Here we discuss two elements involved in conducting our meetings. One is the Meeting Format, which suggests an orderly way to proceed through the different sections of an S-Anon meeting. The second element is the Conference Approved Readings we use during the meeting that explain the S-Anon approach to recovery.
A clear distinction must be made between these two elements, described below in more detail. In the first instance, as stated in our Fourth Tradition, groups may exercise their autonomy and choose to customize the Meeting Format, including the Meeting Guidelines section, to better serve their needs. Making changes to the Conference Approved Readings, however, presents an interpretation of how the program works that may be contrary to the collective experience of S-Anon members, even though this may not be the intention of those creating the substitutions. We have found that at any stage of recovery, some suggested ideas or principles may not resonate with us as individuals, but most of us come to understand and respect that other members have found them to be useful, and in time we may even come to understand the concept in a new way.
Why We Suggest a Meeting Format
The Meeting Format contained in Part 4 is Conference Approved, which means that it has been developed and revised according to the experiences of members of S-Anon groups worldwide. We suggest that you try it and then adapt it, if desired, to suit the needs of your group.
A format is suggested because most groups find a general outline to be helpful. The meeting format outlines a step-by-step process for conducting an S-Anon meeting. An outline is especially helpful if the group includes members who have not previously attended S-Anon meetings or who are new to leading meetings.
Although it may seem repetitive or time-consuming to hear the same readings in the same order at every meeting before the individual sharing begins, it can be helpful for a number of reasons. One reason is that it gives information to newcomers. Another reason is that no matter how many times we may have heard a particular piece read aloud, the next time we hear it may be the moment our growth in the program allows us to understand it in a new and helpful way. The readings also create a buffer between the outside world and the meeting, gently turning our thoughts from everyday concerns to our spiritual growth and recovery.
Customizing the Meeting Format
Groups may exercise their autonomy and customize the format, as decided by group conscience, to better serve the needs of the individual group. However, Conference Approved Readings should not be altered in any way, nor should outside literature be incorporated into the format. Please try the Meeting Format as presented and then adapt it, as determined by group conscience, to suit the needs of the group. For example:
• When the Seventh Tradition basket is passed, some groups suggest a dollar amount to make members aware of the “per member” cost of supporting the group.
• For the benefit of newcomers and those looking for a sponsor, some groups have the meeting leader ask members who are willing to be sponsors to identify themselves by raising their hands. This could be done either during the Announcements section of the meeting or toward the end, before the Closing Reminder.
• In some larger groups, a sentence is added to the Closing Reminder to the effect that, “if you didn’t get a chance to share during the meeting, please find someone after the meeting with whom you may share.”
• Some groups make minor changes in timing, such as when (or if) the meeting leader qualifies, when introductions by first name are made, or when the Seventh Tradition basket is passed.
• Some groups vote to use a timer during the sharing portion of the meeting so everyone in attendance has a chance to share.
We have also found that individual groups often develop, by group conscience, additional suggestions to be added to the Meeting Guidelines section of the format and read at each meeting before sharing begins. These additions are usually considered by the members to be important to group unity and contribute to a feeling of safety in meetings, generally after one or more members of a group have acted or shared in ways that make others uncomfortable. There is a suggested meeting guideline on page 117 of the_ Working the S-Anon Program book_. “Guidelines provide information to newcomers and serve as a reminder to all group members so that our meetings stay focused on recovery and provide a safe place to share feelings without having to explain or justify them. While all groups may not use these exact words, it is important that the guidelines you do use are supported by a group conscience of the members, and that a substantial majority of group members are committed to upholding them.” Here are some suggestions for additional Meeting Guidelines:
• Request that sharing focus on ourselves—not mentioning other group members by name or responding
directly to a previous member’s share
• Request that intimate details be reserved for sharing with a sponsor or program friend outside the meeting
• Request all language be respectful
• Reminder to turn off cell phones and other electronic devices or place them on silent mode during the meeting. Request no texting during the meeting
• Request to step outside the meeting room if a page or call must be answered
• Request to enter the room quietly if arriving late
When a group is considering adding an additional “suggestion” to the Meeting Guidelines section, it can be helpful for the group to discuss how the perceived needs of group members for unity and safety in meetings can be balanced against the Ninth Tradition caution that “S-Anon, as such, ought never be organized…” Too many “guidelines” can seem like “rules” to newcomers, and can overwhelm the message of the Third Tradition, i.e., “The only requirement for membership is that there be a problem of sexaholism in a relative or friend.” In addition, too much added structure, even when presented as “suggestions,” could have the effect of depriving an S-Anon meeting of flexibility and spontaneity.
Conference Approved Readings
To keep S-Anon’s program of recovery in focus, it is suggested that only S-Anon/S-Ateen Conference Approved Literature (CAL) be displayed, distributed, sold, and used at S-Anon and S-Ateen meetings and events. CAL includes literature from S-Anon, Al-Anon, AA and SA. Service Literature produced by S-Anon may also be used distributed, displayed and sold.
We ask that you keep in mind that “adaptation” of the Meeting Format does not mean using readings from material that is not S-Anon Conference Approved Literature (Tradition One)., This policy dates from the time when S-Anon had very little literature of our own because our fellowship was so young. We now have much more S-Anon Conference Approved Literature that expresses the experience, strength, and hope that is uniquely ours as S-Anon members.
In addition, adaptation of the Meeting Format does not mean changing any words in the S-Anon or S-Ateen Conference Approved Readings. The readings are copyrighted and are to be used as written. The following readings are Conference Approved for use as written:
Twelve Traditions of S-Anon
S-Anon’s Twelve Concepts of Service
S-Anon Problem (short and long versions)
Keys to S-Anon Recovery (short and long)
Obstacles to Recovery in S-Anon
Gifts of the S-Anon Program
S-Ateen Preamble to the Twelve Steps
Twelve Steps to S-Ateen
Twelve Traditions of S-Ateen
Experience has shown us several reasons for using only Conference Approved Literature and Service Literature during meetings:
• It provides a common base and speaks directly to our recovery from the effects of sexaholism, based upon the experiences of other S-Anon and S-Ateen members (Tradition Five)
• It focuses on the solution rather than the problem and explains the Twelve-Step approach to recovery
• It reflects an informed group conscience
• It helps us to avoid even the appearance of endorsing, directly or indirectly, any theory of sexual addiction or co-addiction, or particular therapeutic approach to recovery (Tradition Six)
• Service Literature reflects the S-Anon/S-Ateen service structure and the shared experiences of S-Anon and S-Ateen members
A full list of available S-Anon Conference Approved Literature and Service Literature can be found at www.sanon.org.
Last Updated December 2017