The second ‘A’ in AA (con’t)

More on anonymity in AA:

COLMAN: …does it make sense, really, for everybody to have to hew to this anonymous line?

CONAN: Have to hew. That’s a critical point. You say it should be a choice.

COLMAN: I do think it’s a choice, and I would never argue that somebody should be outed in the program without their consent, and they probably – you never – everybody do it – feel whether or not they should do it for themselves.

AA is actually – you know, despite the sort of the outcry about this story from AA people, I mean, one of the central tenets of AA is also that, you know, that there are no rules, that everything is a choice. You know, you take what you like and leave the rest is the, you know, is a common saying there.

And yet it’s – what’s interesting is, you know, the way that people have come forward to say, you know, no, this is a rule. And it’s like, well, you know…

CONAN: It’s not the kind of organization where you’re going to have your epaulets stripped off and be drummed out of your meeting.

COLMAN: No, certainly not.

Is his position that he should be free of any peer pressure to conform to this tradition? That something should be done so that some ill-informed AA member never approaches him claiming that “there’s a rule”? On the one hand he cites AA’s traditions of autonomy and non-governance, but wants something done about these other people?

In a previous post, I said:

To me, they seem to fundamentally misunderstand AA’s anonymity.

There’s plenty of room within AA’s traditions for activism and public education, AA members are just advised not to identify themselves as AA members in the media, avoid presenting themselves as representatives of AA and draw attention themselves.

There is nothing in AA’s traditions that prohibits publicly identifying oneself as an alcoholic in recovery as long as they do not identify as an AA member. The 12th tradition does, however, encourage caution and humility.

I think this is still the case. This bothered me:

COLMAN: Yes. That’s very true. And, you know, I’m a gay man, too, and, you know, I’m very out about that. And I’ve always noticed that there is this sort of strange inconsistency there, that, you know, coming to terms and realizing that, you know, needing to be – you know, develop a certain kind of forthright attitude about being gay is important because otherwise, you do feel like, you know, is this something I’m keeping secret.

And yet at the same time, here I was, I was in this other program that I did feel that I, you know, was supposed to keep secret. And, you know, there is a certain kind of dissonance there that made me think, well, yeah. There is – what is the difference here?

AA does not demand that anyone “stay in the closet” with their alcoholism. Does not discourage telling friends, family, neighbors, co-workers, etc. There’s not even any tradition against identifying as an alcoholic in the press.  What is specifically addressed in the traditions is that AA members should not identify themselves as AA members at the level of press, radio and film. There is also a caution about presenting themselves as representatives of AA and draw attention themselves.

3 thoughts on “The second ‘A’ in AA (con’t)

  1. This is a very touchy subject and one very close to me. I have asked numerous authors, lawyers, other members of AA and the overwhelming response is the same; basically, “If YOU want to say YOU are in AA then YOU should and that could be to your mom or Barbara Walters” I think the key would is YOU. I should be able to tell the whole world I would be dead if it wasn’t for the program and the people who have become my family but I can’t! or can I? It is very frustrating. I would never mention anyones real name and “out them” in public unless they gave me permission but the fact that I would even go to an attorney and have someone sign a document to do this is a bit ridiculous. If I was a public figure ie. a certain man who has tiger blood, this wouldn’t be an issue – that is not fair. I could go on and on but I do have a question? Has AA ever sued someone?

    1. The traditions ask that you do not identify yourself as an AA member at the level of press radio and film. It also cautions about presenting yourself as a representative of AA to draw attention yourself. That’s it.

      You can tell whoever you want, just don’t do it on TV, radio or newspapers. Even if you chose to do a TV interview about your experience in AA, no one can do anything about it.

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