'Anonymity' Comes in Many Shapes, Sizes and Forms

By Janis L. 10/13/16

When I say I love anonymity, I mean it. But I need to embrace it even when it isn’t convenient.

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'Anonymity' Comes in Many Shapes, Sizes and Forms

Just because anonymity is the foundation of AA tradition, doesn’t mean it’s easy.

Many of us find that when we enter our first Alcoholics Anonymous meeting we sllllllllide in through the back door, we may hide in a huge meeting so we don’t have to speak. We pray we don’t recognize anyone and more importantly, NO ONE recognizes US.

Those of us that didn’t make front page news with a crash or a public meltdown, anonymity is simple. Just DON’T tell anyone you saw me here and I won’t tell anyone I saw YOU here. 

And like the AA program with the 12 steps & 12 traditions, we need to find our own way to stay away from a drink today. For ONE DAY-just today. Each person needs to find their own path and make the journey.

For me, it was a very inward direction and at the time I had no idea what direction I was going in. Then again, everything was so foggy my first 90 days, I just went to meetings, looked for a sponsor, got some phone numbers. Going to meetings allowed me to navigate this new “space” I was in called “recovery” for myself. WITHOUT outside pressures (real or imagined.)  

I did not go to a rehab center. I did not have to explain any absence for a long period of time. I continued to work, though “ratchetted” down my work schedule significantly. Went to three meetings almost every day for the first 90 days. Now 3 ½ years later, I often go to two each day.  

Expectations

Things I didn’t need in early recovery were other people’s expectations of my “success.” A few of my close friends and family knew what I was up to but not many; they needed to know I wasn’t lying when I said, “I need to go to a meeting.” And then show up when and where I was supposed to when I said I would. Certainly, not late with booze on my breath. One of my good old tricks would be to drink in a bar that was out of the way just to take the edge off, stop the shakes. Then eat a half tin of Altoids and go to the next “function.” (Functioning alcoholic-poor humor reference?) 

I needed to prove to those around me and most importantly to MYSELF that I was seriously working to ease my own pain and trying to make progress to live with the “normal” people in the world.  

“Normal Is a Setting on a Washing Machine”

I heard this in a meeting once. I also had to remember that most “normal” people could care less what I am up to - as long as it has no effect on them, it isn’t their business. I have found that “normal” doesn’t exist and I don’t need to wear my heart on my sleeve either. Meetings are where I get Recovery, not from people feeling sorry for me that are not alcoholics.

When I say I love anonymity, I mean it. But I need to embrace it even when it isn’t convenient. For example: The name, Janis L., I use when I write in recovery and about recovery, is not my real name. I go to a lot of meetings. I quote a lot of people sharing their “Experience, Strength and Hope.” Some people in recovery may not appreciate that I do this. In my opinion, I feel that my writing gift which I have done for 25+ years, provides their words to a broader recovery audience. Making myself “anonymous” as Janis L., I am protecting their anonymity too, thereby preserving AA’s 12th tradition.

As we grow in recovery, we learn along with so many other things, we cannot change what OTHERS think.  We can only “do the next right thing” for ourselves and have comfort in knowing that the rearview mirror is no longer cloudy with excuses, forgotten promises and shame.

The Stigma Is Real

Just moving through The Fix (as I do frequently), it is easy to find posts about challenges in recovery and how to cope. Here is a pretty poignant post about stigma

It talks plainly about risks that we take by putting ourselves out there. Once we RING the bell and people hear it, it can never be silent again. And NOT everyone is as excited (on the outside), for my recovery as I am. And since most people I know had no idea that I was in crisis in the first place, I choose to hold my own anonymity very close until that time when a little voice inside me tells me that someone needs to know. My “Higher Power” always makes that happen and when it does happen, it is like a NEON SIGN blinking that I need to reach out to someone in crisis, share something that is helpful and compassionate with an alcoholic or a person with an alcoholic or addict in their lives.

Another great post talks about being in the professional field and being in meetings with clients that are in also in recovery. It has happened to me too; I am not a social worker, but I am a business person. We live in a small community. It seems that everyone knows one another or is related! Each of us in recovery needs to “err” on the side of MORE anonymity over LESS.

Need a meeting of have a friend who needs help? Go to http://www.aa.org/.

Interested in more AA chatter?  Please stop by iwanttotakemylifeback.com.

Connect with me on Facebook or Twitter: @JanisLaJ.

Desperate, afraid and shaking, Janis was just like many active alcoholics. Living in shame, not wanting to live and afraid to die. Now 3 ½ years sober she lives a happy, productive life all thanks to the 12 steps and the Fellowship of Alcoholic Anonymous.

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