Friday, August 28, 2009


Lou's post yesterday and Mary Christine's today had me thinking about the topic of anonymity in Al-Anon. The following is some information that comes from Al-Anon literature and provides a good description of why anonymity is important in our fellowship:

Why is anonymity so often a topic at meetings? We guard the anonymity of all Al-Anon/Alateen and AA members. This means not revealing to anyone what we hear or whom we see at meetings, not to our relatives, friends or other Al-Anon/Alateen members. Our free expression – so important to our recovery – rests on our sense of security, knowing that what we share at our meetings will be held in strict confidence. While each member has the right of decision regarding personal anonymity within the fellowship, the use of first-names-only reminds us that we are equals in Al-Anon. This keeps us humble and enables us to develop spiritually. From page 5 of Al-Anon Spoken Here (Pamphlet 53)

Anonymity. The experience of our groups suggests that the principle of anonymity – summed up in Tradition Twelve as “the spiritual foundation of all our Traditions” – has three elements: There is anonymity as it applies outside Al-Anon, governing our contacts with non-members and organizations; anonymity within the fellowship; and anonymity as it contributes to our personal growth. From page 83 of the Al-Anon/Alateen Service Manual

Anonymity in Al-Anon is a sacred trust, basic to our fellowship and its survival.
The principal of anonymity is essential for the newcomers to assure the confidentiality of their identity and all that is shared at the meetings, and with other members. From page 50 of the Al-Anon/Alateen Service Manual

Anonymity Within Al-Anon. Members uses their full names within the fellowship when they wish. The degree of anonymity a member chooses (first name, pseudonym, or full name) is not subject to criticism. Each member has the right to decide . . .Anonymity goes well beyond mere names. All of us need to feel secure in the knowledge that nothing seen or heard at a meeting will be revealed. We feel free to express ourselves among our fellow Al-Anons because we can be sure that what we say will be held in confidence. From page 83 of the Al-Anon/Alateen Service Manual

Special Note: Anonymity is a spiritual principle and cannot be used as a legal basis to shield criminal behavior, past or current. It is wise to remember that Al-Anon and Alateen meetings are not above the law. Members need to exercise care in sharing information that could require reporting to local, state, provincial and national authorities. From page 50 of the Al-Anon/Alateen Service Manual

Anonymity Within Al-Anon: Dual Members. “I am a member of another anonymous program. Recently I was asked not to discuss it at our Al-Anon/Alateen meetings. Why?”
Our meeting discussions do not include any other program or fellowship. When we talk about our experiences of becoming sober, drug-free, or how we stopped overeating or gambling, we take away from the Al-Anon focus. In Al-Anon, we focus on our common experience – having been affected by someone else’s alcoholism – and our recovery by giving and receiving mutual aid based only on that common experience. Those of us who are members of other
anonymous programs avoid openly revealing this at meetings, concentrating instead on the Al-Anon approach to the family illness of alcoholism. From page 8 of Al-Anon Spoken Here (Pamphlet 53)

Anonymity Within Al-Anon: Professionals. “As a psychotherapist – and an Al-Anon member – I feel that my professional experience can enrich our group’s discussion. Why have I been discouraged from sharing my knowledge at meetings?”
Those of us in the helping professions may be especially sensitive to the pain of others. We may sense the pain of fellow Al-Anon members and wish to share the benefits of our professional expertise. In Al-Anon, however, we meet and share as equals: no one is an expert. Our success comes from maintaining a nonprofessional approach, and from adhering to the principal of anonymity. We all have something to give and something to take from our meetings regardless of our educational, social or professional backgrounds. From page 8 of Al-Anon Spoken Here (Pamphlet 53)

Anonymity Outside Al-Anon. Tradition Eleven gives a specific guideline: “We need always maintain personal anonymity at the level of press, radio, TV and films.” This gives potential members confidence that their identity will not be revealed when they join Al-Anon. Also, personal anonymity at the public level guards the fellowship from the Al-Anon/Alateen member who may be tempted to seek public recognition . . . [At these levels,] use only first names or
pseudonyms. In photographs for publication and in TV appearances, faces should not be recognizable. This may be achieved by back-to the camera or blurring of features in some way. It is, however, important to make Al-Anon known through our public information work with professionals who come into contact with families still suffering the effects of alcoholism. Such contacts, or course, make it necessary for the Al-Anon and Alateen members involved to give their full names. Al-Anon members also give their full names to interested doctors, spiritual leaders, school or industrial personnel. From page 83 of the Al-Anon/Alateen Service Manual

Maintaining anonymity on this blog has been important to me. There are times that I wonder about whether I have revealed too much information. I also think that it needs to be clear that I don't represent the voice of Al-Anon but merely my own experience, strength and hope.

