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.