Famous in an Anonymous Program

The Struggle of Social Media, Recovery and Anonymity

Alcoholics Anonymous, Tradition 11: “Our public relations policy is based on attraction rather than promotion; we need always maintain personal anonymity at the level of press, radio, and films”


Recently I came across a debate on Facebook on one of the million “recovery pages” regarding anonymity for those people in recovery as it relates to social media. The debate sprung from a blog in the Huffington Post (originally published on TheFix.com, a recovery-oriented web site) titled “6 Reasons to Break Anonymity in Sobriety” (https://snip.ly/6IE4#https://www.huffingtonpost.com/beth-leipholtz/six-reasons-to-break-anon_b_8160670.html). The author, who is listed as a “sober journalist, blogger and graphic designer” gave six points on why she felt it was important to break one’s anonymity when they are sober and how she had become regularly disappointed by other people who seemingly use social media to let everyone know everything else about their lives other than their recovery.

In stating her case, the author makes some valid points about the power of social media and how social media platforms can easily be used as a way to break the stigma of addiction or in some ways be used to be helpful to others suffering in addiction or who are in recovery. However, the author failed miserably on several levels, including why she thinks the principle of helping others in Step 12 of the 12 Steps is more valuable or more important than the spiritual principle of anonymity in Tradition 11. Additionally, she seems to fail to understand the Traditions of 12 Step recovery fellowships like Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and Narcotics Anonymous (NA) by continually not adhering to them in her article.

Now, for those that are unaware of or unfamiliar with the 12 Steps and 12 Traditions, they are spiritual principles that guide the recovery fellowships of AA and NA. Basically, the 12 Steps are the program of action that lead to a spiritual experience that facilitates recovery from addiction and alcoholism while the 12 Traditions are the guidelines of spiritual principles by which the fellowship operates and maintains its unity. It is vitally important to understand that these are not rules. “Violating traditions” means nothing more than someone isn’t following them. There are no consequences given towards an individual that breaks any of the Traditions by AA or NA. The 12 Steps and 12 Traditions are simply guidelines for personal recovery and fellowship.

What is vitally important to understand is that in the current time of social media, where any young person can and often strives to be a star on YouTube, Vine or Instagram, the world is much different than it was when Alcoholics Anonymous first came to be in 1935, when the basic text of AA (the book “Alcoholics Anonymous” aka The Big Big) was published in 1939 or the first publication of AA’s Twelve Traditions in 1946. Word can travel around the world and back again via Facebook or Twitter in a split second. Likes, retweets, smart phones with screen shots, text messages and the like make the technologically advanced society we live in today lightyears ahead of what was available when Bill Wilson went to call on Bob Smith in Akron, OH in 1935. There is certainly something to be said for the power of social media and how it can influence. That is certainly something that is good for recovery. The more people are open about their personal recovery, the more they talk about it on social media, the more the stigma of addiction and alcoholism is broken and the more addicts, alcoholics and their loved ones can feel that they are not alone, not held back by shame, and seek the necessary means to recovery from this deadly illness.

That all being said, it is more important to truly understand the spiritual principle of anonymity and why is still applies to today in regards to our society and social media as much if not more than it did 80 years ago. First, anonymity does not mean secrecy (which many members of 12 Step fellowships seem to get confused about). Tradition 11 absolutely does not suggest keeping quiet about one’s recovery. What the author of the article misunderstands is that you can absolutely practice helping others in Step 12 while also adhering to Tradition 11. As a person in recovery, I do not need to be a spokesperson for any fellowship in order to be open about my personal struggle with addiction and journey of recovery. Tradition 11 is absolutely about the spiritual principle of anonymity. It’s not about protecting me and my anonymity. It is about protecting AA, NA or any other 12 Step fellowship and the members of that fellowship as a whole from me and my ego.

Personally, I use every opportunity to talk about my own recovery, whether in private, in public, via the media and especially on social media platforms. Why do I do this? I do it in order to break the stigma of addiction and make it easier for those individuals and families who are suffering to feel they are not alone and seek the help they need and not feel ashamed in doing so. However, I do everything possible to protect my affiliation with a specific fellowship. Why? Because potentially some people don’t like me or don’t like what I have to say or perhaps may misinterpret something I’ve said and I don’t want them to believe that I speak for any 12 Step fellowship or that my words represent that fellowship as a whole. Also, what if I stop practicing the principles I’ve learned through the 12 Steps and relapse? Do I want my lack of action to be used as an example of why someone shouldn’t seek recovery? (“See, he was in AA/NA/XA and he relapsed. Obviously it doesn’t work!”). Spiritual principles are spiritual principles, and apply as much in 1935 and 1939 as they do today. But that in no way handcuffs me from speaking as much and as often as I want on social media about my own personal recovery and trying to use the power of social media to carry the message of recovery and to be helpful and useful to others.

If you or someone you know is in need of help because of drug and/or alcohol abuse, please give us a call. Maryland Addiction Recovery Center offers the most comprehensive dual diagnosis addiction treatment in the Maryland, Virginia and Washington, D.C. area. If we aren’t the best fit for you or your loved one, we will take the necessary time to work with you to find a treatment center or provider that better fits your needs. Please give us a call at (410) 773-0500 or email our team at Contact us today. For more information on all of our drug addiction and alcohol addiction services and recovery resources, please visit our web site at www.marylandaddictionrecovery.com.


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