Breaking my Anonymity

In the past moAnonymity Accidentnth, I have had a couple of people email me asking me about my decision to break my anonymity. I want to address this issue. My thoughts have evolved over the past couple of years since I started this blog, but I felt like I needed to re-post the original blog as a point of reference. This original post was published on September 24, 2014. I would also like to add that if someone would like to write the post about why anonymity should be kept, I would greatly appreciate it. I had made this offer originally to the people who emailed me, but I never heard back from them. I hope someone will volunteer to do it. And without further ado…

I have been writing today’s post on and off again for the last week. It has been very difficult. I think the reason is that I am walking a fine line of between explanation and justification. I keep slipping into a defensive tone, like I am on guard against possible recriminations. So, with a deep breath, I am going to start over.

Today’s writing is the third in a series of posts. If you are just joining the conversation, you might want to look to the right hand side of the screen. It should show Post One, “How I became an Alcoholic” and Post Two, “What it’s like Now.” They will explain my backstory and my motivation for writing this little series.

So, this third part addresses the final question: Why I write so publicly about my alcoholism.

Let me start off by saying that I truly enjoy writing. I have always enjoyed voicing my thoughts on paper. In fact, I think I write more coherently than I speak. In my mind, my words are clean and precise, but when I speak, they come out in a jumble. When I get the chance to write, edit, rephrase, and yes, start over when I begin to sound defensive, I feel a lot calmer.

AA teaches me to be honest today. And I honestly do not care about if anyone knows I am a recovering alcoholic. Additionally, I am not supposed to live in fear. The only reason I could come up with for not proclaiming my alcoholism is fear of what other alcoholics would say. “What? Oh no!” you say. “Other alcoholics? You meant Normies.” No, no I did not. I’ve run that one over and over again in my own head. It sounds crazy, but it’s true. I have never had anyone condemned my recovery to my face. Usually, people are quite nice and supportive. Maybe a little shocked, but encouraging none-the-less. Alcoholics, though, man, we can be ruthless. Alcoholics, by and large, are generally really intelligent people and we are not afraid to pass judgment and speak our minds. We are kinda a scary organization, to be quite honest. Thank gosh our main objective is staying sober and not world domination.

Okay, here are the main reasons I get for not proclaiming myself an alcoholic. 1) The second A of AA. Anonymity. I think it is a sticky widget. According to the preface of the Big Book, the reason for anonymity is simple. “It is important to stay anonymous because we are too few, at present to handle the overwhelming number of personal appeals which may result from this publication.” The amount of personal appeals I have received is zero. And I have plenty of time. 2) The Eleventh and Twelfth Traditions. Okay, you may have me here. I’ve read them a few times, and yet, I am still not clear on the ideas. But I know I am not promoting. I’ve said time and again, I speak for no one other than myself. 3) The idea that if an alcoholic is public and then relapses, the public will assume AA as an organization, and not the individual, is somehow to blame. I’ve never really gotten this argument either. Alcoholism and drug addiction are so life consuming that for a person to stop for even a week or a month is a huge accomplishment. To disregard this clean time as a blanket failure of AA is near sighted at best. Besides, I have never actually heard this said by a single Normie ever. It is always said to me by an AA speaking on behalf of society. Has anyone ever actually heard the news condemn AA when a celebrity has failed to maintain sobriety? I should YouTube it.

So, why I write about my alcoholism… (I cringe a little as I write this because I fear that some might find me morally grandstanding. That is not the case at all. I am a flawed individual. I own every part of that.) I think that publicly proclaiming my alcoholism is the morally right thing to do. That’s it. I write about my alcoholism because I think I should. Pure and simple.

“Alcoholic” is a very heavy label. Because alcoholism and drug addiction is so stigmatized in modern society (especially for women), most people keep their anonymity for fear of societal backlash. In fact, just today I had lunch with a friend who told me she is worried that if her boss knew she was an alcoholic, the boss would use that information against my friend. I absolutely get that. Not for a second do I judge my friend for her decision to maintain anonymity.

My personal feeling, though, regarding just me, is that if I truly believe that my alcoholism is genetically predisposed, which I do, then I should be no more ashamed or embarrassed by my disease than I am of my hair color or my skin tone. I am not responsible for my disease. With that said, I am 100% responsible for my recovery, what I do with my disease once I am diagnosed. If I choose to disregard my alcoholism and indulge in my obsession, I will no doubt commit ludicrous and outrageous acts, cut myself off from those who love me, lie, cheat, and steal. Then, I should absolutely be ashamed of my actions. But stopping, asking for help, living by a moral code and a set of principles, and proclaiming a belief in something holier and deeper than the material is not, nor should it be, shameful. The reality is, I do not think it is embarrassing that I am a recovered alcoholic. The embarrassing part is if I had never stopped.

