Sunday, 28 April 2019
The 11th Tradition
Some things happen to me that at times I need to talk about. I am not the greatest verbal communicator... so instead I use the written word. Most times these things or frustrations can be ironed out one on one, either with my sponsor or someone close to me. Other times though, I don't want to go through the process again... so I write about my frustrations for everybody to see.
Early in March of 2010 I felt like I was attacked because of the traditions of AA... specifically the 11th tradition. And naturally I went on the defensive... but after thinking about it some more I sought out some thoughts and advice from others.
First, I will say that anybody who knows me knows that I do talk about 12 Step programs... but just not one program... numerous programs I have talked about. Not once have I ever said, “I am a member of...” nor have I ever said, “My home group is...” You may guess as to which program I may belong – but that is all it would be - a guess.
I do this for two reasons... first is for the traditions and the other is I am not responsible for my actions with any 12 Step group. ANY 12 Step fellowship. My disclaimer says that Dreaming With Dave is not approved nor endorsed by any particular 12 Step fellowship... nor is the site affiliated with any 12 Step group.
I may have said that “I attended an AA meeting the other day.” That doesn't mean that AA is where I am a member. There are many people who attend AA meetings... some are not even alcoholics. Some could be study groups from colleges.
In my opinion the traditions of many 12 Step programs shouldn't be so rigid that it hurts the program. There should be some flexibility to help the program grow. Which in my opinion deals directly with the 11th Tradition. Which says, “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.” The key words here are “Our public relations policy.” And the other words, “Personal anonymity.”
In the early days of AA there was a book called Dr. Bob and the Good Old Timers. This book is conference approved AA literature. In those days,Tradition 11 just included “press and radio.” Overtime technology changed and progressed and “films” was added. A little after that the Internet came along and that too was added. With that came the controversy of “personal anonymity.”
So what is personal anonymity? Do I keep my name secret from you? Can I tell you my first name? What about my last name? I can at times say, “I am a member of a 12 step recovery fellowship. I do practice the principles of the 12 Steps of the fellowship of Alcoholics Anonymous.” Does that make me a member of AA? Did I say I was a member of AA? No I did not. While I don't claim membership to AA... it is easy to see that I do belong to a 12 Step group. If you dug around enough you could probably find out which fellowship, but I don't state it.
Where I personally could be breaking the tradition is by using my whole name. Even at the meetings I attend, I use my whole name. Which actually is suggested to be done at closed meetings of AA – to use your whole name. But by using my whole name I still haven't broken the tradition because I have never said which fellowship I am a member of – never.
But first again it is needed to look at the tradition... “Our public relations policy is based on attraction rather than promotion...” What is? “Our public relations policy” IS what is based on attraction rather then promotion. So what is that? It would suggest a policy on how to relate to the public.
And what is personal anonymity? For me it would be a grave injustice for me to say I am a here all – know all of any 12 Step Program. My personal anonymity means that my program of recovery is just that – personal.
According to Dr. Bob and the Good Old Timers, (a book about the early days of AA in the Midwest.) On page 264, one paragraph down this is what is said, “As far as anonymity was concerned we knew who we were. It wasn't only AA but our social life. All of our lives seemed to be spent together. We took people home with us to dry out. The Cleveland group had the names, addresses, and phone numbers of all its members.” One member Warren goes on to say, “In fact, I remember Doctor Bob saying, 'If I got up to speak and gave my name as Dr. Bob S., people who needed help would have had a hard time getting in touch with me.” Dr. Bob, often introduced himself as Dr. Bob Smith, a member of Alcoholics Anonymous.
Warren recalls Dr. Bob saying there were two ways to break the anonymity tradition. You may not agree with it... but this is conference approved literature. The first way is by giving your name at the public level of press or radio. So a private radio station or private press wasn't breaking the tradition. This private sector was strictly for their own organization. Now this is the big one. The second way is by being so anonymous that you can't be reached by other drunks. WOW, that is quite a statement. By guarding your anonymity so closely that other drunks can't reach you for help.
