Anonymous vs UNanonymous, What’s the Right Choice For You?
I recently wrote a blog called Does Our Silence Define Us? The Downside to Anonymity and a few things were brought to my attention that I missed in that article. The first point is who should break their anonymity, and secondly, why being open about your recovery is important.
Who Should Break Their Anonymity
If you are newly sober, you should probably solidify your sobriety by doing these three things before you get “loud and proud” at a public level about your recovery.
- Work the 12 Steps- ALL 12 of them. You should be through a majority of your amends and be actively sponsoring others. If you do not belong to a fellowship that has the 12 steps, do whatever work the program you belong to requires.
- Actively Attending Meetings- Whatever fellowship you belong to, you should probably be going to meetings on a regular basis.
- Have Some Time Sober- Although time sober doesn’t necessarily mean you have recovered, it does lend some credibility to the “normies” out there. 30 days sober seems like a long time to an alcoholic/addict, and it is a great accomplishment, but to nonalcoholics it doesn’t seem like a big deal. How much time is enough time is debatable. Look to your Higher Power and sponsor for guidance.
Why It’s Important
First, let me say that if you are doing it for personal recognition or to get something for yourself, it’s probably best if you stay anonymous. If you are doing it to help others, THIS is the right reason.
How does breaking your anonymity help others? Nonalcoholics/addicts who know me know I am in recovery. When they have a personal situation where a friend or family member needs help with an addiction, they know who to call. I’ve received many of those calls.
To publicly break my anonymity has been a more difficult choice. It’s easy with friends and family members but there is a little piece of me that wants to stay anonymous at the public level because of the stigma of addiction. It’s because of that stigma that I have decided to advocate for recovery. There is no shame in being an addict! It’s a health issue not a moral issue. If I stay silent then I am part of the problem and not the solution.
Being anonymous or UNanonymous is a personal choice. There is no wrong decision. Follow your heart to make the right decision for you.
Breaking the Stigma Helps:
- Those still in active addiction. By letting them know there is no shame in being an addict it will make it easier to reach out and ask for help.
- Programs that help addicts. There are not enough free treatment options in the U.S. We need more detox beds and long-term treatment programs. Typically there is a long wait for these options or no option at all. If you have no money and no insurance, many times you are out of luck. The funding that is needed for these programs is typically received through government or state funding and grants or donations from companies or private citizens. It is incredibly hard to get this funding because of the misconception that addiction is a choice that addicts make. There are organizations out there that specifically say they will not give grants to education addiction programs. Target is one of those organizations (5th bullet point down under “What is not funded through the Target education grants program?”) Bringing light to the problem AND the solution, increasing public awareness, will eventually remove the stigma of addiction.
Pretty in Pink
As an example of the stigma being broken, and the good it has done, let’s look at breast cancer. When I was growing up NO ONE talked about breast cancer. It was a taboo subject. So taboo that I had no idea women where dropping like flies from it. Through breast cancer awareness, talks, walks, commercials ect. more women are getting mammograms and receiving treatment earlier. Lives are being saved! The guys in the NFL now wear pink during breast cancer awareness month (October). Do you know what month is addiction recovery awareness month? Do you know what color our ribbon is? It’s September and blue.
If you belong to a 12 step fellowship, traditions say to stay anonymous at the level of press, radio, film and internet. Keep the name of that fellowship out of the equation. Please, please, please, don’t post on your Facebook page your affiliation with these fellowships. If you should relapse, it could harm the credibility of that fellowship. It’s ok to say, “I’m in recovery” but leave the “how” out of it. We do that face-to-face.
The Ann Arbor Women’s Group
A2WG doesn’t have traditions but they respect them. They have no opinion on anonymity. The majority of funding for A2WG events, workshops and retreats comes from grants. These grants are VERY hard to obtain but they have some great ladies on the board who keep plugging away at grant writing to make sure A2WG continually thrives and helps the women’s recovery community in Washtenaw County. The goal is to someday become less grant reliant and have a donor base to support these programs (donate).
What is your experience with anonymity? Does the thought of being UNanonymous make you uncomfortable?
Peace, Love & Sobriety,