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[ Opinion ]

Anonymity Not Secrecy

I got some flack the other night following a 12 Step meeting where I had announced that September is Recovery Month and that it was being celebrated in Toronto, Canada on September 20. The reason the person was upset as the celebration is not being sponsored by Alcoholics Anonymous and some would consider it an outside issue. I was also told it was breaking the tradition of anonymity. I happen to disagree.

The tradition of anonymity was not meant for us to keep the miracle of our recovery a secret. I’m allowed to tell whoever I want that I am a person in long-term recovery and am not breaking any type of tradition if I don’t mention which Fellowship I sobered up in.

The primary purpose of Alcoholics Anonymous is to help the still suffering alcoholic. I firmly believe that celebrating recovery removes the stigma surrounding addiction and in so doing makes it easier for the still suffering addict to seek help quicker. Is this not fulfilling the primary purpose? I would say yes and I think AA co-founder Bill Wilson would wholeheartedly agree.

Bill Wilson was a firm believer in reaching out to public officials to educate them on the disease of alcoholism in hopes that such knowledge would shape public policy. Bill and Dr. Bob Smith (AA’s other co-founder) assigned the task of educating the public and government policy makers to the First Lady of Alcoholics Anonymous Marty Mann. Bill Wilson (along with Mann) also spoke in front of a Congressional Committee in 1969 in order to help spread the message of recovery and hope.

Wilson was not using the tradition of anonymity to keep silent or to keep his recovery a secret. When someone gets upset with me for telling non-12 Step members I am a person of long-term recovery I have to ask the question, is it me you’re angry at or are you upset because part of you is still ashamed of your disease? When I first walked into the rooms of Alcoholics Anonymous I was mired in guilt and shame for the actions I did while active in my addictions. Fortunately, due to the 12 Steps, I was able to get rid of this guilt and shame and, most importantly, accept that I have a disease not a moral failing. Do cancer patients feel shame because of their disease? Do people who suffer from MS or diabetes feel shame because of their disease? I’m pretty sure the overwhelming majority of those who suffer from those diseases would say no. So why should I feel shame for my disease? The answer is – I shouldn’t and nor should anyone else who suffers from this hopeless condition of mind and body.

People celebrate all sorts of things and the celebration of putting the disease of addiction into remission should be rejoiced. When addicts, alcoholics, family members of alcoholics/addicts come together in celebration it should be applauded not criticised.

I would hope that you would find the date in your area for the celebration of Recovery Month and feel proud to join in the festivities. If not for yourself then to show the still suffering alcoholic/addict that there is hope out there and the disease is nothing to be ashamed of. If I don’t tell anyone I’m in recovery then how will a newcomer find help?