Your anonymity is a personal choice. Someone else’s anonymity is not your choice. You have absolutely no right to “out” someone else’s sobriety, clean time, recovery or whatever you want to call it. You have no right to claim they relapsed or judge the state of their recovery. This includes celebrities, politicians, public figures, it doesn’t matter who. You don’t get to tell anyone who is in or out of a program or fellowship. You don’t get to tell anyone who was at a meeting or who is a member of the fellowships, ever.
Anonymity is Foundational
In AA, “Anonymity is the spiritual foundation of all our Traditions, ever reminding us to place principles before personalities.” … At the personal level, anonymity provides protection for all members from identification as alcoholics, a safeguard often of special importance to newcomers. At the public level of press, radio, TV, films and other media technologies such as the Internet, anonymity stresses the equality in the Fellowship of all members by putting the brake on those who might otherwise exploit their A.A. affiliation to achieve recognition, power, or personal gain. (don’t say you are a member, as people will think you are a representative or spokesperson). When using digital media, A.A. members are responsible for their own anonymity and that of others. When we post, text, or blog, we should assume that we are publishing at the public level. When we break our anonymity in these forums, we may inadvertently break the anonymity of others.
Don’t Become a Representative of Any Program of Recovery
You may be a member of AA, an outstanding member, but you don’t represent AA, you are not the designated spokesperson for AA, you aren’t the AA poster child, AA doesn’t want your celebrity endorsement or need it. Even if you’re the chairperson of a large group, a GSR, a delegate to the convention, you are not the spokesperson.
A.A. has promised personal anonymity to all who attend its meetings. Because its founders and first members were recovering alcoholics themselves, they knew from their own experience how ashamed most alcoholics are about their drinking, how fearful they are of public exposure. The social stigma of alcoholism was great, and those early A.A. members recognized that a firm assurance of confidentiality was imperative. Anonymity is essential for an atmosphere of trust and openness. Have you noticed in meetings people generally don’t use their last name when identifying themselves? Some use nicknames. It’s for a reason.
The same goes almost exactly the same way with the other fellowships. The wording is different, some of the reasons are different, but the purpose is the same.
Who YOU share to about YOUR sobriety and recovery is a different matter. The details of YOUR life are your business and yours to disclose or not, just keep everyone else’s name out of it. You are free to tell family and friends you’re sober, you’re in recovery, you’re a member of AA or NA or whatever fellowship or group. They are not secret organizations. The best suggestion on disclosing this is to wait until disclosing. If you’re in early recovery you have yet to establish a footing in your chosen program of recovery. This is a personal decision that needs to be made weighing all the risks and options after thinking about it for a while. For me, the decision was easy; my anonymity is unimportant, everyone else’s anonymity is important and none of my business. It’s not for me to share.
I personally don’t care who knows I’m sober or in recovery or a member of what fellowship. I tell people I’m sober and in recovery but I never mention if and what fellowships I am a member of, or who is and who is not a member. For me, the anonymity part furthers the shame and stigma of addiction, the secret keeping, and the secrets and isolation addiction brings.
The Stigma; Should I Stay Anonymous?
I could care less who knows that I’m sober and in recovery. I could care less who doesn’t like me or wants to shame and stigmatize me for overcoming a disease. That is clearly their issue. That is clearly something they have to work out in therapy as what is going on is, they are projecting what some alcoholic or addict did to them in the past and putting it on me. You’ll hear about “those people” “those addicts”, “you’re just like my father” or whatever. This happens all the time on social media. Without ever meeting me, seeing me, talking to me, knowing a single thing about me, they will project every single resentment they’ve ever had against an addict/alcoholic onto me. Like it’s my responsibility or place to accept responsibility for it, resolve it, apologize for it, make amends for it, pay for it. It’s quite bizarre. No one would say my diabetic father treated me horribly, you’re diabetic you’re a horrible person. But tell them you’re sober and you’ll get every horrific story about every addict they’ve ever met. Every once in awhile you’ll hear something nice but don’t count on it.
So, there are pitfalls to people knowing you’re sober, as you also just told them you were in active addiction and/or alcoholism at some point. Most people are just happy for you. But it can affect employment too. There are certain jobs, many of them that require security clearances, that you might be ineligible for. There are people that will lump you in with the worst of the worst people on earth.
When to Disclose that You are in Recovery
If you can’t handle that at this moment, just pause and possibly later you will be ready to, as there are benefits. The main benefit is that you might be able to help someone else in the future. As you get some time under your belt, you’ll be the family expert on all thing’s addiction. You’ll be the go-to guy in the family for what to do with drunken cousin Bob. If people on social media know you’re sober, you’ll get messages from people all over the country who are in the club too. Friends from high school and college will come out of the woodwork at times with support. It’s also a place to start, a place of commonality with others with some people you usually are in disagreement with. With this political climate we have today, you’ll find yourself being nicer to sober people who have vastly different political views than you. These small commonalities with people in such a politically polarized society, will only be helpful for us in the future.
Whatever you do, just decide never to share about someone else’s sobriety or recovery or membership in a fellowship.
If you or someone you love is struggling with addiction, please reach out to us at 877-732-6837 or 877-RECOVER. Our admissions coordinators are available to take your call 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Because We Care.