A Message About Anonymity

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When I decided to show myself as an addict in public, most of my friends and especially my loving wife asked me, am I ready to receive hate letters and have people sneering at me and look down on me? Am I ready to tarnish my name as a Global Business Entrepreneur?


Yeah, it did cross my mind but I still believe that they are still many good-hearted loving souls in this wonderful world of ours who will accept me as what I am! And then a friend told me about anonymity in AA. Well, I would really like to answer him but I got a better deal. I shall let my good friend Mr. William Cope Moyers answer it for me. So, here goes;



While on the book tour and in emails, letters and a phone call or two, I’ve been asked over and over again about the issue of anonymity as it relates to the story I tell in Broken. Thank you all for your insightful comments and posts so far…


I appreciate that the issue of anonymity is foremost in many of your minds, and is the source of great concern for many members of Alcoholics Anonymous who feel that I’ve violated Traditions 11 and 12, and perhaps even strayed the boundary of Tradition 10 as well.


There is no doubt that I have openly revealed the role that AA plays in my life since I started down the road of recovery in 1989. This book is my life story, and it includes everything and everyone who make up what my life is today.


As I’ve said before, I discuss the Twelve Steps and my active participation in that program, as an Olympic marathon runner would discuss his training program. To not do so would be a disservice to anyone who wants to know more about what it takes to stay sober the day after I decided to quit drinking and drugging.


But in telling this story I am not speaking out as a member of Alcoholics Anonymous, nor am I speaking for AA; I am acknowledging my participation in it as a primary explanation of my long-term sobriety. I believe in AA, and I believe in and respect its Traditions.


I chose to break my own anonymity for the purpose of not just telling my story, but to be an example. What we need as a country and as a community is to embrace hope. With such an insidious disease like addiction, most of what we hear about is those who do not survive.


There are so many survivors out there who feel confined by Tradition 11, yet they want to speak out and perhaps provide hope to those who have only seen the wreckage addiction has caused. I’ve posed this question to those of you who have visited my website, and I think it is an important one and it points directly to the stigma and shame surrounding the disease of addiction.


Why is addiction the only disease without a ribbon of hope to wear out in public?


Because it’s noble to fight breast cancer and courageous to fight for the rights of people with HIV / AIDS, but the stigma of addiction, in many ways similar to the stigma of mental illness, envelopes all those who are suffering (including family members) in secrecy, silence, and shame. Shame fosters stigma and stigma promotes shame, and in the meantime the tradition of anonymity in Alcoholics Anonymous often prevents people from standing up and speaking out.


Somehow it still remains against the rules of Twelve Step anonymity to be seen or heard standing up for a cause like recovery. We hide behind our recovery, but did we worry about going out in public and making fools of ourselves when we were drunk or stoned? That behavior was a symbol of everything that was wrong with us then – what is the symbol of what is right with us now?


My life, my ability to live another day free from alcohol and other drugs is the symbol of what are right with me now, and so many others who have found a solution and are living clean and sober. Anonymity for the organization as a whole is wholly important, and I respect the anonymity anyone and everyone who chooses not to break their individual anonymity has.


I do believe, however, that as the use starts earlier, the drugs become more potent and deadly and alcohol becomes more readily available to minors that we as a community must find a way to speak freely about addiction, recovery and everything in between.


The choices for chemicals are everywhere; recipes for methamphetamine and crack-cocaine on the Internet can be accessed by anyone at any age with access to a computer. It is up to us in recovery to speak for those who cannot speak for themselves so that we are beacons of hope and access to help for people who are feeling hopeless and helpless.


Most of what we see through the media is stories of despair, hopelessness and death – there is more recovery in this country than anyone knows about because those of us who do subscribe to 12 Step are bound by our code of anonymity. People want to know what works; I chose to tell them what has been working for me.


"An A.A. member may, for various reasons, “break anonymity” deliberately at the public level. Since this is a matter of individual choice and conscience, the Fellowship as a whole obviously has no control over such deviations from tradition". TAKEN FROM THE AA GENERAL SERVICE WEBSITE….


