Sometimes people are confused about how ‘anonymous’ we are in 12 step programs. It can be confusing for people when they are new, and for people who are not members themselves. Also, be aware that you will get different thoughts and opinions from different people. None are right or wrong, good or bad- they are how we interpret things as individuals, and how we make it work in our own lives.
First things first – ‘Anonymous’ means I will not disclose the identity of the people I see in the rooms of 12 step programs. It does not mean I am not allowed to talk about my personal recovery. For me, my recovery has never been anonymous. I have always been very open about my journey and happy to share my experience. I consider it an honor to be a part of the 12 Step programs, and I wish people understood it better and how incredible it is.
However, many people have different circumstances and situations and they choose to be private with this information. There is still a lot of judgment and stigma related to addiction and the anonymous programs and oftentimes, that means people choose to be anonymous to protect their job or reputation. It is unfortunate the world view is still so limited, but true nonetheless.
There are many reasons people choose to remain anonymous, and I will always respect that choice. It is a deeply personal decision and it is not my decision to make for others. I can only choose for myself.
People make different choices for different reasons. With younger people I see parents wanting to keep it a ‘secret’ because they are embarrassed by what people will think of them, executives and professionals remain anonymous to protect their jobs and reputation, and some remain anonymous because they aren’t totally committed yet.
The important thing to remember about anonymity is I never have the right to out someone else. Anonymity serves a brilliant purpose to protect those needing protection, for whatever reason. And anonymity was a tradition of Alcoholics Anonymous from its inception- when being an alcoholic was considered immoral and they locked us up and threw away the key. Also, it remained anonymous to protect itself as an organization. That’s why everyone refers to it as ’12 step programs’ instead of AA/NA or any other A. So I think that anonymous ship has sailed also because the world is very aware when they hear ’12 step program’ that people are referring to AA.
I like to think we have come farther in our understanding of addiction these days. And I believe we have come farther because of people’s willingness to speak openly about their experience with addiction and AA/NA. I don’t have morality issues, I have a brain issue.
Outpatient and inpatient treatment centers alike rely heavily on the principles and steps of all the 12 Step programs and everyone speaks openly about that on websites and advertisements. There is no anonymity there – and now people look for treatment centers that don’t utilize the 12 Steps because they think it has some meaning they clearly don’t understand.
12 step programs are largely misunderstood. And people sometimes say ‘AA doesn’t work for me’. I’m hear to tell you, from experience, that AA works just fine. It is alive and well and helping millions of people across the globe everyday. It’s people that don’t work. Objections to 12 steps are more misunderstanding and usually a distraction for the person that needs to go there. If they throw a big enough fit and make you look at the ‘issues’ of AA then you are distracted from looking at them and their issues. That’s the truth. AA works fine.
Learn more about AA meetings Kansas City here.