These Suggestions by the SLAA Virtual Intergroup, Inc. are for SLAA Groups who use WhatsApp (or similar) for:
- Service: alongside their meeting, either for the service committee, or for fellows to keep in contact about the meeting or committee
- Fellowship: to build connection and support among fellows with or without shared meetings
- Meetings: SLAA meetings run on WhatsApp (known as “24/7 meetings” or “non real time meetings” in other fellowships)
- Information: notice boards to share information such as SLAA events, meetings, newsletters, sponsorship lists and outreach contact lists.
Every group is autonomous and so can decide its own rules in group conscience. These suggestions are our groups’ collection of best practices for new groups to adopt in the absence of their own written rules.
- Every WhatsApp group should ideally have at least 3 Admins in different time zones to admit members, answer questions and keep the space safe
- Admins should be members with sufficient sobriety and/or commitment to recovery to be trusted servants of the group
- The use or mention of outside literature is discouraged
- Members of multiple fellowships are asked to remain focused on their SLAA program
- Each member is responsible for keeping the group focused on SLAA recovery and discussion on SLAA related topics
- Always comply with all applicable laws in your group, especially SLAA’s Copyright requirements. SLAAvirtual does not condone online sharing of SLAA literature without FWS’ permission
- Only sex and love addicts may join a SLAA Group. No observers, researchers, treating professionals or members of the media
- Anyone using a SLAA group to “13th step”, solicit members as clients or sell any products or services should be reported to an Admin and removed immediately
- All members must be over 18 unless the WhatsApp Group has voted in Group Conscience to support teens in recovery and has put all required measures for the safety of children in place
- Report any third party spam or pornography to your Admins, WhatsApp and the SLAA WhatsApp Admin Group immediately, so they can remove the intruder quickly
Anonymity / data protection
- Before adding anyone to a WhatsApp group obtain their permission and make sure that they know the purpose of your group
- We suggest only invite members via the group’s shared link, so if they use the link, you know they have given consent to join
- Only share your group’s link as permitted by an Admin and never on any public forum or website
- Every member exchanges their mobile phone number and WhatsApp name with every other member for the purposes of the group only. Do not use their number for any other purpose
- In particular, NEVER private message another member without asking first. Doing so can cause great offence in SLAA
- NEVER share someone’s contact details from a WhatsApp group with anyone else without permission of that person
- In order to protect the anonymity of your fellow members, your WhatsApp groups should not be accessed from a shared device (phone / tablet / computer) or work computer
- SLAA strives to avoid all controversy so no arguing, heated opinions, fear mongering, drama or fake news
- We watch our motives and avoid using WhatsApp to feed our addiction to admiration, attention and validation from others
- Note that your posts may only be “deleted for everyone” for the first hour and 8 minutes, after which time you cannot delete them
- You may leave a group but be mindful that your posts remain forever
- SLAA is a spiritual program, based on no particular form of religion, so let us not defeat our purpose by entering into discussions concerning specific religious beliefs
- You are responsible for your own anonymity. If your full name is on your WhatsApp profile then it will be shared with the WhatsApp group. If you do not want to share your full name, then change it in your WhatsApp profile settings
- You should “mute” your WhatsApp groups and only check at set times for a set period to avoid interruption and potential media addiction
- Do not feel obliged to join every group or read every post in your groups. Some groups are very busy. Do not let FOMO drive you to read so much that you get overwhelmed, give up and leave
- If someone asks for help, even if they ask for your advice, only ever answer from your own experience, strength and hope
- Have the humility to stay silent if you do not have actual experience in SLAA to share. We do not give counseling, relationship advice or theoretical opinions
- Always keep to the purpose of the group! Check the topic in the Group’s description or ask. Never share messages about other topics, other fellowships or outside issues. There are other kinds of WhatsApp groups for that information.
- Never repost or discuss any information outside the group without permission of the author or clear permission to share the content. Otherwise what we see here, let it stay here!
- Never post private messages into a SLAA WhatsApp group without consent of the other person. We are not anonymous to one another, but to do so is still a breach of privacy and trust violating another member’s boundaries
- Do not spam the group! Never advertise new groups, meetings or events without permission of an Admin. SLAA has WhatsApp Groups and the Newsletter for those purposes
- Use the right group(s) for announcements so members know what to expect and others do not waste their time. Keep our groups “fit for purpose”.
- We are supportive in SLAA groups. Treat all other members respectfully, especially the Admins who have kindly volunteered to serve your group
- Be mindful not to act out your fear of authority figures or compare and judge others
- Hold out the hand of SLAA to welcome new members to your group. Remember what it was like when you were new in SLAA
- Introduce yourself by first name and initial and country or city where you live when you join a group
- Do not be upset if others leave. Anyone may leave at any time without giving a reason. Not everyone needs the same information and support at the same time. We all have many SLAA groups to choose from: see our Directory.
