“They do not see that if [the desire to break one’s own anonymity] became general in AA . . . that we would be sowing the seeds of our own destruction as a society.
~from a letter published in the Grapevine, 1958
“Does this thing I wish to do express more life, more happiness, more peace to myself, and at the same time harm no one? If it does, it is right. It is not selfish.”
Anonymity, or Whose Stigma Is It Anyway?
Anonymity. Quite the topic.
Alcoholics Anonymous is all about it – it’s 50% of the name and 100% of the expectation.
I honor other people’s anonymity and guard it with my heart. I have made the conscious choice not be anonymous much of the time. I don’t consider my anonymity as sacred. My sobriety however, is. Recovery is my sacred focus. If someone doesn’t like the label of “alcoholic” and thinks less of me for being it, or for claiming it, it’s pretty much on them in my opinion. That is a bold statement from a reforming people pleaser like me.
Anonymity was the topic at a meeting I attended recently based on “As Bill Sees It,” page 198. A favorite meeting, always filled with many I admire and respect. And lots of opinions. I grasped that many had jobs / careers in which the stigma of being a known alcoholic could hurt them. For that reason, many took great effort to ensure their anonymity was absolute. Makes perfect sense. And though it’s a shame that the stigma still exists, perhaps the stigma is in the eye of the beholder.
I wouldn’t say I’m proud of my alcoholism but I’m definitely proud of my recovery. And yes I absolutely could slip and relapse and I really don’t want that to ever happen and I do my daily work to ensure I won’t today. But if I did, it’s on me – not AA or not anything or anyone else.
The reading says anonymity is important to the society of AA. OK but it could be debatable as to whether it’s helpful to others who may be suffering in shame and silence. Maybe it depends. I get it that alcoholics strive to help one another and would not, according to the program, remain anonymous in the presence of someone suffering and open to outreach. They’re talking more about at the “level of press, radio, and film.” Of course that was introduced in 1946 when The 12 Traditions came to be. The program and the world has evolved quite a bit since then.
My lack of anonymity may spring from an overreaction to my childhood and adolescence of secrecy, shame, and hiding, and being strongly discouraged from speaking the truth. And experiencing blurred lines of truth: what was said was not what was happening, and what was happening was not said. So I learned to embrace lying as the default way to be.
But I also see now that the rebel energy can be counterproductive. There’s an edge to it that feels defensive and I don’t choose that. But I still choose non-anonymity. I think it’s more potentially helpful to others. When conversations get deep and real, minds and hearts are opened. Mine and others. That’s why I say my truth.
I continually practice not being judgmental about others’ opinions, and not being defensive about mine. If I’m comfortable with what I believe than I’m comfortable with what others do as well.
How important is your anonymity to you?
Do you ever feel defensive about your choice?
Are there circumstances where you would go outside of your anonymity or non-anonymity?
In gratitude, harmony, and support,