
I have no other fellowship to go to. So where do I, and others like me, go without SA exactly as it is? No one has ever been able to answer this question satisfactorily.
For me this quote from the White Book, page 193, sums up the tolerance of the SA approach on this issue:
We “Live and Let Live,” but we do not call one another sober unless we are practicing sobriety.
- Error: Those responsible for the Cleveland Statement were “politically conservative religious”.
- Error: The fellowship was never given any explanation for why the General Delegates Assembly and Trustees apparently contradicted of the results of the 1998 survey.
- Error: The Cleveland Statement was foisted upon the fellowship that did not want it and did not agree with it: as indicated by the 1998 survey of members.
- Error: Tradition 3 in the AA 12 & 12 tells us that anyone with a sexual addiction is a member of SA if they say they are.
- Omission: No mention was made of the vast amount of alternate documentation proving that SA sobriety has always been about the marriage of a man and a woman.
- Omission: No mention at all was made of the current significant number of SA members with same-sex lust issues, their reaction to the Cleveland Statement, and their inclusion in all aspects of SA life.
Error: Those responsible for the Cleveland Statement were “politically conservative religious”.
As one of those very involved in this issue in 1998/99 I was unaware of the religious beliefs of most of the “team” and completely unaware of their political leanings.
As a teen in the 1970s I was involved in demonstrations on Vietnam, race, nuclear power and civil rights: arrested at one demonstration. In 1998 my voting record had been solidly left of centre for 20 years. My first “partner” of 5 years was a sometime gay activist, so I have read my share of that material.
My spirituality then and still is more Buddhist/New Age than anything else. For me the SA Sobriety Definition, including the Cleveland Statement, is entirely consistent with that spirituality. My recovery story is built on a detailed study of the SA and AA literature and application of their principles. I saw an integral link through the White Book to the Sobriety Definition, including the Cleveland Statement.
As part of the dialogue in 1998 between the team members, Roy, referring the campaigns to legalize same-sex marriage, wrote in an email “let them get married”. My understanding of what he was saying, was that the legalism of the same-sex marriage debate in the political sphere blurred what was a spiritual issue in SA. That is my opinion also. It doesn’t concern me if there is same-sex or polygamous marriage.
The White Book explains the use of term spiritual in SA literature:
We use the term spiritual in referring to that aspect of ourselves underlying and determining all our attitudes, choices, thoughts and behavior – the very core of personality, the very heart of the person. If we can see how the addictive process involves this most fundamental aspect of our being, we will be able to understand why recovery – whatever else we make it – must be a spiritual process. We use the term spiritual in this broader, non religious sense…. (Sexaholics Anonymous p 46)
In www.samerecovery.com SA members from a same-sex background describe how SA sobriety and recovery is a spiritual process for them.
In Roy’s letter to SA Trustees and Delegates in July 1998, where he requested clarification, he also wrote
“The lust-imperative is the primary motive-force behind our entire capitalist culture. “
Roy also wrote of his own experience of the same-sex world. Put all this together and we have a more complete picture of our founder than is often understood.
Those who contributed to the development of the Cleveland Statement were a diverse mix of members, religiously and politically.
Error: The fellowship was never given any explanation for why the General Delegates Assembly and Trustees apparently contradicted of the results of the 1998 survey.
Before and after the Cleveland Statement (July 1999) the General Delegates Assembly kept the fellowship informed of their deliberations and reasoning.
After the survey results were discussed by the Delegates in early 1999, an article in the Spring 1999 Essay explained the ambiguous nature of the survey results and the consequent ongoing disunity in the fellowship.
The fundamental issue that prompted the survey-the interpretation of the words “marriage” and “spouse”-continues to be a topic of discussion among delegates and groups. Members disagree on the interpretation of the survey results, the Chair of the General Delegate Assembly reported. The Assembly decided to increase its teleconference meetings to every two months to address whether and how unity can be improved in the Fellowship, in addition to other business. “Unity will be a continuing topic of discussion until we have some sort of resolution,” the Delegate Chair said.
- Following the Cleveland Statement the chair of the General Delegates Assembly sent two reports to SANET meeting which reached hundreds of members scattered around the SA world
- Essay Fall 1999 issue devoted 7 pages to explaining the process the General Delegates had gone thru in eventually reaching unanimity on the Cleveland Statement.
Error: The Cleveland Statement was foisted upon the fellowship that did not want it and did not agree with it: as indicated by the 1998 survey of members.
The design and implementation of the survey was so flawed that both sides of the debate were counting it as confirmation of their positions. Rather than settling the disunity the survey compounded it.
Some members and groups voted no to clarification believing clarification would move away from the founding intent of the program: sex only within the marriage of a man and a woman. Others voted no believing clarification would shut down the perceived loophole: the absence of a definition of the word spouse.
The Delegates could end the controversy or allow the issue to be fought out group by group, pitting members against each other: returning to the conflict that lead to the split of 1991 when SA groups and members split off to found Sexual Recovery Anonymous (SRA). Instead of allowing 2 fundamentally irreconcilable fellowships to develop under the SA name the Delegates made a decision to preserve the founding intent of the program.
Essay Fall 1999 From Chair of the Delegates Assembly
I received conflicting opinions about the meaning of the January 1999 vote that we do not need to clarify the SA Sobriety Definition. Many (probably most) were convinced this vote meant that we are already clear on the meaning of traditional SA sobriety and no further clarification is needed. Others were equally convinced this vote meant that “spouse” and “marriage” could be interpreted as understood by each member. Some were convinced that SA is afraid to “say what it means and mean what it says,” so several groups and intergroups clarified the definition for themselves, calling it a “reaffirmation” of SA sobriety.
