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Do We Make a Farce out of Anonymity at the Private Level?

Copyright The A.A. Grapevine, Inc., November 1977

I have been a member of Alcoholics Anonymous for over nine and a half year s and am continually grateful for my sobriety. Because I love AA and want to see it grow and reach those who are in dire need of our help, I am writing this questioning memo to the Grapevine.

What has become of the “Anonymous” part of our name? Why have recover ed alcoholics, in their infinite wisdom, decided in so many cases that they are privileged to break their brother s’ anonymity along with their own? I was told early on that I could tell anyone I wished that I was a member of AA, but that the right to talk about other members in circles outside of AA was not mine.

After witnessing a number of anonymity-blowing incidents, a longtime member may become indifferent to them. But for the newcomer, they pose a very real problem. If he can’t trust us with his confidence, whom can he turn to?

I have found that certain pat remar ks are used by the blabbermouths who “inform” on other AA’s, and here is one of them: “Well, I’ve been in AA for twenty-one years, and I don’t care who knows it. I’m proud of my association.” And then they look at you as though you were a disloyal ingrate who is ready for a slip.

Or take this crusher: “How anonymous wer e you when you were falling off bar stools, or making the hospital circuit, or visiting jails and other institutions of higher alcoholic learning?” This list can be expanded to include wife-beating, check-kiting, child-neglect, or any other demeaning behavior that we alcoholics exhibited when practicing alcoholism and may have later confided to fellow members.

Whenever the question begins, “How anonymous were you when...,” it is a show-stopper and intended to put you down. How dare you want to remain an active but non-publicized member? You should be delighted and proud to have the gossipmongers (and don’t kid yourself - every group has them) tell your nonalcoholic friends the facts of your drinking life. Even wor se, people who have never seen you any other way than sober are briefed about you, and often strangers are told that you are in AA before they even meet you. They ar e given a capsule case history, as it were. In small towns, I find that anonymity is a myth. And this is too bad, for it keeps away from our meetings and our program countless thousands of pr acticing alcoholics who desperately need our help.

Alcohol is our adversary, and we should devote our time and energies to attracting those who still suffer, instead of turning this beautiful concept of selfless service into a name-dropping contest in which gossip becomes the substitute for drinking.

What brought all this to mind was a telephone talk with a comparatively new member, who earnestly and quite rightly wishes to remain undiscussed and unidentified outside the parish house where the local AA meeting is held. T his person said, "The 'Anonymous' part of AA is a farce. Why don't we drop it from our name and just call ourselves 'Alcoholics'?"

We have been warned in the Big Book and our Traditions that we must watch out for bickering, power drives, and disunity from within, for these are much more inimical to our beloved Fellowship than any outside influence could ever be.

May I ask anyone who may read this to keep your trap shut about the other fellow? Guard his anonymity, for it is a sacred trust. Let's not prove the truth of the saying that two people can't keep a secret - particular ly if both of them ar e in AA.

P.G.

Copyright The A.A. Grapevine, Inc., November 1977

In practicing our Traditions, The AA Grapevine, Inc. has neither endorsed nor are they affiliated with Silkworth.net.
The Grapevine®, and AA Grapevine® are registered trademarks of The AA Grapevine, Inc.

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