- Do politely excuse yourself and bid farewell to your fellow members when leaving a group
- Post in one single chunk of text, not every word or sentence in a new message
- Do not have one-on-one or other side conversations in the group. Use private messaging or better yet, turn the conversation into an outreach call
- Don’t send a multitude of “thank you” messages in the group – thank others privately
- Do not send data-insensitive messages such as uninvited memes and videos unless the group expressly permits. Not everyone has unlimited data and storage on their device.
- Our groups are world-wide with widely varying cultures, languages, abilities, relationship status, genders and sexual orientation. We have much greater diversity than local face to face meetings. This is a wonderful thing, but you may need to be more open-minded, patient and tolerant
- Take special care using slang, SLAA jargon, humor and sarcasm, which can cause confusion and misunderstandings especially as text chat.
- Never EVER use a group to criticize, correct, gossip, berate or air any grievance. Be mindful of controlling behaviors
- Bring any breach of your group’s guidelines to the attention of its Admins- not others – ASAP.
- You may have to call your Admins via WhatsApp instead of text messaging to get their attention quickly.
- Ring your Sponsor or a Recovery Partner to discuss.
- If you are still triggered, address it one on one with the relevant person(s).
- If you cannot reason things out, then report to an Admin privately.
- It is the role of the Admin – not the individual – to remind the group to avoid triggering behavior including drawing the group’s attention to these Guidelines.
- If your Admins are not responsive or do not take corrective action swiftly, it is advisable to leave the group. Poorly run SLAA groups should never be supported.
- If the behavior of others in groups is a recurring trigger for you, we suggest purchase and study Triggers as A Resource from SLAA.
- Being an Admin sometimes calls for difficult decisions to be made quickly.
- Every Admin is empowered with an absolute discretion to remove any member of their group for any reason without warning or giving their reasons.
- Addicts can only recover if we feel safe, which is why our Admins must act swiftly and err on the side of caution without having a debate in the group. Thank you for your understanding.
- Some Admins choose only to remove triggered – or triggering – members for 24 hours to “cool off”, after which they may re-join. Especially when we are removing other (exasperated!) Admins!
- Any member can ask to join or re-join a group, but this is by no means an entitlement. There is no shortage of other groups to join, so recovery is not at risk.
- Our Admins are chosen in accordance with Tradition 9 and Concept 9 so they are empowered with exclusive Right of Decision, including the right to make their own mistakes.
Right of Appeal
If you have asked an Admin to be re-joined and your request is denied or ignored, you have 2 pathways:
Start your own SLAA Group
And do it better! Find at least 3 others who are willing to start a new Group with its own rules that better suit you. It is easy and free. See our Step by Step Guide How to Start your Own Group.
This is how all 12 Step fellowships continually innovate and improve.
Well run, useful WhatsApp groups gain members through positive word of mouth. Badly run ones lose members over time. Try your ideas and share what works with the CPIC or the CICC (see part 14 of the SLAA Suggestions for Public Outreach).
Together we are growing and learning all the time.
Request a Group Conscience
If your Group has been created to support a meeting(s) or service committee, that group should decide in its business meetings how it wishes to manage its WhatsApp Group.
In any other case, SLAAvirtual offers its Zoom account free of charge and is willing to facilitate meetings in Group Conscience at the request of any member or ex member of any SLAA WhatsApp Group.
However, in our experience, only one or two members attend, if any. Once complainants have time to reflect, they realise it is easier and more useful to start a better group with their sponsors, sponsees and recovery friends than to try to control or replace the Admins of an existing group.
Do not send complaints to Intergroup and/or Fellowship Wide Services. SLAA has an inverted pyramid structure. That means the SLAA Board serves the Intergroups and Intergroups serve their Groups and their members. They do not govern or police. They certainly have no power – or money – to take action to force any SLAA Group, including any WhatsApp Group, to do anything.
All SLAA Groups are autonomous and we members “vote with our feet” by leaving the bad ones. That is how 12 Step has always worked and continues to function successfully. We have no organization or government.
Thanks to the Covid 19 pandemic, SLAA’s transfer to online meetings and groups has made it possible to attend meetings and join in SLAA fellowship at any time from anywhere at no cost. Barriers to recovery of distance, room hire and travel time and costs have been removed.
Complaining is no better than gossip. Question your motives for criticizing our trusted servants – who are only doing their imperfect best – when every one of us has the power to make SLAA better by doing Service for others.
If you have questions or suggestions for these guidelines, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org