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Are Addicts Ready to Shed Their Anonymity and Face Society with Their Names?

By Tomretterbush @thomretterbush

Are Addicts Ready to Shed their Anonymity and Face Society with their Names? Is It Time to Take the Anonymous Out of AA, NA and other 12 Step Programs?
In opposition to the traditions of AA and other 12-step programs, an article in The New York Times on May 8th authored by David Colman that advocates for a non-anonymous 12-step program for alcoholics, addicts, and substance users.
“Is It Time to Take the Anonymous Out of A.A.?” was the subject of an essay by Susan Cheever in The Fix. 
AA and NA’s principles of anonymity may only be contributing to general confusion and prejudice.
Given that Cheever has written books about both her alcoholism and that of her father, the writer John Cheever, as well as one on the history of A.A., it’s not hard to guess whether she is an A.A. member. But in her essay, she vented her frustrations with trying to observe the practice of anonymity while trying to speak frankly about addiction.
“We are in the midst of a public health crisis when it comes to understanding and treating addiction,” Ms. Cheever wrote. “A.A.’s principle of anonymity may only be contributing to general confusion and prejudice.”
Her message wasn’t exactly greeted with open arms, inciting a flood of largely critical comments from the site’s readers. (One of the tamer ones: “Without ANONYMITY, A.A. will not continue to exist and help millions of alcoholics and addicts all over the world!”)
This sentiment was shared by Hilding Ohrstrom, LCPC, CCS, an addiction counselor, who wrote during a LinkedIn discussion of he subject, “…I don't know that a group such as that would get too many members, though. I am reminded though of former clients who did not want anyone to see their cars outside of meetings or counseling centers but didn't mind them being seen at local gin mills,” though I believe there are enough addicts with enough balls out there, who are willing to come clean and stand behind what they have to say with their name.
However, a well certified counselor, Tony Trimble, Ed.S. LMHC, SP, ACC, CFAE, wrote during that LinkedIn discussion, “I have rarely worked with a client who has expressed great concern about his anonymity in AA groups. Some even believe that making themselves known gives them greater credibility to talk to others about being addicted. That said, I think the obligation still exists for clients to avoid doing anything that would expose others who may take their anonymity seriously.”
Another addiction counselor on LinkedIn, Patrick Dieter, CDP, CADC II, BHT, said, “I believe that most secrets are harmful, but having said that, it is not my place to "out" other people's confidential stuff. With "rehab" being almost fashionable these days, I suspect the stigma about alcoholism may have shifted somewhat, yet I still run into people every day who don't truly understand the disease and seem to thing that alcoholism is just an excuse for some sort of character flaw. Oh, sorry -- that's the Big Book. It seems that people who do not suffer from the disease are almost incapable of understanding why addicts can't just "snap out of it." They see it as excuse making, and laziness. Sad.”
“Having to deny your own participation in a program that is helping your life doesn’t make sense to me,” said Maer Roshan, the editor of The Fix, a new, hip-feeling Web magazine aimed at the recovery world. “You could be focusing light on something that will make it better and more honest and more helpful.”
I have said for a very long time that the world needs more alternatives to 12-step groups so that those in recovery can have more choices. After giving lip service to that for years, I realized that "if it's to be, it's up to me." Thus I founded Addicts NOT Anonymous.
My experience is based primarily on actually attending a number of 12 Step based programs, and remaining totally clean and sober for the past 5 years.
I am not sure how it will play out, but I have witnessed that people who have shared experiences with great emotional impact tend to bond over them, and stick together in a natural support network.
It is my intention, with Addicts NOT Anonymous, to build a support network around shared breakthrough experiences rather than a rigid, structured, inflexible program.
What are your views regarding the pros and cons to breaking anonymity?
Written By: Tom Retterbush

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