Our 12th Tradition says “Anonymity is the spiritual foundation of all our traditions…” Why is anonymity important? What does it mean to be anonymous? Does it mean that we actively hide our identity? Is it about only sharing our first name (and initial?) Or is there something deeper here? What can we share about ourselves? What can we share about other people in our lives? And especially, what can we share about the alcoholics and addicts whose behavior has so deeply affected our lives?

We were prompted to this topic by a listener, who wrote, “I would like to make a show suggestion: can you do a show on Anonymity? It’s another thing I struggle with. How much about my life can I talk about in my share? Should I keep details like what I do for a living or where I go to school to myself? When I have heard the most profound thing at a meeting and want to share it, can I tell someone what I heard? I some times feel like al anon is shrouded in mystery, where are the boundaries of the secret?”

Kelli, Swetha, and Spencer, with some help from our friend Mark, discuss these questions and other aspects of anonymity in the program.

Our topic for next week is Step 6: Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character. What are “all these defects of character?” How do we become ready to remove them? Is it like studying for a test? Do we really have to be ready to have all of them removed? How do we know when we are ready to have God remove all these defects? Please call us at 734-707-8795, use the voicemail button to the right, or email feedback@therecoveryshow.com with your questions or experience, strength and hope. Or just leave a comment right here.

Music from the show

We're pretty sure that they're using postcards from Post Secret in the Dirty Little Secret video.


Our intro music is [bandcamp track=510377286 bgcol=FFFFFF linkcol=0687f5 size=venti]

Other links

During our discussion, we referred to this article about Macklemore in Rolling Stone magazine, and to episode 407 of Recovered, Celebrities in Recovery.


6 comments on “Anonymity – Episode 27

  1. Jill O. says:

    I’m not sure if this would fall under the category of anonymity,but when I listened to the podcast today, it came to mind. During my first few months in Alanon, I had a very negative experience at a Alanon meeting I visited.
    The meeting itself seemed to be controlled and dominated by one couple, & almost had a cult-like feel in that the couple alone decided all the discussion topics, initiated cross-talk to members after many of the shares, & mentioned that they were sponsors to many of the group members who were present.

    After the meeting, everyone went for ice cream, & despite feeling uncomfortable during the meeting, I went too. As we were eating, the man from this couple asked those of us who were new to the meeting about who our Higher Power was. He seemed okay with the others’ answers, but not with mine. Right there at the table in front of the others, he debated the historical validity of my HP, & said I should be more liberal and non-specific in my choice and gender of a HP. I finally just told him that we would have to agree to disagree. He then implied that I was ignorant and naive in my choice of HP.

    My question is which concept or tradition would apply in this type of situation? I was very shaken up, felt disrespected & unsafe due to what happened during & after the meeting especially since I struggle with authority figures after growing up in an alcoholic family. Have any of you experienced or heard of anything similar happening in/after meetings?
    Thanks for listening!
    Jill O.
    P.S. I never went back there, & but went to many other (healthy/safe) meetings that week!

    1. kelli says:

      Hi Jill!
      I know Spencer replied to your post, but I had some additional thoughts. I agree, it does sound like that particular meeting was not following many of the traditions (I think Spencer covered them all, except maybe tradition 5) Each Al-anon Family group has but one purpose: to help families of alcoholics… it goes on to say that the primary purpose is to be welcoming and comforting to the friends and families of alcoholics/ addicts (not judging them for their situation, thoughts of staying with the alcoholic, etc), and it doesn’t sound like that group you mentioned were either of those to you).

      There is also a concept we talk about throughout the traditions: “obedience to the unenforceable”. In the blue (How Al-anon Works) book, on pages 121-122 it talks about how as groups, there is no authority who comes around to check on the groups and make sure they are following the traditions and concepts. The program leaves it up to each group to be responsible for their own behavior. The positive side of this is that all groups can have their own feel and their own format (autonomy)… but the downside is that sometimes you do end up with situations where someone with control issues (what co-depenent doesn’t have them!) decides to take over the meeting. Something that I learned the hard way (although my experience was not as bad as yours) is that I try to stick to meetings that have a group conscience. To me, that decreases the likelihood of a “leader” or people who are going to monopolize the meeting. I know, in your story above, there was NO way to know about GC, since it was one of your first meetings, and I didn’t know that either in the beginning. But now, when I try new meetings, that is something I look for. The traditions also express that if the group is making decisions together it helps the health of the meeting. (Tradition 2) Fortunately, it sounds like you live in an area where there are more meetings to choose from, so thankfully it’s not a choice of go to a meeting where you feel unsafe or don’t go to Al-anon.

      Also, as far as the higher power bit… I think Steps 2 and 3 are pretty clear on that. YOU and ONLY YOU get to decide who/ what/ how/ where and why your HP is and what it represents to you. Period.

