The tradition of maintaining anonymity in recovery dates back 76 years to when Alcoholics Anonymous first began. It continues to be a major part of the 12 step group today. The purpose of protecting anonymity is to make members of the group feel safe and to create an environment where all individuals are equal.
Protecting that anonymity involves several things. One is that no member of the group should speak publicly as a representative of A.A. Speaking on a public platform includes posting on social media, blogging about A.A., or speaking to the media in any way.
This precaution also serves to protect other members from having their identities revealed. Any A.A. member who is a celebrity or other public figure is discouraged from speaking openly about the group as well. The only time that a person in A.A should reveal their membership is to a family member or other loved one. Telling someone who may have a drinking problem of their own about being in A.A. is also an instance when anonymity can be broken.
You may be wondering why keeping involvement in a 12 step group to oneself is so important. The space created by A.A. and other 12 step groups in meant to be a safe one where any individual can feel comfortable coming forward and sharing their experiences with others.
Opening up about alcoholism or addiction can be a very difficult thing to do, especially for newcomers. The anonymity of the group provides a safe and supportive environment to do just that.
A study done in 2012 found that the concept of anonymity had benefits for both men and women seeking help for drug or alcohol abuse. Men in recovery seem to do well participating in 12 step groups because of the safety they provide and the social network of support that usually comes with participating in them.
Women in recovery benefit even more from participating in a 12 step group because the meetings helped them face and process the emotions associated with their addiction. Depression and anxiety are the most common issues that those in recovery have to face.
Even though anonymity is still a central theme of 12 step programs, the concept has been modified a bit for the 21st century. Many leading addiction experts agree that maintaining privacy is important but say that the act of talking publicly about one's recovery can be extremely inspiring and helpful to others who are trying to heal.
Talking about one's own recovery can help dispel the myths associated with addiction and reveal the process behind changing one's life around. Hearing these types of stories is essential for others to hear.
Knowing that there are people who have successfully beat addiction provides the inspiration and hope that those who are thinking about recovery need. Being able to talk about your recovery in a public way can be part of service. This is done by being a speaker at A.A. meetings, but perhaps it could bring hope to more people by being done in a more open way.
Anonymity is definitely still important for preserving the safe environment of meetings, but if someone feels the need to speak publicly about their own recovery process it's definitely not going to hurt either. As long as the sharing is done in a responsible way, it can help bring hope to others.