Given that it is part of the organization’s name, it should be no surprise to anyone that anonymity is a critical element of the recovery programs fostered by Alcoholics Anonymous. Since its founding in 1935, Alcoholics Anonymous has provided its participants with a safe environment to share their personal stories and to receive support from other recovering alcoholics without exposing them to any risks of exposure to the broader public. Recovering alcoholics often will share their stories outside of the AA group setting, but that decision is theirs to make, and they share only their own stories, and not the experiences of other AA group members.
Anonymity in AA
Anonymity is a significant component of AA’s strength and ability to attract recovering alcoholics into its folds. Although alcoholism is a disease that an alcoholic cannot control by himself, the broader societal perception of alcoholism is that it is more of a personal weakness than a disease. Alcoholics have been laughed at and stigmatized as having no self-control or discipline. An alcoholic who wants to find help to overcome his problem might be reluctant to participate in a recovery program if details of his participation in that program were publicly-available. Assurances of anonymity give a recovering alcoholic an opportunity to avoid judgment from outsiders who do not understand his affliction.
AA for Recovering Alcoholics
Beyond giving assurances to recovering alcoholics that their stories will not be shared outside the group, anonymity is part of the humility that AA seeks to instill in recovering alcoholics as they achieve sobriety. Alcoholism is a disease that turns an individual’s attention wholly to himself, with no consideration of the people and world around him. Achieving true and long-lasting sobriety requires an alcoholic to turn his attention away from himself and to serve others first. Recovering alcoholics find that this attitude of service to others is the most significant element in their rehabilitation. If a recovering alcoholic were to seek praise and thanks in exchange for his service, he would not be offering that service with any sense of humility and, ultimately, he would turn his focus back to himself and his own achievements. This self-centeredness exposes an alcoholic to a greater risk of relapse. Rather than expose its participants to this risk, AA emphasizes the need to serve others in a full sense of anonymity, and without any identification of the source of that service.
Recovering from Alcoholism
This overriding sense of anonymity is sometimes difficult to reconcile with the publicity that AA gets for its successes. AA and some AA members willingly publish stories about how they have helped alcoholics to overcome their addictions and to lead sober lives. AA’s purpose is singular, namely, to carry the organization’s message to any alcoholic who is willing to hear it. AA members who have worked to publicize that message by proclaiming their own stories are often reminded that they are straying from the central purpose of anonymity within the organization. The organization understands that human nature makes reconciling these tensions as difficult as defeating the alcoholism disease.
Please contact the Last Resort Recovery Center (near Austin, Texas) for more information about AA’s programs and its philosophy of anonymity. Like AA, we strive to maintain the anonymity of alcoholics and drug addicts that we treat in our programs. Please call us at 512-360-3600 for more information about how those programs can help you to overcome your problems with alcohol without exposing you to any judgments from third parties.