imagesThe topic at Monday night’s AA meeting was anonymity. There are two schools of thought on this subject in recovery.  You either want to be anonymous, or you don’t.

There is a movement to take anonymity out of recovery.  The premise is that remaining anonymous is synonymous with shame.  If recovery has faces attached to it, people will begin to realize that addiction affects people in all walks of life.  There are 23 million people in recovery.

The “old timers” and “Big Book thumper’s” stand by the 11th tradition of Alcoholics Anonymous:

“Our public relations policy is based on attraction rather than promotion; we need always maintain personal anonymity at the level of press, radio, and film.”

My home group consists of mostly old timers.  Most have double digit years of sobriety.  There is a lot of knowledge around the tables in that room, and I have learned so much.

A year ago, a newly sober man started to attend the group.  Within a week or two, I had named him Blow Hard.  He came into the rooms with an air of “I got this”, he has never asked for help or a sponsor.  My opinion is he is a lurker, counting days, and sporadically attending meetings. In my opinion, he never really adds anything, and always makes some self serving comment about himself so that we all get that he used to be “somebody”.  I am not enamored, and prefer it when he doesn’t show up.

There are a lot of men at this meeting, and only a few women.  One of the ladies is absolutely lovely.  Very gentile, very southern, loves to bake, and is the go to desert maker for any sober birthdays.  Intuitively I knew that she regards her privacy, sobriety and anonymity as sacred.  Unfortunately this was not clear to Blow Hard.

Blow Hard broke the cardinal rule of AA, he opened his mouth and broke lovely ladies (LL) anonymity.  Blow Hard shared LL’s story with his wife, who then approached LL at church and regurgitated it word for word.  LL was devastated and angry to say the least.  LL shared this story with us two weeks ago.  Blow Hard had not been at a meeting in weeks, so LL thought that the breach might have made him find a new group.  Nope.

We have another gentleman, X,  who sporadically comes to the Monday night meeting.  I have been intrigued by him since the first time I heard him speak.  I knew he had a lot of sobriety, and was very knowledgeable about the Big Book and AA.  Each time he had attended the group, he had added a unique perspective to the discussion.  I always felt there was more underneath and wished he would attend more often, so I could get some more of what he had.

The planets aligned Monday night.  Blow Hard, LL, and X all were at the meeting.  I could see by LL’s face that she was quite agitated that Blow Hard was there, and seated next to her.  Just as the meeting began, X came in the door.

The moderator began, and asked for a topic for discussion..  X immediately seized the moment.  He had just seen a post  on Facebook from someone announcing their 6 month sobriety.  He was incensed that the 11th Tradition had been violated. This set the topic of discussion.  Anonymity versus personal disclosure.

As the discussion continued, I could see LL getting more agitated. She eventually blew her stack.  She let it all out, she called him out on it, and then went on to warn us all to be very careful about what we shared in that meeting because it could happen to any one of us.  Our private stories could be broadcast to anyone by Blow Hard, he does not understand the anonymous in Alcoholics Anonymous.

I do not broadcast that I am an alcoholic or that I attend AA and am in recovery.  I share the information with people I trust and I am comfortable with, people I choose.  I blog anonymously, but there are some bloggers who know who I am, and a little bit about me.  I believe it is a personal choice, and I get to make it  I also know that if all bloggers were anonymous, I would not be sober today.  This is where I came to get sober, so many people helped me anonymously and personally, with names, emails and telephone numbers.  I thank each and every one.

I can also understand the “old timers” adherence to the Big Book and the 11th tradition.  It has worked for 75 years, why change it now?

The choice should always be your own, no one else should get to do it for you.



  1. If we were all moulded the same way then one rule would work for everyone, but we are not. We have our own feelings and life experiences to decide how we want to deal with our own sober journey. I don’t bring it up and there are many reasons for this but for the people that do that is their choice and since its their own journey that is how it should be.

  2. Great topic. Every town has a Blow Hard. Cocky, arrogant and an @$$hole to boot. I’m glad that woman got to hammer him in the meeting… Ah, anonymity, the rules seem so archaic to the young people – until they find out the hard way, why they are there. That camp of people who would have us eschew our anonymity are arrogant – worse, ignorant and naive. I am very weary of how close I get to those people.

  3. “We need always maintain personal anonymity at the level of press, radio and films.”

    Dr. Bob, co-founder of AA, commented on Tradition Eleven as follows: “Since our Tradition on anonymity designates the exact level where the line should be held, it must be obvious to everyone who can read and understand the English language that to maintain anonymity at any other level is definitely a violation of this Tradition.

    “The AA who hides his identity from his fellow AA by using only a given name violates the Tradition just as much as the AA who permits his name to appear in the press in connection with matters pertaining to AA.

    “The former is maintaining his anonymity ABOVE the level of press, radio, and films, and the latter is maintaining his anonymity BELOW the level of press, radio, and films – whereas the Tradition states that we should maintain our anonymity AT the level of press, radio, and films.”

    Reprinted from the February 1969 Grapevine

  4. Clearly going home and telling all to his wife was a breach of everything AA stands for. Not just anonymity, but the understanding that what is said in the meeting stays there.

    I see nothing in the big book that indicates one should hide the fact they are in recovery. As long as they only discuss themselves.

    Addiction is a widespread problem, more so now than when AA began. Keeping it hidden is not serving us well.

    Just my opinion.


  5. Like Jamez says 🙂

    At most meetings you’ll hear “who you see here, what you hear here, let it stay here” … which is exactly where BH went way wrong.

    Personally, my participation in AA isn’t something I keep secret but that doesn’t give anyone else the right or permission to repeat what I say in a meeting.

    Oh and there ain’t 23 billion people in recovery … slight typo I reckon? I mean, there ain’t but 7 billion people on the planet so … maybe million is what you meant?

  6. This is always a lively topic, ain’t it: 🙂

    I fall somewhere in the middle. In real life, only my close friends and family know about my recovery (and my boss at work). I don’t trumpet it, but I wouldn’t hide it if someone came right up to me and asked about it.

    But I also have an online presence. I don’t use my last name, but I do post pics of myself in my Twitter feed. I don’t of my family. I drop a hint now and then about myself, and if you were really diligent, you could easily find out who I am, where I work and my full name. But no one does that kind of thing really (I hope? lol)

    I understand what the Anonymous People are getting at. And I also understand the Traditions. AA’s thoughts on online stuff is a bit vague and dated in my opinion, but when I am in the blogs, the Twitterverse and recovery forums, I consider them at group level, as I am conversing with other alcoholics mainly. So that helps me consolidate traditions and my online presence, which I know is helpful for me and others.

    And Blow Hard…ugh. I am glad LL let him have it. What was his reaction? Oh man, that sucks.


    • The follow up has already happened, I was late posting this. Blow Hard made an “apology” at the next meeting. He stated that LL felt her anonymity had been breached, and HE was the target of her “vitriol”. He said he called her and apologized to her, and that every thing was fine.
      She was not there last week. It wasn’t looking so fine from where I was sitting. I spoke with her privately after the initial blow up meeting, and asked her not to leave the group, I guess only time will tell.
      Blow Hard has gotten his one year medallion, maybe he will now go elsewhere.
      To be continued….
      As always Paul, thank you for your wonderful, wise words. No need to look further to find out who you are, you are always right there in every blog post, every comment, tweet and instagram! 🙂

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