Anonymity and My 15 Minutes of Fame
My 15 minutes of fame is winding down. Having had the extreme and unexpected honor to grace the cover of last week’s VC Reporter, a regional weekly publication that ran a story about Sober Living, it’s a new week and someone else’s turn.
First of all, I love that the title was “Sober Living” and not something like “Dealing with Alcoholism…” Sober Living sounds much more empowering.
I know it’s risky to use my full name in the same breath as Alcoholics Anonymous. I have often joked to myself that I definitely nailed the first part; not so much the second. I’m so grateful for the wonderful comments and support I received.
When I started this blog, I thought long and hard about this. It’s taken me the better part of 3 years to be able to comfortably clarify and affirm my position and feel strong enough to withstand any blowback. Such as this from a person who had a different take on the article. In an unpublished letter to the editor which was shared with me so I could clarify something (which I did), someone wrote:
“…deeply saddened to see your paper, once again, help alcoholics who have attended AA to break that anonymity, for their personal acclaim. .. what I can object to is her portrayal of AA as a stepping stone to her personal glory … … I pray this woman doesn’t drink again, because the people who know her ONLY through this article might say AA doesn’t work… Your main subject in the article barely has 7 years of sobriety, and is saying she’s a member.” . . .
OK, I will always be a member of AA (“The only requirement for membership is a desire to stop drinking.”) I will always be grateful to this longstanding program that teaches me the foundation of how get – and how to stay – sober. But as Bill W says on page 59 of the Big Book: “Here are the steps we took, which are suggested as a program of recovery…” I take the suggestions to heart – as suggestions – not absolute mandate punishable by law. I continue to expand, explore, and grow with and beyond the steps.
Puzzled about the anonymity part, I inquired. In the early days of AA it was believed that if someone aligned with AA “went out,” it could discourage a newcomer from joining, giving them the excuse that AA doesn’t work.
“It works if you work it.” Truer words were never spoken. If I drink, it’s on me, not AA. I know the AA Tradition “We need always maintain personal anonymity at the level of press, radio and films.” Point well taken but I personally feel of greater service speaking my truth.
Powerful insight and takeaway in all this. The old unhealthy me would have either been so sorry and mortified at that letter, gone weak at the knees, then crumpled. OR to the other extreme: super defensive with “Oh Yeah?! Well screw you and who cares what you think?” But the today me calmly understood the comments as another absolutely valid opinion; surely many others agree with it. But I didn’t freak out even a little bit. What a shift to receive and embrace the 99% support and not obsess on the 1% criticism.
And then, a follow-up unpublished letter was shared with me by the editor:
“I apologize for my harsh comments. I was WAY too quick to criticize and WAY too harsh. It’s not my intention to disparage your writer, your subject or your paper. All of which I absolutely did!! …Sadly, my intent was lost in my anger and furious response. … Please pass on my apology to all involved. It’s a character flaw of mine to let my passions fly, when I ought to be minding my own business…”
Thank you, anonymous person! Apology accepted and way to make amends and be a great example of the AA way. I offered through the editor to speak with them. No call or email came. But I am so grateful for the chance to affirm my belief, personal growth, and to see that a recovery consciousness really does make the world a better place.
Keep coming back! It works if you work it.
Do you adhere to anonymity? Are you clear as to why?
Have you evolved in your handling of criticism? Is there room to grow?
What shifts for you when you make or receive amends?
In gratitude, harmony, and support,