This was the topic of the meeting Monday night. The moderator chose it. He is from Canada, and he had printed the story of Rob Ford’s return from rehab. He is running again for Mayor of Toronto, and has stated that he can’t promise he will stay sober. He is quoted as saying, “I’m taking it one day at a time, I did not drink yesterday, I haven’t drunk today.” Is that an abstract reference to AA?
Bill Wilson refused an honorary degree from Yale because he did not want to break his anonymity. He is quoted as saying, “If I don’t take this it will act as a terrific restraint on big shots and power seekers in Alcoholics Anonymous.”
The eleventh tradition states that recovering alcoholics should, “maintain personal anonymity at the level of press radio and film.”
Another principle of AA is service to others, you can’t keep your sobriety unless you give it away.
It is stated in AA literature, “It is important that we remain anonymous,” the founders wrote in the preface to Alcoholics Anonymous, “ because we are too few, at present, to handle the overwhelming number of personal appeals which may result from this publication. Being mostly business or professional folk, we could not well carry on our occupations in such an event.”
But, in this age of instant information, 24 hour news cycles, and the pervasive presence of paparazzi, how does one maintain anonymity in recovery, and is it still important? If it is, how do we give away what we have, and remain anonymous at the same time?
I spoke about the movie The Anonymous People, and ManyFaces1Voice.org, both of which are trying to “engage and mobilize the newly emerging constituency to transform public attitudes and policies affecting people seeking or in recovery from addiction to alcohol and other drugs. Whether behind the scenes or on the front line, every recovery voice is needed.”
Kristen Johnson, from the television show 3rd Rock from the Sun is a very vocal advocate of taking the stigma and anonymity out of recovery. She believes that the shroud of anonymity keeps the negative stigma perpetuated about recovery.
Most of the group Monday evening did not agree with this theory. A lot of the old timers kept quoting “We are to place principles before personalities”.
I know that my fear of being recognized, or recognizing someone at an AA meeting kept me from going for the first 3 months of my sobriety. I live in a small community where there is a local meeting. I was afraid to go, but I knew if I had to drive any further, I would never go.
My fear was realized as I struggled to get through the door and sit down. Across the table were two people that I had worked with the previous summer. I was mortified.
That was then. Today, I am less shy about my membership in the group, yet I still do not readily share the information. I still feel embarrassed that I let this situation get so out of control. That is my own shame that I will have to work through.
Recently we have seen headlines about Robin Williams, Portia de Rossi and Zac Efron all attending rehab. They are not afforded the cloak of anonymity due to their profession.
How do you all feel about anonymity in recovery, and specifically in AA? Please discuss.