One of the great things about blogging is that it seems that there is a community spirit. But I also have to remember that the blogging "community" is "open" to everyone who has internet access. And writing is subject to much interpretation by the reader. There has been one instance where something I posted was completely misinterpreted, and I was judged as unfit to be read. And recently there has been mention of a blogger making inappropriate comments to another blogger in our recovery "community".

I have to remember that blogging is not like sharing in a meeting. It is easy to be preyed upon or to become prey when someone hides behind words. I like to remember that I won't write something to someone that I wouldn't say to their face. And I want to treat people in a manner that I like to be treated and with all the respect that they deserve.


  1. Keeping identity confidential is federally mandated in hospitals. I would never write any identifiable characteristics about patients. I try to use the same guidelines with keeping the anonymity of anything I write about AlAnon.

  2. Wow - - Syd!

    What a mouthful! And, so very important to be made known to all. Great service work here.

    Anonymity is truly a very delicate characteristic, and one to be respected. Keeps us all equal, too.

    Love and Hugs,
    Anonymous #1

  3. It has always bothered me that at our District Meeting, our DR reminds us to state our full name when we speak (for the minutes) because we should not be anonymous to others within the fellowship. I understand his intent but anonymity, I believe, is to be respected whether inside the rooms, on a District level or outside the rooms. Good topic..important topic.


  4. funny i don't worry so much about my anonymity anymore. i do me very best not to break anyone else's. i have had my anonymity broken and more then once and i think that is why i don't worry about who will find me on the internet. if i tell the truth i can stand strong in what i have written. i have not had a real job though since i have been clean and that gives me a bit more freedom than other recovery members. i read about a blogger who's anonymity was broken and she lost her job, i think with my time in recovery, that the job i get would not be one that i would have to be anonymous. i am truly blessed to be where i am right now.

  5. Thank you for posting this. It's important for people who are members of the 12 step community to consider.jeNN

  6. Anonymity is one of the most important principles we possess and few understand it and even fewer practice it per it's original intent. For example, Dr. Bob said (paraphrased): "...remaining unknown inside the fellowship is as much a violation of (the principle of) anonymity as being known outside the fellowship..."

    Blessings and aloha...

  7. Another great post! I've added your blog to my list on my site.

  8. Thanks for sharing this information here, Syd. I think about anonymity a lot because I prefer to remain unknown on my own blog. Sometimes I wonder why that is, or if I'm not being anonymous enough. You've given me a lot to think about with this post. Thanks!

  9. This post was incredible Syd!

    I struggle with my own anonymity. I would love to lecture at local high school about teen addiction. I'm a teacher, however, and fear it will destroy my career.

    Thanks for this post. :)

  10. There is never any shame to our topics in life we need to face.
    But we should be free to do so
    in privacy and or among others
    who know the pain and fear it
    involves dealing with them.I
    appreciate you sharing so much dignity here for others to gain by your posts Syd.So very respectful and compassionate.
    T ox

  11. Great post on Anonymity, it's a huge part of the al-anon program.

    When we fellow bloggers and al-anon member put our thoughts out there in public then I guess there is a risk.

  12. It is so strange that I am much more concerned about remaining anonymous in meetings than I am online, and I guess it is that false comfort that one gets because - this is not actually a meeting for me but a community of people from all walks, whom I don't know but some who I would like to know more.

    I feel safe behind the screen and my guess is that is where I am slipping up.

    Good reminder Syd!

  13. Syd, this was beautifully written and well researched. Nice Job.

  14. Anonymity is one of the foundations of the program
    as you stated...Roger E broke his and discussed at length his program for the world to read. This is a break in the program, bothers me he took the rules into his own hands.
    Bill W himself was known to break his anonymity and people in the program confronted him several times. He needed money and liked the press and fame.
    Eventually he realized his error
    One Step at a time

  15. Well done, Syd. Thanks for your service.


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