I belong to a small minority that feels that by clinging to anonymity, we alcoholics help perpetuate the stigma of an alcoholic rather than the creating a new discourse about recovery. I remember a person saying in a meeting once, “I didn’t care about my anonymity when I was out there drinking.” That’s the language I understand. I have the luxury to be in a situation where I can proclaim my alcoholism, but even if I couldn’t, I probably still would. I think it is important. I write because I think I should. If I treat my disease as a source of embarrassment and shame, why in the world would I be surprised when others do the same?

8 thoughts on “Breaking my Anonymity

  1. I’m​ late to the show on this…
    I can be a shining example of what the Big Book has given me. I can be helpful to those that need help, without saying​ publicly what fellowship I belong to. When asked, I can explain privately how it worked for me. Short term, I can see the want to share with everyone how great AA, NA or any of the other A’s was for me, but long term, I can see that it might bite me in the butt if I get drunk and cause some tragedy. I must be diligent and protect it from the likes of me. I have only been given today as a reprieve. I don’t intend on getting drunk tomorrow but that is out of my hands.

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    • Hey Bryan,

      Thank you for commenting. I haven’t been posting on my blog because life has been so crazy, but I have been thinking about getting back to it. Its cool to see someone still reading it.

      I appreciate your thoughts. I wonder, though… If someone says they belong to an organization and everyone else knows they mean AA/NA, even if they don’t name it expressly as that, does does it even matter? I’ve heard people in the public, for instance, say “I belong to an organization” and we all know they mean AA, so why not just say AA? It amounts to the same thing, no?

      I look forward to hearing from you.

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      • What other people do is well outside my hula-hoop. I can tell you that I have chosen the path of anonymity for the most part.

        Bill W — If I were asked which of these blessings I felt was most responsible for our growth as a fellowship and most vital to our continuity, I would say, the “Concept of Anonymity.”

        Anonymity has two attributes essential to our individual and collective survival; the spiritual and the practical.

        On the spiritual level, anonymity demands the greatest discipline of which we are capable; on the practical level, anonymity has brought protection for the newcomer, respect and support of the world outside, and security from those of us who would use A.A. for sick and selfish purposes…

        Short term, breaking my anonymity elevates me to the forefront of the conversation. It points sharply towards advertising. But, if everyone knows, and I get drunk, harm others, and cause a public spectacle, I have harmed Aa/NA as a whole, caused disharmony and disunity and may scare newcomers off from the doors.

        Breaking my anonymity may also cause problems in the future with employment. Some employers don’t want any association with us. I know, I know… why would I want to work for them if that’s the way they feel? Well, I get sober, get my brain cells working, go back to school, get my Masters and go out searching for the job I have always wanted. (Which I did.) A simple Facebook and google search gives a lot if info about a candidate in the recruiters eyes.

        For me, no tattoos, stickers, license plates frames or special plate tags. A friend of mine drives around with a frndobl license plate, cuts people off, flips them off and is extremely aggressive. It reflects poorly on the organization. Taints others towards our cause.

        I still have a lot to learn and AA/NA has changed since I knocked on the doors in 1988. Any one who knows me, knows where I go and what I do. I am not anonymous. I live with anonymity.

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  2. Oh hell I can’t stop maybe it’s the stupid language of the Big Book and that damn word breaking you know the biggest problem with the way they wrote the Big Book is they assumed that we know something and that’s why their instructions are not anywhere close to being precise you can’t tell someone how to do something and assume they know didly squat there is my two cents I might be back later with more if I can just go to sleep and recharge my brain.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I never understood me keeping my anonymity I agree with Robert how is someone going to know who to talk to if we’re all anonymous but I can understand protecting someone else’s anonymity did you know that people with security clearances can be a drunk but not a sober member of AA how backward is that lord I could talk about this shit forever but I’ll stop because I’m tired of typing.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. If no one knows who I am, then how will they know who to ask for help? (Or is it whom to ask for help)
    I am no longer afraid of who I am!
    Robert P Giguere recovered alcoholic sober by God’s grace and mercy since 8/1/2004

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Robert, for posting your comment. (I think it is who LOL.) I think the same thing. I have been warned a lot about breaking anonymity, but only once have I suffered a repercussion for my honesty. (I’ll be writing about that one time next week). But because of my honesty, I have had tons of opportunity to hep those who normally I might not have been able to help. The benefits outweigh my consequences by a tremendous margin. My soul tells me that.

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