I’ve been involved in a conversation at my recovery meetings concerning foul or dirty language; language that, until recently, nobody would use in the presence of their parents or any children. It seems to me that language at meetings is deteriorating, especially the use of the “F”word,”MF”or”SofaB”.  It has become an equal opportunity practice, many females enthusiastically participating.

Some people, at my meetings, say that this is not a serious issue and that people come to meetings for alcohol or substance abuse issues, not issues of swearing. Now anybody who knows me knows I’m not a prude. (If we ever meet get me to tell you the peacock joke). However, surely you would agree that there is swearing and swearing; using the word “bloody” doesn’t seem to rank with words like “MF” or “S of a B” . An occasional expletive can be very effective but it is effective because it is occasional. When foul language becomes almost every other word…Houston we have a problem. My mother was very strict concerning swearing; it was not acceptable language. I’ve heard her say to visitors at our home, go wash out your dirty mouth with soap. Also, we say in Twelve Step that our foundation is spiritual, we are seeking to be better people, more respectful and caring; does such aspirations square with indiscriminate use of expletives? My sense is that many of us laugh or cheer the person on because we are embarrassed. The swearer’s utter lack of discretion becomes embarrassing in the extreme; shame is hiding behind merriment

Why do people swear? Well, some say it is because they are not educated. They are unable to speak in sentences. They tumble into profanity. I don’t agree. Many of the people who use foul or dirty language at meetings are educated; indeed some are writers or teachers. Of course, some are not educated, but they are surely smart enough to know if the profane language they are using could ever be acceptable to a group that is based around a spiritual awakening. They may not be educated but they are not stupid. Some say people today are not aware that they are swearing. Oh really. I’m not talking about bloody or hell no. Oh no, I’m referring to “M-Fer”, “S of a B”, “F you” and worse. I know that some people in the meetings have suffered brain damage but I refuse to believe that they don’t know what they are sharing.


And, yes, some suggest that society is not what it was thirty years ago. And I agree. Again, I need to remind everyone that I am not a prude and I’ve skated the line often…but rarely have I publicly embraced profanity. And when I did it was always followed by an immediate apology. Today I have a sense of what a spiritual program sounds like.


Our society is constantly changing and the use of swear words has definitely escalated in the public arena. But we have not reached the point where profanity, foul language is acceptable in society at large or in recovery meetings.


Some protest, but it’s a men’s stag meeting? Okay it’s a stag meeting but using language that a man would never use in the presence of his daughter or grandmother is not a sign of mature masculinity. And although people laugh, is it really funny? Humor in recovery groups needs to be respectful

In my personal recovery I’ve followed a plan that has worked for many years, I do the opposite of what I did as a drunk. Stealing is replaced by giving; gossip by face-to- face conversations; anger is morphed into gentleness; arrogance becomes kindness… profanity is transformed into respect for people and language.

We occasionally see a statement in our meetings that reads: Profanity is not a sign of spiritual growth. And I agree.


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