Alcoholics Anonymous, or A.A. says that “the greatest single protection the Fellowship has to assure its continued existence and growth” is the anonymous component provided by the group’s structure.
So what do you think alcoholics who utilize A.A. would say if you asked them, is anonymity still needed for Alcoholics Anonymous? If enough members didn’t think it was needed, would the name then have to be changed?
Alcoholics _________? What would fill in that blank? This poses an interesting question.
Getting To Know Yourself
As you get to know yourself and your disease of addiction or alcoholism better, and you become more invested in the A.A. fellowship, do you really still need to remain anonymous?
On a personal level, the stigma that surrounds alcoholism in our society can be hard to face. For a lot of people who are in early recovery from alcoholism, knowing that anonymity is a part of the program’s foundation may reduce the anxiety of going to those first A.A. Meetings. Privacy and protection add a sense of comfort in sharing, especially when you feel that what you share will not leave that room.
Rehab Reality Shows
So what about these reality shows like Celebrity Rehab with Dr. Drew where your identity is clearly outed and you are admitting that you are an alcoholic or an addict? Have these members abandoned the anonymity piece of recovery? Are these people less likely to benefit from the A.A. fellowship, or was appearing on a show for treatment a way to bump up their own celebrity status?
Alcoholics/addicts like Charlie Sheen have almost promoted their disease with slogans like “winning!” and certainly without any anonymity. Maybe that’s why those who do participate in and benefit from A.A. do want to keep everything anonymous…so that people who flaunt their illness can out themselves and everyone else can remain private.
There are plenty of people with celebrity status who do appreciate and respect the anonymity of A.A. To be in the public eye and to be labeled as an alcoholic is unappealing to many, so you may not even know that a number of famous people are in A.A. and recovery.
What it seems to always come down to is a personal choice. Do I want to remain anonymous? Am I comfortable with friends and family knowing that I am an alcoholic and that A.A. is helping me? Am I okay with other people knowing my name and my participation in A.A.?
Level Of Comfort
“If I am comfortable with just my parents knowing right now, maybe later in my recovery I will be more okay with other people knowing, but I am glad that A.A. provides that anonymous factor so that it is my choice.” The words of one recovering alcoholic who is grateful for the anonymity provided by A.A. membership.
I think it is fair to say that yes, anonymity is still needed for Alcoholics Anonymous. Without it, too many longtime members and potential newcomers may be strongly deterred from joining a group that openly talks about people and their past. Would you want to share a story that you are not proud of, but that you are working through, all with the idea that anyone listening can tell anyone they want to tell?
Part of the A.A. literature states that, “Anonymity is the spiritual foundation of all our Traditions, ever reminding us to place principles before personalities.” Members join knowing that the foundation was created around keeping identity protected. If it was no longer needed then the name of the organization would probably not include the word anonymous!
Jared Friedman is an expert in alcoholism from his time spent as quality improvement manager at Sovereign Health Group. Learn more about Jared Friedman by connecting with him on .