Tradition Nine

SA, as such, ought never be organized; but we may create service boards or committees directly responsible to those they serve.

Tradition Nine assures us SA can have structure but not authority. No member has absolute authority over another. Just as the individual member practices self-restraint in the interest of the common welfare (Tradition One), the fellowship recognizes that authority belongs to our loving Higher Power. Here the fellowship seeks to emulate the spirit of respect demonstrated by our Higher Power, who acts in our lives as invited. 

Finding power through loving self-sacrifice and service rather than strength and control fosters unity. Sexaholics Anonymous serves but does not govern. We are not organized with respect to authority; instead SA is structured to serve. This service structure enhances each group’s ability to achieve the primary purpose of carrying the message of hope and recovery. It is important that our leaders avoid the temptation to exert control over other members, which can interfere with the effective functions of the service structure and incite resentment. When wielding authority in our society, one is likely to meet resistance. The entire service structure of Sexaholics Anonymous is a life support system to provide resources for one sexaholic sharing [with another].

Our leaders are servants, not governors; they lead by example, not mandate. Old timers, when asked to share their experience, strength and hope on a matter, share their own experience and often the collective experience of SA. Of course, they offer it as a suggestion only and not as a directive.

Good leadership can be as much compromise as direction. Although a leader may have excellent ideas, the group has the prerogative to accept or reject them. Attempts to forcefully drive plans through are often ineffective. Sensitivity to the concerns of other members is important in maintaining unity while building consensus. Gradual change and compromise, even if these might seem initially misguided, are as important as leading the way.

Leadership is always imperfect; we all have good and bad days, times when we are overbearing and other times when we are too soft-spoken. If a leader seems out of line, we might wait for the mood to pass. If someone is caught in a spate of negativity, we can patiently offer a more positive response. From time to time, a leader will turn out to be ill suited for a job or perhaps too wedded to the implied power of a given position. He or she can be gently, or if necessary firmly, reminded that trusted servants are just that: servants in a temporary role. 

Because we are not organized in the customary sense, SA needs members to step into service in order to accomplish its work. Members serve at all levels of the fellowship in a wide range of capacities. In each instance, whether setting up chairs for the meeting, or serving as group secretary, intergroup representative, committee member, trustee, or regional delegate, it is the service position that is important, not the person in the position.

We have found that both the individual member and the fellowship are best served by rotating leadership in service positions. This protects the fellowship and provides opportunities for all to serve. New leaders are continually emerging and we welcome and encourage them. Those of us who have volunteered for service opportunities know the special ways these have enhanced our recovery. Service allows us to practice the principles of the program as we learn to work with others, grow in our trust of God, and build lasting relationships. By rotating service positions, we offer this same opportunity to others.

Yet, won’t SA suffer if we lose the experience of those who have served? Not necessarily so. Members take their experience into the meetings they attend, pass it on to those they sponsor, and share it with those members who are new to service. We recognize that former leaders do carry the wisdom and experience of SA. We consult them as valuable resources when faced with plans or problems. As we make other members’ experience part of our own, the whole fellowship advances.

We don’t build an empire of recovery; we keep it simple. By structuring SA for service, and surrendering authority to our loving God, we are able to serve, give of ourselves, and guarantee that SA will be available for the next suffering sexaholic.

On a Personal Note

The spirit of Tradition Nine is about avoiding bureaucracy, being flexible, and traveling light. Dependence places another in authority. People come and go, and experience shows the wisdom of avoiding dependence on any particular person. Inevitably, our egos get in the way of our best intentions, and resentments build towards those who appear to wield power over us. We can learn to structure our responsibilities less rigidly. It may be useful to identify less with our job title or career path. We may find we don’t need to keep the same jobs for the rest of our lives. We can let go of control and allow others to have input and choices, learning to ask, not command or demand. 

In our families we no longer see ourselves or another family member as the authority. We are reminded that we are stewards of a relationship that really belongs to God. Even with our children we often find that we don’t need to be authoritarian; we can become loving advisors.

Members of SA Share


“Great suffering and great love are A.A.'s disciplinarians; we need no others” (12&12 174). These words are my foundation for living sober in SA today. I entered SA because the pain of living a life of sexually acting out became too great. That, I believe, is our common problem. The common solution flows out of the great love we find here from those who have the same disease and have discovered a new life. 

In my experience, it is never by rules or a rigid structure that I am healed. Rather, it is by being of service to others and by learning to see myself as part of a continuing chain of sobriety and recovery. That is great love in action. That is the attitude and behavior that will save my life. 

I had a history of troubled relationships with authority figures. I was reassured to find that in SA there is no organizational authority that can tell us how to recover, how to carry the message, whether or not we qualify for membership, or require anything of us. 

They couldn’t even make me pay! I am sure if SA had had someone to tell me what to do, I wouldn’t have made it. Instead, they had someone for me to ask what I could do. I was hurt badly enough that I was willing. Over time it has become one of my most valuable skills - asking for directions.

If I felt someone had authority over me, I might feel too insecure to share openly and would likely become defiant. But thank God they made it easy for me to join, easy for me to stay, and somehow even made me want to help others.

Recommended Reading

Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions 

Tradition Nine 172-75

Tradition Nine (Long Form) 191-92

AA Comes of Age 118-123

SA Service Manual

Questions to Consider

1. How can I do service without being a boss in SA?

2. How do I react to members I perceive as authorities in SA? 

3. What sort of structure does my group have? 

4. How accepting or resisting am I to changes in our trusted servants or group structure?

5. How can I serve with patience and humility?

6. To whom am I responsible when I serve?

7. What does rotation teach me about humility? Anonymity?

8. Do I have any life experiences that illustrate the wisdom of this Tradition? 

9. What would the fellowship be like without the protection of this Tradition?

10. What principles does this Tradition lead me to practice in my daily life?

11. How does this Tradition promote unity?

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

13. 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?