Friday, June 29, 2007

On Being Anonymous In Progressive Recovery:: 6-29-07

Dedicated to my Online Sponsor ~Doctor Linda in Jerusalem~ who has helped me through some tough times from afar. I will see Jerusalem yet!
~Love All Ways, Brother Peter
June 29, 2007
By Peter S. Lopez ~aka Peta

Main Entry: anon•y•mous
Pronunciation: &-‘nä-n&-m&s
Function: adjective
Etymology: Late Latin anonymus, from Greek anOnymos, from a- + onyma name—more at NAME
1 : not named or identified
2 : of unknown authorship or origin
3 : lacking individuality, distinction, or recognizability
- anon•y•mous•ly adverb
- anon•y•mous•ness noun

~ Introduction ~

In this article we examine the whole issue of being an anonymous member of an anonymous group based upon the traditional Alcoholics Anonymous 12-Steps Program; the positive and negative aspects of being anonymous; and the relevancy of being anonymous in the Internet Age of the New Millennium.
AA was founded on June 10, 1935 when Dr. Bob had his last drink of alcohol. AA is the original grand Mothership of all 12-Steps-based recovery groups offering a basic recovery treatment program from alcohol addiction, other forms of chemical dependency and many other obsessive-compulsive disorders, such as, gambling, over-eating or sexual promiscuity. Nowadays, there are many kinds of 12-Steps groups, from Narcotics Anonymous, Dual Recovery Anonymous, to Overeaters Anonymous and even Clutterers Anonymous! All these anonymous groups are based upon the original AA 12-Steps Program and customized for the particular group focus.

The basic spiritual principles of the 12-Steps Recovery Program are universally applicable, make good common sense for recovering addicts and can be of great benefit for all people in society. In conscious contact with Creator God, it speaks of admitting powerlessness over our addiction, doing a personal inventory, making amends to people we have harmed, carrying the Message of recovery to others still suffering and has other positive suggestions. It works if you work an honest program.

~ Being An Anonymous Member ~

We should not get into the recovery process as an individual all alone in isolation. A lone drug addict seeking recovery left to his own devious devices is in dangerous company. Hard core long-term drug addiction is a form of slow suicide. The newcomer needs to stay straight just for today, humble his pride and reach out for help to others who meet together in a group on a regular basis. Seek and ye shall find!

Being an anonymous member of an anonymous group requires us to hide our real name behind the label of anonymity in order to submerge our individual personality, stay humble to advance our spiritual growth and avoid the pitfalls of egotism. We must keep an active balance by being of service in our home group, helping others in our day-to-day lives, building up a customized personal recovery program and having a wholistic approach to recovery in particular and healing ourselves in general.

Newcomers in early recovery may be ashamed of being ‘in recovery’ and openly admitting to strangers in a recovery group meeting room that they are wrestling with alcohol and/or other drugs. When they do make a decision to get help many get involved in a recovery group and prefer the safety of being anonymous for different reasons.

At our Meetings we just disclose our first name. For example, “My name is Pete and I am a recovering drunk and dope fiend. “

We seek the unity that comes from group fellowship for our own self-help and the mutual support we get from a group. There is power in a group identity and strength in numbers of people meeting together for a common purpose. In our home group we can learn from the experience, strength and hope of others. Plus, we can get out of our comfort zones, open up at group meetings and share our own personal testimonies with others. Sharing is caring and helps the healing process. HOW our Program works is with genuine Honesty, Openness and Willingness to change, to learn and to progress.

We should seriously consider what it all means when we join up with a recovery group and get actively involved ‘in recovery’ as a key part of our whole lifestyle. It is an important life-changing decision we must make to help us take back control of our lives away from the demons of addiction, denial and self-hate.
In the real world, there is a lot of social stigma attached to our being recovering drug addicts with ‘a problem’ working on ‘a solution’. The U.S. government war on drugs has decayed into a war against drug addicts. Many thousands of us are in prisons and jails across the land because of simple possession of government-controlled substances and are considered criminals by the forces of reaction. We are involved in constant spiritual warfare on the battlefield. We must stay alert and on guard!

