11. Our public relations policy is based on attraction rather than promotion; we need always maintain personal anonymity at the level of press, radio, films and TV. We need guard with special care the anonymity of all AA members.
12. Anonymity is the spiritual foundation of all our Traditions, ever reminding us to place principles before personalities.
I have spent some time thinking about anonymity. What is it? What does it mean for me? What does it mean for this podcast? How can I tell my story and maintain appropriate anonymity? Recently, I attended a screening of the new documentary, The Anonymous People, which encourages us to speak out in support of recovery, to work to remove the stigma of the disease of addiction. It raises some questions. How can we speak out while hiding our identity? Does feeling that we need to keep our recovery secret just perpetuate the stigma and shame? What is important about anonymity?
For me, there are four important aspects of anonymity as captured in Traditions 11 and 12.
First, I believe strongly that my anonymity is mine to protect or unveil. I can control what I reveal and what I hide. I can decide to be fully open about who I am, what I do, where I live, or I can decide that it is none of your business and not reveal any of it.
However, tradition 11 asks us to not put ourselves forward as representatives or spokespeople for our recovery program. No one person can represent the program. If I were to say, “I am the true voice of the program,” and you decided you didn’t like me, you might also reject the good of the program. Or, if you took my word as gospel, my experience might not be right for you, and you wouldn’t find the help you need. Thus, in this podcast, I remain as anonymous as possible, trying to share my experience, strength, and hope, and nothing more.
Tradition 11 also asks us to protect the identity of any members of AA that we might know. In fact, just as I can control what I reveal, I believe that it is your decision and responsibility to decide what you might reveal or hide about yourself, and that I must defer to you in those decisions.
Tradition 12 tells me that it is important that what I share in meetings comes from my own experience, that I share from that experience, and that I do not put myself forward as any sort of authority. If, for example, I was a therapist, I should not use that as a basis for recommending any solution or course of action. I say only “this is what I experienced”, “this is what I did”, and “this is what happened.” In that way, I share from principles and not from my own person.
From this, I conclude that Al-Anon does not require me to be silent about my recovery. It only requires that I do not reveal things I learned about other people in the program, and that I do not put myself forward as any sort of representative or authority about the program. I am free to share my experience, my strength, and my hope, within those boundaries.
At least, that’s my opinion.
A meditation for September 25, 2013.