Tradition Five

Each group has but one primary purpose - to carry its message to the sexaholic who still suffers.

We have in common a singular gift––a solution that offers freedom from the bondage of lust. Our handicap has become a blessing. What purpose could be higher for our group than to share the solution we have found?

Yet early in recovery some of us were confused and worried by the Fifth Tradition. Wasn’t the primary purpose of the group to help each of us stay sober and improve our own lives? Isn’t the group supposed to provide us a place of safety where we can nourish our own recovery? Of course it is! Tradition Five does that and more.

Self-centeredness is the basis of our problem with lust, and the SA solution includes freedom from our self-obsession. In the Third Step Prayer we ask that our difficulties be removed, not so that we may have a happier or more serene life, but so that we may be useful and serve as an example to others—that we may carry the message––as a demonstration of God’s healing power. Our attention, previously focused on ourselves, turns outward to other sexaholics who want help.

This is the antidote to our self-centeredness. We can’t keep what we have if we don’t give it away, and when we give, we receive. We find progressive victory over lust by embracing and living our common solution, without which we have little chance of living a useful happy life . Carrying the message and performing service while continuing to work the Steps is how we stay sober and grow in recovery.

Working Tradition Five ensures that while we help others we will be helped in turn. Our primary purpose, then, offers not only what the suffering sexaholic needs, but also serves recovered members. Practicing it is in everyone’s interest. This outward focus of Tradition Five defines the group as primarily spiritual, and ensures that it will continue on, even if any of us do not.

A group may carry its message by paying for a phone line or by maintaining an email address or local web site. Some groups organize mailings to counselors and clergy, sometimes following up with personal visits. Others organize letter writing to prison inmates and sponsor meetings in prisons, hospitals, and institutions. Some donate copies of SA literature to libraries and prisons.  Groups and intergroups host conventions, workshops, and open information meetings or seminars for professionals.

While practice of this Tradition includes outreach, we also come to understand that we carry the message in the group itself. A healthy group creates a culture of sobriety including regular attendance, sponsorship, and working the Steps, as well as encouraging fun and fellowship. In all these, we demonstrate a sober and recovered life. What others find in the group encourages them to work the SA program. We perform service, ensuring that the meeting will be there when the next person needs it. One benefit of Tradition Five is that when the inevitable pain and troubles of life come our way––loss of a job, death or illness of someone close to us––we have a place to go for relief, a place dedicated to help suffering sexaholics, older and newer members alike.

An SA group may have secondary purposes. Oftentimes it is the center around which social gatherings or outings revolve, and where assistance can be found. Members help each other move, offer moral support for legal proceedings, celebrate the birth of new family members, and develop wonderful friendships. These relationships and activities, while special, are secondary to the main event: offering the hand of recovery to those who suffer from sexaholism. We find that if a group is distracted by even the most worthy of causes, our unity and our recovery may be threatened. If our meetings become a place of political or religious activity, or a place to discuss or support some particular social event or cause, we lose our focus on the life-threatening condition that got us here. We must keep the main thing the main thing, or we risk everything.

This Tradition guides us in how to share in meetings. When sharing, the purpose is not to process our feelings, explore the abuse of early childhood, or broadcast the catastrophes of our lives. It is not to discuss or promote therapy, religion or any other outside issue. While these may be reserved for our Step work or conversations with our sponsor, they are not for meetings. When sharing in meetings, we consider the newcomer and the still struggling member as we discuss the miracle of recovery in each of our lives. As we are all too familiar with the problem, we focus on sharing the solution. When others dwell in the problem we can gently remind them that our primary purpose directs us to protect meeting quality. We help the newcomer and the sober member alike by having a clear, concise message of hope, focused on what works, the SA solution. That is what helped us when we arrived and is what will help those who join us.

In the Traditions, we have one ultimate authority, one membership requirement, and now one primary purpose. All of these support the unity of SA. Tradition Five gives us our singleness of purpose––recovery from our obsession with lust through working with others. While we come from many backgrounds, cultures, and spiritual traditions, this unity of purpose is a cornerstone of our society. Service at all levels of our fellowship is guided by this purpose. How will our action impact the newcomer? How can we be more available and more encouraging? How can we spread our message of hope? What can we do to reach more of those who come to our meetings? Carrying the message of our recovery unifies and strengthens our group as well as benefiting the suffering sexaholic and the larger community.