~ Positive and Negative Aspects of Anonymity ~

Many people in recovery prefer anonymity because of social, business or personal reasons. In a 12-Steps group, such as AA, a group member may be in a professional business organization that may not approve of them being in such a group. Public knowledge of our having an addiction could injure our social status. Employers may not hire a potential employee with a history of substance abuse or addiction. Remember the two co-founders of AA, Bill Wilson and Dr. Bob Smith, were businessmen: one was a stockbroker and the other a medical doctor. Bill Wilson himself once broke his anonymity nationwide in a positive way and AA became more popular than ever before!

The deadly disease of chemical dependency happens in the best of families and can impact on future generations. Old drinking and drugging buddies still lost in the aimlessness of active addiction might stay away from someone ‘in recovery‘, unless they aim to pull him down. Misery loves company and the man lost in his active lethal addiction is an extremely lonely man no matter how many people are at the party.

Some people simply do not want any hassle or have to offer embarrassing explanations to anyone because of belonging to an anonymous 12-Steps group. There can be a feeling of safety in group anonymity and freedom from the fear of being exposed. Yet it is important to openly admit our being ‘in recovery’ as a key part of who we are when asked by friends and associates. Name it and claim it!
“Few of us are anonymous so far as our daily contacts go. We have dropped anonymity at this level because we think our friends and associates ought to know about A.A. and what it has done for us. We also wish to lose the fear of admitting that we are alcoholics. Though we earnestly request reporters not to disclose our identities, we frequently speak before semipublic gatherings. We wish to convince audiences that our alcoholism is a sickness we no longer fear to discuss before anyone.
~From As Bill Sees It: Pg. 278: Speak Up Without Fear: 1. GRAPEVINE, JANUARY 1946
Some people who are unsure of their ability to stick with their recovery may prefer anonymity. Who wants to be identified with an AA Group, then be seen getting plastered at the local tavern and feel like a weak hypocrite? Some attend 12-Steps meetings because they have to, not because they want to. They may be court-ordered, want to get into transitional housing or have another fake reason, not to save their lives. Time will tell and reveal the truth of motives. Karma always catches up.

Many recovering addicts hide ‘in recovery’ the same way they hid in their dope fiend days. They stretch out the whole idea of anonymity out of its original context and refuse to get involved in any controversial area of life at all, such as, social issues, political causes or community campaigns. They rest content and get complacent with just staying sober, going to recovery meetings and only being ‘in recovery’ without going out into the real rip-and-tear world to understand and change it!

Smug in their sobriety time they refuse to ever disclose their whole name, share their story in a public testimony or even get their picture taken. Out in the general community they act as if they are ashamed of being ‘in recovery’. They fail to become walking witnesses, talking testimonies and living sacrifices of the miracles of recovery in their lives and their being saved by God’s amazing grace, not their own lone efforts.

Many recovering addicts switch their obsessive-compulsive disorder over into their recovery and their whole lives revolve around recovery only. They do not develop natural talents, get involved with creative hobbies or go out in the larger community to change the things they can with progressive community action.
We do not need to publicize our membership in any anonymous group, but we all need to get a healthy well-balanced life. Let our personal examples shine out in our lives on a consistent daily basis. When anyone still ‘in the dark’ asks us where our light comes from we should take the time to explain the sources of our spiritual strength, plain and simple, without boast or exaggeration. Someone somewhere first brought us the Message and we should pass it on.
“In some sections of A.A., anonymity is carried to the point of real absurdity. Members are on such a poor basis of communication that they don’t even know each other’s last names or where each lives. It’s like the cell of an underground… I think the long-time trend is toward the middle of the road—which is probably where we should be."
From As Bill Sees It: Pg. 241: Middle of the Road: LETTER 1959
We cannot blindly ignore the objective connected realities of poverty, oppression and real suffering that drove many of us to escape in vain from those ugly realities by abusing drugs, then, ignore those real realities in our recovery. Many of us were raised in dysfunctional families, came out of dysfunctional relationships and we still live in a sick inhumane society that is dysfunctional in many ways, including on-going wars and rumors of war on a global scale.
Sobriety is the gateway, recovery is the process and true spirituality is the key for a sane and sober lifestyle free from all chemical dependencies and their related evils.

