I realized late in my own recovery (7 years) there was a strong difference between anonymity and anonymous. Anonymity is a choice made by the individual, anonymous can be a feeling and very possibly detrimental to recovery.
There is so much stigma attached to addiction, the idea of telling people “I am a recovering addict” is scary as hell. Plus in the eyes of the world not all addicts face the same shame or stigma. An alcoholic today faces much different stigma vs. a gambling or food addict. 12-Step programs have been around for close to 100 years AA (Alcoholics Anonymous) launched in 1935 and other groups to support addicts in recovery have been sprouting up ever since.
But, ten years ago and 7 years into my own recovery from gambling, I started to see one of the 12 step foundations was also it’s biggest deterrent to my healing. The foundation of Anonymous…
I started to realize that the word anonymous was hindering my own recovery; it was stopping me as I tried so desperately to become the person I knew I was meant to be. The person I wanted to show the world, instead it kept me in a state of shame; it added lies to my life and the lives of those that supported me. It made me feel I was some how less than everyone else.
When I removed my own “anonymous” a deeper level of healing and recovery became possible. Now for me removing anonymous was full-blown. It included removing my own anonymity, by proudly announcing, “I am a member of GA, I am a recovering addict.” Announcing this with pride is tough, I had 7 years of solid recovery so that made a huge difference in this choice.
4 Reasons Why Anonymous was Dangerous to My Recovery.
- Lies – As addicts we lied, even when we did not have to lie, we lied. Becoming honest is a super hard path not only because of our addiction, but also because we are taught to lie from a very early age. Anonymous meant that I attended meetings and recovered alone outside of those meetings (I know some of us have support) but for any addict a lie is a reminder that we are still in the grips of the addiction.
- Fear – As addicts we have lived in fear likely through out our life but for sure during our addiction. “I feared being found out”…
- Shame – If people know they will judge me. I was ashamed of my life and my journey under anonymous.
- Our authentic self. From pretty much the time we are born we are asked to wear a mask, we are asked to not be our authentic self. Finding true recovery is about being your authentic self. Loving, honest, kind, compassionate, and forgiving to name a few. In all cases these need to be directed inwards as much or more than they are directed outwards.
The four points above are connected for sure, and as an addict in recovery, I work on them daily. For me recovery became recovery when I started being my authentic self. I no longer hid under anonymous I removed the masks one by one. If I was going to a GA meeting, I would tell people I was going to a GA meeting. When I find people who are full of judgement about addicts and are not safe, I make a quick choice. If they are open to understanding and removing their judgement “Shantay they stay”, if not, and they are not safe at all they can “Sashay away” (Thank you RuPaul.)
I don’t need someone’s acceptance or approval anymore, which is another reason I became an addict, I was never happy with me. I could not accept me and so I wanted to destroy that which I could not accept. I realized this “If I can’t love myself, how the hell am I going to love someone else”. (Yes, another RuPaul reference.)
There are some good reasons why anonymity and anonymous are important and they are required to be an action. They are not required to be who we are.
Reasons Why Anonymity is Important
- It was not until 1970 that the Canadian disability act came into effect. Which basically means until 1970 you could be fired for being disabled let alone long-term illness. And even though this act is in place today and it’s been 47 years there are still many loopholes that could put a person’s employment at risk, especially in the early stages of recovery, or if you are still active. Even though in most cases firing someone for illness is illegal and in all cases unethical, the destruction to even fight these cases must be realized.
- Ostracized by a community. Many community groups have very strict codes about their members or membership so someone in the community finding out could have severe reputational and emotional damage. As addicts we have already faced so much emotional and likely physical pain, adding unnecessary is unwise.
- The desire to belong. Most people don’t like to stand out at the best of times. Now, standing out for something like an addiction is unfathomable.
- Our own personal shame. Addicts carry deep shame! They carry this shame for many reasons, like, what they were and who they became from the addiction. Not being “strong” enough to just stop. Not to forget the emotional or physical trauma that brought them to their own depths of hell.
- Family! No matter if the family is accepting or not admitting an addiction is hard. It’s even harder if the trauma (and it most likely is) was a result of the emotional or physical trauma at the hands of a caregiver.
- Add your own reason. Seriously each journey into recovery is an individual journey. Your reason for anonymity is yours.
Those 6 points are a great reason for anonymity. It’s up to members of my program and other programs to manage their own anonymity; it’s their journey. But, maybe like me, your recovery can truly happen to a level you never imagined, if you were outwardly proud of yourself warts and all.
In closing, my group may be anonymous but I am not! I refuse to be in the shadows just to please others. With my addiction I have seen my own depths of darkness and misery, with support and with my own work I have found a beautiful way of living. I am so proud of my journey not only into recovery but also into life.
If you or someone you know is struggling with addiction or having a hard time finding recovery, I would love to hear from you just click on the contact us and send us an email.
And Remember! Keep chasing those cars!
With Love Respect and Admiration
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