David Colman wrote a fascinating article last week , in the New York Times, Challenging the Second A in A.A., discussing the opposing, strong opinions about AA’s insistence on maintaining member anonymity.  Below are some of the highlights.

The timing is interesting, at a time when defenders of abortion rights are wearing T-shirts in an effort to reduce the stigma of obtaining an abortion. Their concept is that as long as the popular perception of a social/health problem is hidden, it is easy to believe that it is only individuals very different from ourselves that have it.

It is much easier to rail against a benefit for “deviants”, if one thinks that it is only strange, immoral people with lack of will-power that have unwanted pregnancies or drink too much or even suffer from mental illness.  Catherine Zeta-Jones came out publicly last month, acknowledging her treatment for bipolar disorder in a similar move.

Susan Cheever, in an essay  “Is It Time to Take the Anonymous Out of A.A.?”, states that since a recent SAMHSA survey shows that a majority of Americans have a positive attitude about people in recovery “the argument that anonymity protects people from being stigmatized seems less and less germane.” She continued-“We are in the midst of a public health crisis when it comes to understanding and treating addiction. A.A.’s principle of anonymity may only be contributing to general confusion and prejudice.”

The editor of the new recovery Web magazine The Fix, Maer Roshan, says that “Having to deny your own participation in a program that is helping your life doesn’t make sense to me.” He also commented on the similarities between the gay/lesbian world and the AA model, in regards to anonymity. Remember the bumper stickers promoting the reality check-“SOMEONE YOU LOVE IS GAY”?

“The recovery world is now where the gay world was then. Back then, there was a still a stigma to saying you were gay. There was a community, but it was mired in self-doubt and self-hatred, and it’s changed considerably. Not just gay people, but the perception of gay people has changed. There’s a lot of secretiveness and shame in the recovery world, too, but that’s changing.”

Coleman states, “More and more, anonymity is seeming like an anachronistic vestige of the Great Depression, when A.A. got its start and when alcoholism was seen as not just a weakness but a disgrace.”

Novelist Molly Jong-Fast,  said “I don’t want to have to hide my sobriety; it’s the best thing about me.”

Another comment-

 I am 25 years in recovery, and have been out there fighting for the rights of people in recovery, and I’m sick and tired of people in A.A. meetings not lifting a finger to do anything about it. They hide behind anonymity — if you don’t tell anyone else that recovery works, that’s what you’re doing. That’s not how A.A. got to be where it was.

-Very provocative and challenging statements. Should we start wearing T-shirts, too?

Go to the NYTimes For the complete article.