We must gather our inner courage, hold onto our spiritual principles and move forward with bold aggressive action out into our local community to help make this a sane, sober and healthy world for all of us.

~ Relevancy of Anonymity in the Internet Age ~

Humankind is now in the New Millennium with great advances in global communications technology never before seen in human history. Wisely utilizing the power of the Internet we now have great historic opportunities to instantly reach out to others across land, sea and air in new ways never imagined before. Different ingenious methods of carrying our Messages, testimonies and exchanging educational information exist via the Internet, such as, websites, recovery blogs, online groups, chat rooms, Emails, video clips, audio podcasts and other new forms of high-tech communications.

Many poor lonely souls or handicapped people who need our help may be living in rural areas far from cities, towns and group meetings without transportation, but with Internet access they are dying to reach out to others ‘in recovery’ for moral support and humane understanding. It is still a dangerous wicked world in many ways and we should always be aware of online predators, hackers and pedophiles. Nevertheless, via the Internet we should still be open to dialogue, discussion and open communication with others wherever they are on Mother Earth in order to learn from each other and sharpen our own recovery tools. Iron sharpens iron and imagination is more important than knowledge.
“Nothing matters more to A.A.’s future welfare than the manner in which we use the colossus of modern communication. Used unselfishly and well, it can produce results surpassing our present imagination
Should we handle this great instrument badly, we shall be shattered by the ego manifestation of our own people. Against this peril, A.A. members’ anonymity before the general public is our shield and our buckler.”
From As Bill Sees It: Pg. 255: Wider Understanding: 2. GRAPEVINE, NOVEMBER 1960
Thus, in progressive recovery we should not be afraid to break out of anonymity when appropriate to the situation to help spread the Message. We should reach out to others, reveal ourselves in terms of what we are doing for our recovery and not be afraid of sharing with others on a global scale, especially when we are online with those who are far away in physical geographical distance. Coming together we can create and build up an atmosphere of trust, friendship and confidentiality and make lifelong friends out of former strangers.
Learning together with others around the world we can learn about the ways of other peoples, places and cultures. Via the Internet we can blaze new pathways in recovery, explore new creative ideas for common action, develop new concepts on wholistic health and add to our vast storehouse of knowledge to help all of humankind.

As we build up our self-esteem ‘in recovery’ we will find it natural in our daily normal lives to open up about ourselves to others without fear or fantasy. A high level of self-esteem with clarity, confidence and compassion should be a key component of any truly progressive recovery program. The Six Pillars of Self-Esteem are:

• The practice of living consciously
• The practice of self-acceptance
• The practice of self-responsibility
• The practice of self-assertiveness
• The practice of living purposefully
• The practice of personal integrity
~ From The Six Pillars of Self-Esteen by Nathaniel Branden
“The essence of all growth is the willingness to change for the better and then an unremitting willingness to shoulder whatever responsibility this entails.”
From As Bill Sees It: Pg. 115: Essence of Growth: Grapevine, July 1965
Ultimately, the whole recovery process is progressive in nature as it advocates and promotes wholistic healing, spiritual maturity and positive community action. As social circumstances change we must be open and flexible enough to change ourselves in order to keep up with changing times and not be left behind clinging to old past tradition. We should always be willing to stand up and speak out for our recovery and not be silent in shame. Many millions of people are still suffering from the harmful effects of assorted disorders and/or addictions. We can help many people with our 12-steps based recovery treatment programs. It is our responsibility to reach out and lend a helping hand to help others as we help heal ourselves. Indeed, we help ourselves when we help others.

"And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” ~John 8:32


Note: Originally read before the CASA 12-Steps Group at the Salvation Army Emergency Shelter on Sunday, June 24, 2007 {my third year of sober recovery, in my one-day-at-a-time program). The real quality of our program in terms of spiritual growth and helping others is always far more important than the quantity in calendar time. Who wants to be around a bitter depressing dry drunk trying to keep track of plastic chips?!
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