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Are You Anonymous?

Are You Anonymous?



I re-watched Anonymous People last night. Is it just me or does it need an update?


It reminded me of the conversations I have had recently with folks who are new to sobriety and full of piss and vinegar. They talk about how they plan to tell the world they are sober and proud. I always say, “Make sure you think it through before you get all chatty about your recovery. Not everybody needs to write a blog.” As you all know, I am an open book, but at this stage of the game I don’t have a lot to lose. As someone said to me on Friday, “You are exempt.”


I work in a treatment center, I am almost three years sober and I write about all the naughty things I did while I was drunk. It’s like queue-jumping; before anyone can say anything bad about me, I sneak right in and say it myself. However, when you decide to post your 60 day sober anniversary on Facebook, think twice. Or get a second opinion. Especially those of you who are young and not independently wealthy.


Later, when you apply for that job, or make a career decision that is not conducive to speaking up about your addiction, you might be sorry you were so open. I wish it were not so.


In 2012, William L. White said, “[There are] …millions of people who would not be recognized as individuals in recovery, until someone challenges this vanguard who are in the unique circumstances that allow them to confront the stigma that they will confront when they step forward and put a face and voice on recovery. That vanguard has begun…”


Four years later, things have changed for the better – there is more dialogue, more acceptance of those in recovery from addiction. But not enough. We still need to make a conscious decision whether we are prepared to confront the stigma and join the vanguard.


Today I’m not drinking because I’m joining the vanguard…


How come you’re not drinking?


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Comments (4)

  1. Avatar
    Tim S
    Apr 26, 2016

    Thanks, as always. Each of us needs to find our comfort point, hopefully for those who are members of Alcoholics Anonymous, in consultation with a sponsor and only after consideration of the Twelve Traditions and the reasons for them. I was taught early on that there’s a difference between anonymity about being a recovering alcoholic and about being a member of AA. I have chosen almost from the beginning to be open about the former but somewhat more discreet about the latter. Not to the point of secrecy, though, and it is often driven by context.

    My family, friends, and colleagues didn’t need to be told I had a problem with alcohol – it was obvious – and it was important for them to know I was taking steps to deal with it. When I was still working, I kept a copy of the Big Book with it’s distinctive dust jacket on my “back desk” as an open invitation to those who might still be struggling and I went to noon meetings every day during the work week. Now I include my sobriety date though not my AA membership on my résumé. It’s at least as important to who I am as my degrees and licenses. I’ve never in all the years discerned any negative consequences or reactions in the work place; your mileage may vary. (I was a government civil rights lawyer; perhaps that had something to do with it.). OTOH, I’ve always tried to guard against disclosing that I’m a member of AA “at the level of press, radio and film,” and other than with a spectacular and embarrassing misunderstanding with a reporter many years ago, I think I’ve mostly succeeded.

    In considering disclosure versus anonymity, I ask myself am I motivated by pride or ego? If I were to drink tomorrow would it make it more difficult, at a macro level, for AA to carry the message to the alcoholic who still suffers? Would my disclosure cause more pain to my loved ones, who had more than enough when I was drinking?

    Where does “at the level of the Internet” fall in this? I don’t know, and I’ve been a party to discussions about it for 28 years. I’ve chosen to believe it’s somewhere in between, partially because a lot of the technology makes it hard if not impossible to remain completely anonymous while at the same time using that technology for Step 12. Early on, AAWS and many local AA groups had grave and legitimate concerns about the use of the technology. It took years for even the Big Book to be available online legally. (There were many copyright breeching copies, some of them typed by hand with many errors.). In 1990, an SRO panel session about online recovery was presented at the 55th anniversary International in Seattle. We – I was a member of the panel – didn’t have good answers then and I’m not aware of any now. (If you have a resource, I’d welcome a reference.). But AA as a whole has traveled light years in coming not only to accept but to see the value in the Internet as a recovery tool.

    • Avatar
      Tim S
      Apr 26, 2016

      Will Apple auto-correct eventually make the distinction between “it’s” and “its” irrelevant?

    • Avatar
      Tall Girl
      Apr 27, 2016

      Thank you for this, Tim, beautifully written and very informative!

    • Marilyn
      Apr 27, 2016

      Well written. I think we should all be careful. Careful to uphold the traditions of AA if that applies, and more careful still about managing the stigma that remains in the work place and in social settings. My biggest concern is for those who (whether in AA or not) discount the long term effects of coming out as a recovering addict.

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