In today’s world, recovery through 12-step programs from drugs, alcohol, and other addictive substances or activities is becoming more common. TV shows and movies are featuring characters in recovery, celebrities are talking about their own recovery openly, and if one were to drop by a bookstore, they might find a growing supply of literature pertaining to recovery.
Everyone’s anonymity is their own business. Some people prefer to guard their anonymity very closely, wearing it deep underneath their sleeves so that only who need to know about it do, and everyone else remains ignorant. Others take the other road, allowing the fact that they are in recovery to be expressed openly and bringing it up in conversation when appropriate.
Traditions of 12-Step Programs
Alcoholics Anonymous not only has 12 steps, but also 12 traditions established by their founders explaining how exactly the members are to run AA through the ages. As a result of all other 12-step programs being based off of Alcoholics Anonymous, they also have their own customized set of 12 traditions.
For example, the first tradition of AA is, “Our common welfare should come first; personal recovery depends upon AA unity.” This explains that, on a group level, what is best for the group is, by proximity, best for the individual, for individual sobriety depends upon the whole of Alcoholics Anonymous to stay together.
Tradition #11 states: “Our public relations policy is based on attraction rather than promotion; we need always maintain anonymity at the level of press, radio and films.” Had the traditions been formulated in the modern age, this tradition may have also included the internet.
The reason that the 11th tradition was made was, first, to avoid making AA become something that would be on par with religious groups who advertise themselves in order to increase their membership. 12 step programs do not work like that; they are for people who seek them out because they feel they need it. Another reason that this tradition was created was to avoid the situation wherein, say, a celebrity came out about being sober, praised it, said that it was working and all was well, and then relapsed in such a way that it made the news. People would feel that AA didn’t work because, well, it obviously did not work for that celebrity.
Practicing Anonymity Versus Being Open
But there is are benefits for being open about the fact that you are in recovery..
Seeing as 12-step programs are based on attraction rather than promotion, simply stating that you are in recovery would be attractive to someone who may feel like they need it as well. They may come to you for help, and then you can effectively practice the 12th step, which is about helping another person who is in need of recovery.
But don’t walk around pronouncing to the world that you are in recovery to anyone who you may come across or know to some extent. Recovery, although becoming more accepted, is still under a stigma of being strange in most places. It could turn people off. Some people see being sober as no longer being able to have fun, i.e. go out and have a drink with friends at a bar, parties, clubs, concerts, and so on. Being in recovery does not necessarily mean being in Alcoholics Anonymous and no longer drinking; it could mean being in recovery from narcotics, marijuana, overeating, porn, video games, and so on. But some people see it as limiting to what would be seen as a “normal life”.
Keep a balance between being open about your recovery and being guarded towards the general public. Someone knowing your are in recovery could help them or someone they know, but it could also get you into a strange place with the public at large.
If you or someone you know is struggling with addiction, please contact us.
Cindy Nichols is the founder of 411 Intervention, a full-service intervention resource that helps individuals with addiction issues find treatment solutions. You can see an interview with Cindy here on Recovery Now TV.