      Lastly, the bit you wrote about cross talk really got to me. In our area, there are very few meetings that involve cross talk. I know it’s more popular in some areas, but not around the Ann Arbor area. I don’t want to judge what other people feel is important to their recovery (again, autonomy), but I will say that I don’t enjoy those meetings. I went to a cross-talk meeting early in my recovery. I already had a chip on my shoulder heading into that meeting for 2 reasons: 1) I was already upset at my alcoholic that day (hence why I was heading to a meeting) and 2) there was NO meeting-before-the-meeting (meaning, nobody got there early to chat and catch up and get set up) they all just filed in about 2 min before start time. Being a person who struggles with trust, I need the pre-meeting conversation to help me ease into the situation and feel comfortable with the people around me. SO, anyway, I was already irritated. Then people started sharing and there was a ton of cross talk, with people saying things like “you should…” and “what you NEED to do is…”. When it came to my turn at the table I declined to share because I felt so uncomfortable. I was then badgered by 3 of the people at the table about “how I would feel better if I shared” and “it’s obvious that something is on your mind, you should get it out”. I wanted to cry! Al-anon was supposed to be helpful and non-judging, not demanding and rude! I didn’t know why I felt so uncomfortable at the time, but I now know that, much like yourself, I just didn’t feel safe there. I am fully capable of criticizing myself all day long, I don’t need to get it at a meeting too. I, also, chose not to go back to that meeting. Since I know that particular meeting is not in my “hula hoop” I didn’t have the power to control or change it, but I did have control over my choices, one of which was not to go back there!

      SO, I think, to answer your question, there are (unfortunately) lots of meetings out there like the ones we’ve experienced. The good news is that there are lots of other meetings that aren’t like that! I’m so glad to now know that I have choices, like not going back to unhealthy meetings and that I can start my own meeting (and in it, follow the traditions) if I don’t like the meeting choices I have.

      Thank you so much for your thoughts and I wish you continued serenity and happiness in recovery!!!

    2. The Recovery Show says:

      Just to add a little more to this conversation, I went to a meeting tonight I had never been to, because I am traveling. They had several readings at the start of the meeting, including one I had not heard: the 3 obstacles to success in Al-Alon. Two of these are discussion of religion and dominance. You can say whether these seemed a problem in that meeting. It seems maybe so to me.

      I agree with Kelli that meetings with a regular group conscience meeting seem to be generally healthier than those without.

  2. spencer says:


    That sounds like a very unhealthy meeting. I went to a meeting once, recommended by a friend. This was fairly early in my recovery. After I told my “tale of woe”, the man across the table leaned towards me and said “What you need to do is …” I did not go back to that meeting. And what I saw was mild compared to your experience. Right off hand, I see “violations” of several traditions, namely,

    2. For our group purpose, there is but one authority – a loving god as He may express Himself in our group conscience. Our leaders are but trusted servants – they do not govern. — It appears to me that the “leaders” of this group were taking authority, not letting a loving God express his will through a group conscience.

    4. Each group should be autonomous, except in matters affecting another group or Al-Anon or AA as a whole. — If your experience is typical, the behavior of the members of this group might affect Al-Anon as a whole by driving away anyone who doesn’t agree with the leaders, possibly never to come back to any meeting.

    9. Our groups, as such, ought never be organized… — Sounds pretty organized to me.

    12. Anonymity is the spiritual foundation of all our Traditions, ever reminding us to place principles above personalities. — I see a lot of personality and not very much principal at work here.

    Of these, from your description, I feel that they have strayed the furthest from traditions 2 and 12, allowing a couple of strong personalities to dictate the meeting. I am sure that such attitudes would be challenged in any of the meetings that I attend.

    I am glad that this was not your first experience of Al-Anon, and that you have found safe and healthy meetings to attend.

  3. Erika O. says:

    Swetha’s voice really IS “like buttah”. 🙂 Loved this episode! I have thought a lot about anonymity, especially when one of my very trusted friends in the program lovingly expressed her feelings about my breaking anonymity. I felt horrible about it. But I also was able to trust that my Higher Power was giving me an opportunity to change. I realized that it’s MY responsibility to respect the anonymity of others by being mindful of what I am saying at all times. That way, people can trust me and respect me, but, more importantly, I can feel proud that I did the “next right thing” when I had the chance.

    Thanks again for the podcast!

  4. Jill O. says:

    Thanks so much for the feedback everyone!
    Spencer, I appreciate you sharing your experience with
    cross-talk, and for explaining more about
    the traditions. I’m still not very familiar with
    them, but my new home group does discuss
    them on the months where there’s a 5th week.
    I’m going to read more about them on my own
    too because they seem to contain a great deal of

    I’ve visited a meeting (not the one I originally
    described) where a person gave advice directly
    to another person, and while no one said anything
    about it, I felt uncomfortable with it. I think the
    person who gave the advice might have been
    newer to Alanon, but the person who was chairing
    the meeting didn’t say anything either to
    address it.

    Kelli, thank you also for sharing more about the traditions, and also for pointing out the importance of the group
    consscience. My home group has regular group conscience meetings, & I’ve seen how they can be a great
    tool to decide issues fairly without having one person lead or dominate the group. The group I originally described seemed to have a lot of long time members so maybe the way it was “led ” is what they like, but to me as
    a relative newcomer, it was suffocating. I guess it was a good learning experience though, & I’m glad to learn
    more about the traditions now too. I also can resonate with the feelings you described about others trying to dictate or impose their viewpoint of a HP onto others. I have not come across that issue again, thankfully!

    Has anyone suggested the topic of the traditions? I think it would be great to hear more about them 🙂
    Thanks again for listening, & sharing your experience, strength, & hope so faithfully!

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