Below is the excerpt from the wonderful book "Broken" written by William Cope Moyers which caused the anonymity issue. It is about his story of addiction and redemption. Hope you enjoy reading it;


In my talks around the country I’ve been asked about my cancer scare in 2000, and what I’ve learned about cancer and addiction since I’ve been treated for both. Chapter 16 is called “Cancer.” In it, I ask six questions to underscore their differences and similarities, and to frame the public debate between these two diseases. – William


The Disease of addiction and the disease of cancer – I’ve been intimate with both, and my experiences help to frame my public advocacy work and inform every conversation I have and every issue I raise. In comparing the two, I ask (and attempt to answer) these questions:


Why do we continue to whisper about addiction like earlier generations did about the “long illness” that too many people died from?


Because people who are addicted are too sick to know it and those of us who have recovered are too ashamed to admit we ever had it.


Why is addiction the only disease without a ribbon of hope to wear out in public?


Because it’s noble to fight breast cancer and courageous to fight for the rights of people with HIV / AIDS, but the stigma of addiction, in many ways similar to the stigma of mental illness, envelopes all those who are suffering (including family members) in secrecy, silence, and shame. Shame fosters stigma and stigma promotes shame, and in the meantime the tradition of anonymity in Alcoholics Anonymous often prevents people from standing up and speaking out.


Somehow it still remains against the rules of Twelve Step anonymity to be seen or heard standing up for a cause like recovery. We hide behind our recovery, but did we worry about going out in public and making fools of ourselves when we were drunk or stoned? That behavior was a symbol of everything that was wrong with us then – what is the symbol of what is right with us now?


We should take hope from the struggles and strides of people with diseases such as HIV / AIDS or mental illnesses. They’ve fought hard to improve public understanding and to change public policy around their illnesses, and they’ve been successful. We will be, too.


Why do so many people with addiction receive censure and punishment, which do nothing to solve the problem, rather than understanding and treatment, which do?


Because the myths and misconceptions about addiction tell us that addicts and alcoholics are somehow “bad” (lazy, self-centered, immoral, weak-willed) and being bad means breaking the law, and breaking the law means crime followed by punishment. Besides, the country would have to stop building more jail cells in favor of more treatment beds, and how many politicians are willing to risk the label “soft on crime”?


And another question along these lines to ponder: Why is it that people with cancer, diabetes, or hypertension are considered “victims” when their own behavior or lifestyle sometimes contributes to their illness – but we never attach the same sympathetic label to people with my disease?


Why do most insurance companies refuse to pay for chemical dependency treatment when they so generously cover expenses associated with any other illnesses?


Because not enough people have called to complain. Imagine the outrage if insurance companies systematically denied women with breast cancer or children with congenital birth defects access to the medical expertise they deserve to overcome their problems? I wonder: Where is our outrage?


Why does society continue to spout the old line that treatment doesn’t work when research shows that quality treatment is even more effective for addiction than it is for other chronic diseases?


Because people like me don’t stand up and speak out as often as we should, proving with our faces and voices that treatment does work and recovery is possible. Too many of us just want to be “normal” again. We don’t want to talk about our past with people who may think less of us or somehow make our lives more difficult.


We also take for granted that the treatment options we had when we needed them will be there for the next generation. But there are not enough treatment programs available to help the people who need help – that is the bottom line. Treatment facilities are dying in America, and so, too, are the people who need them.


About the Author:
Moyers has committed himself to helping people, families and communities understand the power of addiction and the promise and possibility of recovery. Mr. William Cope Moyers can be reached at http://www.williammoyers.com


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1 Comment thus far...

William Cope Moyers said...

Noor:

I am proud of you for standing up and speaking out in your country.

It is so important that we put a human face on addiction, a face that looks like yours and mine and other people from all walks of life in all communities in all countries around the world.

The stigma of addiction is the biggest obstacle to recovery. And when we stand up and speak out, we become beacons of hope and pathways to help for people struggling to overcome addiction to alcohol and other drugs.

Stay the course!

William C. Moyers

United States

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