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Is the anonymity of A.A. outdated?

Is the practice of anonymity outdated?

Alcoholics Anonymous (A.A.) was founded on the principle of anonymity. Groups prided themselves on protecting the privacy of each member by not asking for any information about the person, other than their name, unless they wanted to share it. Even today, members can go to an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting, fully confident that they will remain anonymous because fellow members have committed to the privacy of each other.

Many programs today are moving away from the secretive participation of addicts in treatment, however. A growing number of people are ready and willing to get their struggle out in the open, and it encourages people to ask the question: Is the practice of anonymity outdated? And while alternatives to A.A. meetings exist, can you really quit drinking without A.A.? We explore here, and invite your comments about the structure and anonymity of A.A. at the end.

Confidentiality in Treatment

The answer depends on the individual who is going through treatment. There are many people who, because of their job or a family situation, find it necessary to recover from addiction in complete privacy, without most people in their life knowing about it.

For these individuals, there are rehab programs that cater to the desire for complete confidentiality. While all high quality treatment centers and A.A. meetings should follow basic principles of confidentiality, some facilities go to great lengths, with secret shuttle services and coded communication, to keep the patient’s presence in rehab a secret.

Enlisting the Help and Support of Loved Ones

But for most people, anonymity is not necessary any longer. Most people find it more productive to ask loved ones to be understanding, encouraging and supportive during their struggle for sobriety, even if it means dealing with the shame and embarrassment of admitting to a problem.

In fact, it can be more beneficial for a person entering drug or alcohol rehab to be open and honest about their struggles with friends and family, so that they can enlist the help of loved ones when needed. If a person keeps their addiction and recovery a complete secret from others, they are left with very few people that can offer support, encouragement and motivation.

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Changing Society’s View of Addiction

Society has made huge strides in its view of addiction. When A.A. was first founded, and for the first 50 years of its existence, it was important for members’ secrecy to be protected because admitting publically to an addiction would mean humiliation, repercussions and the social stigma that went along with addiction.

In today’s world, there is still a stigma associated with addiction, but it continues to improve. Today, a person who enters drug or alcohol rehab is not automatically thought of as a bad person. More people now understand that addiction is a disease that must be treated, and that recovery is possible.

Anyone struggling with alcoholism that walks into an A.A. meeting will be asked to give their first name only, and then will enjoy the anonymity that the organization is known for. Some people still choose to recover in this way. However, many individuals in recovery are now being encouraged to be more open about their struggles in order to benefit from the love and support of others during this long, difficult road.

What do you think?

Is anonymity old fashioned? Is it a requirement during recovery from addiction? And can de-stigmatizing addiction by talking about it and labeling ourselves as alcoholics or addicts be helpful? Your comments, feedback, and experience is welcomed in the comments section below.

Photo credit: Silvia Sala

Leave a Reply

2 Responses to “Is the anonymity of A.A. outdated?
bob
11:29 pm September 28th, 2014

I find it counterproductive to “hide” recovery when the active part of the disease is so public.
This is century 21 and the treatment field needs to begin to treat addiction as a disease not a moral/character defect issue. Until we begin a very public dialogue about addiction I fear we will continue down the dark path of only a small number actually getting the help they need.

Larry
8:40 pm July 14th, 2016

It’s an important precept of an exceptionally effective program…we just can’t leave ego out of anything, can we?

About Liliann Reid

Liliann Reid is a recovering addict focused on helping others understand the world of drug addiction and eating disorders through her firsthand experience. She is blessed to have found sobriety through a Christian based drug rehab program.

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