On a Personal Note

Individually, we are better members when we know our purpose. Guided by this Tradition, we become aware of what we are trying to do and why in all of our affiliations. Being aware of the purpose can help us be responsible members in each of our relationships. One of our affiliations might be aimless simply because its purpose is unclear or unknown. When people work together to establish and adhere to a clear purpose, any organization will become more effective.

Members of SA Share


As my home group grew in sobriety, we began to carry the SA message to clients at a treatment center. It felt right to share the solution we had been given, and we recognized that we needed to pass our recovery on in order to keep it. But at some level we still thought we were doing them a favor. While it is likely that they benefited from the information we shared as well as our experience, strength, and hope, we also benefited in unexpected ways.

Our experiences at the treatment center began to change our group. We traveled together. We shared together in a community of non-members. We enjoyed together our gratitude for the experience. We shared and laughed together about our common experiences. We had not expected the improved quality of recovery in our group that seemed to arise from this service. Creating unity had not been our original intention, but that has been the result of living our primary purpose.


My sponsor tells me that when I am sober and grateful, I will have a passion to carry the message.  This is much different from having a desire to feel comfortable and happy as a goal, an endpoint, a place of rest. That sounds like my old “primary purpose,” before I began recovery.  So my willingness to carry the message is one indicator of my spiritual condition.  If I don’t feel like answering the phone when one of my sponsees calls, it could be a sign that I need to step up my spiritual program.

How does this apply to my SA group? The spiritual energy of the Twelve Steps, when brought to my group, energizes us to carry the message in the same way as it does the individual.  If my group lacks enthusiasm for carrying its message beyond the walls of our meeting place, our primary purpose may be drifting in the direction of selfishness. Tradition Five reminds us that our primary purpose is not to take care of ourselves.  How do we get taken care of, then?  Oddly, when we get busy doing the work of our loving Higher Power, we discover a Presence that can and will take care of us in exactly the way we need.


My home group was too comfortable. For a long time we had the same five or six members, some very faithful. Some worked the Steps with their sponsors. Several got a year or two of sobriety. Things became routine. I sensed the feeling in the group that we could go on like this forever! But we couldn’t, of course. Things changed. One moved away. Another lost his sobriety. Another just quit coming. I was in trouble.

If my group didn’t reach out and grow, it would cease. Then there would be no one here to greet the next suffering sexaholic in need of a group. There would be no one here for me.

We began to have meetings on the Twelfth Step and the Fifth Tradition and these were helpful reminders. We made contact with our intergroup, our region, and with SA Central Office. We placed a meeting notice in the local paper. We shared our contact information with some local therapists and pastors. We welcomed a few newcomers. Our group was coming to life!


When I found SA, I attended for about a month but I never heard a solution. In retrospect, I realize I did not meet anyone who was sober or talked about working the Steps. The experience reinforced my hopelessness. Not knowing what else to do, I returned to my codependency meetings and the misery of my acting out.

About a year later, I returned to the same SA meeting, and found the same situation. After a month it seemed clear to me that while we shared the same problem, no one had a solution.

About a year later, I tried again. This time something felt different immediately. I sensed hope and enthusiasm. As I continued to attend I realized that several of the members were sober. They shared about working the Steps and taking direction from their sponsors. I kept coming back. I began to believe that the solution they described could work for me. Just by working and sharing their own recovery, these struggling sexaholics had fulfilled the primary purpose and carried the message to me.

I asked one of them to be my sponsor. That was eight years ago. I am still sober and my experience in recovery continues to grow. I am inexpressibly grateful.


In order to enjoy life we must stay sober. And in order to stay sober we must pass it on. I find that all roads lead back to our primary purpose.

Recommended Reading

Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions

Tradition Five 150-54

Long Form 190

Questions to Consider

  1. How does this Tradition apply to my SA group?

  2. How does my group practice this Tradition?

  3. How does this Tradition promote unity?

  4. Do I call members that I haven’t seen in awhile?

  5. Do I remember that long time members need support too? Can I help them and learn from them?

  6. How does this Tradition apply to me?

  7. Do I allow my secondary purposes to distract me from carrying the message?

  8. How do these questions and this Tradition apply to the other groups I am a part of such as such as at home and at work?