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A.A. Not So Anonymous Anymore


Anonymity isn’t as big a part of Alcoholics Anonymous (A.A.) as it used to be, according to The New York Times. Whether or not this is a good thing is a matter of debate, particularly in the professional recovery world, the article says.

The newspaper points out that when A.A. got its start in the Great Depression, alcoholism was seen as both a weakness and a disgrace. But with so many memoirs about recovery being penned by celebrities, that image is changing.

Last year A.A. issued an expanded statement on anonymity that explained the importance of being discrete on social networking sites. Some people have posted pictures taken at A.A. meetings and accidentally outed others in the photos.

Maer Roshan, the Editor of The Fix, a web magazine for those in recovery, said the recovery world is at a stage where the gay world was in the early 1990s. “Back then, there was still a stigma to saying you were gay,” he said. “There was a community, but it was mired in self-doubt and self-hatred, and it’s changed considerably.”

12 Responses to this article

  1. Avatar of Jane
    Jane / November 21, 2011 at 2:36 am

    I have written a memoir on the disease of alcoholism as it relates to my life the lives of many in my family for generations. My only purpose In writing this book was to help others. I do talk about my membership in AA, as it saved my life. I did not write book to get sympathy, to get rich or to get famous. I have a gift, a gift of writing and I don’t see how I could write it without discussing how I achieved sobriety. I have changed my name and all others, all of whom are only referred to by their first names, whether in AA or not. My hometown and other specific details are not included. Still, if I try to remove my experience in AA from the story, it would simply not make any sense. I feel torn, but compelled to share with others.

  2. Avatar of EDDY O
    EDDY O / July 22, 2011 at 5:19 pm


  3. Avatar of john
    john / May 18, 2011 at 10:56 am

    I can out myself-you cannot- I am not AA-AA is a program. For now, I will stay anonymously humble.

  4. billinsandiego / May 14, 2011 at 3:22 am

    I have found that most of those “in recovery” that openly declare themselves to be recovering alcoholics are on a crusade to justify past bad behavior. What happened to concept of assuming responsibility for one’s “wreckage of their past?” Unfortunately for those who broadcast their “recovery” only delude themselves. Because they admit they are alcoholic to the public they mistakenly believe that others will understand them, forgive them, and look upon them as simply victims of a disease. Not likely. There will always be a stigma and justifiably so. I am sorry that the editor of The Fix doesn’t seem to understand the elemental difference between being gay and being alcoholic. Did he forget that the primary symptom of alcoholism is drunkenness? Those who have had loved one killed by a driver under the influence who was described as an alcoholic will not be so forgiving. Homosexual activity doesn’t threaten anyone except the ignorant and intolerant. Whereas being drunk often does lead to the injury or death of innocent people. This is why the “stigma” will not go away. Those who sell books about their “suffering” from alcoholism aren’t offering amends; they are, for the most part, just making a buck for themselves. The essence of anonymity is humility – check out the 12th Tradition. Maer Roshan needs a meeting.

  5. Avatar of Sparrow
    Sparrow / May 13, 2011 at 8:51 pm

    It seems to me that the most important principle in the anonymity tradition is being conveniently avoided in this debate. Anonymity has to do with deflating and minimising the alcoholic ego on a personal, recovery level.
    [The breaking of Anonymity] experiences taught us that anonymity is real humility at work. It is an all-pervading spiritual quality which today keynotes A.A. life everywhere. Moved by the spirit of anonymity, we try to give up our natural desires for personal distinction as A.A. members both among fellow alcoholics and before the general public. As we lay aside these very human aspirations, we believe that each of us takes part in the weaving of a protective mantle which covers our whole Society and under which we may grow and work in unity.
    We are sure that humility, expressed by anonymity, is the greatest safeguard that Alcoholics Anonymous can ever have.
    Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions, © 1994 Alcoholics Anonymous World Services, Inc.

  6. Avatar of Scott Smith
    Scott Smith / May 11, 2011 at 7:30 pm

    It seems the primary issue noted is social networking sites and people uploading pics of other recovering people who prefer to remain anonymous. Most 12 step people I know out themselves, including myself, but would never out someone else. To thine ownself be true-out or not is up to the individual in this day and time.

  7. Avatar of John C.
    John C. / May 11, 2011 at 2:29 pm

    I encourage people to read the full article in the Sunday Times and, especially, the comments on the article on the NYT website. I am sober 31 years in AA and value the principle of anonymity. It allows all of us, including the new person, to have a clear expectation of privacy. Also, even though I am sober for a long time, none of us is immune to relapse. If I announce at the pubic level that I am a member of AA, subsequently relapse and possibly have consequences noted at the public level (e.g. DUI published in the newpaper), in some peoples’ view it would reflect poorly on AA’s effectiveness. Most importantly, since anonymity is the spiritual foundation of our traditions, anonymity allows me the humility to not be special but just another alcoholic doing the best I can today, a goal AA has taught me to embrace.

  8. Avatar of karol
    karol / May 10, 2011 at 3:45 pm

    To what extent does Maer Roshan’s parallel of today’s recovery world to the gay world in the 1990′s suggest that our society is on route to becoming more accepting and embracing of alcoholism and other forms of addiction? Lesbianism and gay-ism, in general, is “in” right now. Is the suggestion that we should expect a similar trend to emerge for alcoholism/substance abuse? To what extent does the nature of our exposure to AA and addiction in general (via social networking sites, media, and celebrity stories) make problematic substance use socially acceptable?

  9. Avatar of Roger Macauley
    Roger Macauley / May 10, 2011 at 2:49 pm

    I really don’t think the issue is about anonymity because of the associated stigma.
    I think that it is healthy for members to maintain a low profile simply for the sake of lessening the perceived damage done by relapse. AA doesn’t relapse, the individual does, yet AA gets the rap in the press because the individual has nade it known that they “tried” AA and found it lacking. The program is whole, complete and in many cases miraculous.

  10. Avatar of Carol
    Carol / May 13, 2011 at 7:55 pm

    Well said, Roger; clearly the writer did not understand the Traditions.

  11. Avatar of billinsandiego
    billinsandiego / May 14, 2011 at 2:39 am

    Thanks John, you are perhaps the only commenter that addressed the most valued element of anonymity – humility. This is the essense of the “spiritual foundation” that the Traditions address – not fear of exposure or embarrassment to A.A.

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