There was a sense among the delegates and the trustees that the best course was to settle this issue in the hope that we as a Fellowship can return to focus on the solution and not the problem. That is why the delegates invited the trustees to join in the vote, and that is why both bodies expressed unanimity.
Delegates initially opposed to clarification voted for the motion because they saw a need to end the disunity, a disunity some current members and groups, perhaps unaware of SA history, now seek to resurrect.
What was the reaction of the fellowship to the Cleveland Statement? Was there a groundswell of outrage in groups, intergroups and regions that their wishes had been contradicted? Were there numerous motions passed at groups, intergroups and regional gatherings demanding the rescinding of the Cleveland Statement? Was there a massive drop in contributions to SAICO because the fellowship felt disenfranchised? Was there a mass exodus of members and groups to other S programs?
No! Such actions would have been evidence that Cleveland Statement had been imposed on an unwilling fellowship. Instead it was overwhelmingly business as usual because nothing had changed. The Cleveland Statement was quite unremarkable to most members and groups.
Error: Tradition 3 in the AA 12 & 12 tells us that anyone with a sexual addiction is a member of SA if they say they are.
Key quotes from the 12 & 12 are
- “neither punish nor deprive any A.A. of membership, that we must never compel anyone to pay anything, believe anything, or conform to anything?” p 141
- “You are an A.A. member if you say so.” p 139
Even in AA anyone doesn’t mean just anyone
AA’s Third Tradition talks about a requirement for membership. A requirement will by definition exclude some people. In context, the above quotes apply after the 3rd tradition requirement has been met, not before! Those who have an alcohol problem but who don’t want to stop drinking completely can sit in on open AA meetings but not closed meetings. They are not AA members because they “don’t have the Third Tradition”. Same with SA if you want SA sobriety you are in!
SA literature explicitly states that SA is not for just anyone
- “We have a solution. We don’t claim that it’s for everybody” page 2 of the White Book
- “The specialised nature of Sexaholics Anonymous…This will and should discourage many inquirers” from What is a Sexaholic and What is Sexual Sobriety”
According to SA’s Third Tradition the only requirement for SA membership is a desire to stop lusting and become sexually sober. SA has a marvelous record of inclusion of all who want SA sobriety.
Even those against the Cleveland Statement don’t mean just anyone
Many would still be excluded from SA even under the “spouse as understand spouse” approach
- Those who want to ‘lovingly masturbate’
- Those who want to have sex after just a few dates
- Those in sexually open relationships who only want to stop using pornography
- Those in polygamous marriages, legally recognised in some countries, who want to stop using pornography
- Those in relationships who do not relate to the term spouse, preferring terms like lover or partner.
Omission: No mention was made of the vast amount of alternate documentation proving that SA sobriety has always been about the marriage of a man and a woman.
There is much other evidence to confirm that SA sobriety has always been about sex within the marriage of a man and a woman, despite the occasional renegade group. Here are just some:
- Roy K wrote a history of the Sobriety Definition and the challenges to it.
- In the 1980s The Tri-State (NY, CN,NJ) SA area was so clear on what SA sobriety was that they re-wrote the Sobriety Definition to specifically include un-married and same-sex couples.
- In 1991, after a prolonged process many SA groups and members in the tri-state area re-affiliated with other S programs. Just prior to that the Tri-State SA Intergroup produced “Tri State Affiliation Report” which stated in part
We recommend a new affiliation with SRA and a severance of ties to National SA. whose narrow Sobriety Definition restricts our membership and encourages discrimination. SRA promotes a Sobriety Definition which emphasizes the spiritual commitment in a relationship rather than the legal commitment.
- From 2001 Sexual Recovery Anonymous (SRA) Communique on the founding of SRA
Murray was troubled that sexual sobriety was defined in terms of heterosexual legal marriage; sexual sobriety did not include common law or homosexual unions. … In 1990, there was a GSB (SA General Service Board) confirmation that said the only sober sex was in a legal heterosexual marriage. This excluded committed common law and committed same sex relations. Murray saw the only solution was to leave the program.
Omission: No mention at all was made of the current significant number of SA members with same-sex lust issues, their reaction to the Cleveland Statement, and their inclusion in all aspects of SA life.
Those dealing with same sex lust issues make up over 20% of our membership according to 2007 survey at an SA International Conference.
In April 2000, in response to the Cleveland Statement, the following letter was sent to the SA Board of Trustees and Delegates Assembly. It was signed by 66 SA members from the USA, Canada, Australia, Singapore, Spain, Brazil and El Salvador.
We write as SA members for whom same-sex lust and/or behavior has been a major part of our sexaholism.
Your actions in Cleveland to clarify SA sobriety in unambiguous terms have provided comfort and security to many of us.Some of us could find little support for our goal of sobriety until we came into SA. Some of us joined SA because it ruled out same-sex behavior as sober.
Some of us have boundaries which mean we could not be part of a fellowship where same-sex behaviour is considered sober. Some of us initially approached SA sobriety with resistance or reluctance, only later to appreciate its value.
All of us thank you for your clear affirmation of SA sobriety. We thank you for saying that SA will remain the safe haven it has become for us.
Some of the ways in which same-sex attracted members are woven into the very fabric of SA:
- Regular topic meetings on same-sex lust at International Conferences: a consistently popular break out meeting.
- Website on same-sex lust recovery in SA: www.samerecovery.com
- Phone meetings for men with same –sex lust
- Members with same–sex lust issues have served in SA service positions on Board of Trustees, Regional Delegates, as chair and members of the some of the fellowship wide service committees, Intergroups and local groups.
- SA member stories 2007 contains a high proportion of stories that involve same-sex lust