In a 1969 February Grapevine article D.S. of San Mateo, California wrote that Dr. Bob commented on the 11th tradition as follows “Since our tradition on anonymity designates the exact level where the line should be held, it must be obvious to everyone who can read and understand the English language that to maintain anonymity at any other level is definitely a violation of this tradition.” Read that again.
“The AA who hides his identity from a fellow AA by using only a given name (first name) violates the tradition just as much as the AA who permits his name to appear in the press in connection with matters pertaining to AA.”
He goes on to say, “The former is maintaining his anonymity above the level of press, radio, and films, while the latter is maintaining his anonymity below the level of press, radio, and films. Whereas the tradition states that we should maintain our anonymity at the level of press, radio, and films.”
Some other things from this article; a couple of paragraphs down, Dr. Bob said we weren't suppose to break our anonymity to the newspapers or the radio, but he didn't think we would get any place if people didn't know we belonged to AA. He had the firm conviction that you should let it be known that you are an AA member in the community. And he was always sure to tell you about it every time you met him. This originally appeared on page 265 of Dr. Bob and the Good Old Timers. The “we” in that statement – it's me – it's you. From AA approved literature, “You should let it be known that you are an AA member in the community.” Sorry... but that is what it says.
Also from The Grapevine in 1981, “Understanding anonymity.” It starts with “Alcoholics Anonymous is a fellowship of men and women who share their experience, strength, and hope, with each other, that they may solve their common problem and help others to recover from alcoholism. The only requirement for membership is a desire to stop drinking. There are no dues or fees for AA membership, we are self-supporting through our own contributions. AA is not allied with any sect, denomination, politics, organization or institution. Does not wish to engage in any controversy; neither endorses or opposes any causes. Our primary purpose is to stay sober and to help other alcoholics to achieve sobriety.”
Then it starts, “Anonymity is the spiritual foundation of all our traditions, ever reminding us to place principles before personalities.” What is the purpose of anonymity in Alcoholics Anonymous? Why is it often referred to as the greatest single protection the fellowship has to ensure its continued existence and growth?
If we look at the history of AA from 1935 till now it is clear that anonymity serves two different and yet equally vital functions. On the personal level, anonymity provides protection for all members from identification as alcoholics, a safeguard of special importance to newcomers. And second at the level of press, radio, films, and new media technologies, anonymity stresses the equality in the fellowship of all members by putting the brakes on those who otherwise might exploit their AA affiliation to achieve recognition, power, or personal gain.”
Dreaming With Dave has no need for personal recognition, nor power, and I have no ulterior motives for personal gain. This blog is self-supporting and the reality is I have not made any profit from this blog or from me speaking about my recovery.
The article goes on to say that anonymity on a person to person basis was promised by AA to all that attended its meetings, because its founders and first members were all recovering alcoholics. They knew from their personal experience how ashamed most alcoholics are about their drinking and how fearful they are about public exposure. The social stigma of alcoholism was great. Those early AA members recognized a firm assurance of confidentiality was imperative if they were to succeed in attracting and helping other alcoholics to achieve sobriety.
Over the years, anonymity has proved one of the greatest gifts AA offers to suffering alcoholics. Without it many would never attend their first meeting. Although the stigma has lessened to some degree most newcomers still find admission of their alcoholism so painful that it is possible only in a protected environment. Anonymity is central to this atmosphere of trust and openness.
Valuable as privacy is to new members, it is noteworthy that most of them are eager to share the good news of their AA affiliation with their families. Such disclosure however is always their own choice. AA as a whole seeks to ensure that individual members stay as private and protected as they wish. Or as open as they wish. But always with the understanding that anonymity at the level of press, radio, films, and new media technology is crucial to our continued sobriety and growth at both personal and group level.
Anonymity at the media level – After its first few years of success the fellowship attracted much favourable attention in the press. Articles praising AA appeared in magazines and newspapers across the country. And with each new article the ranks of AA grew. In those days everyone still feared the consequences of public disclosure. So the first press coverage guarded members anonymity for safety sake. The arrival of new media technology such as the Internet offered new vehicles to carry the AA message to the public. AA members continue to protect their anonymity in these new public media outlets.
As public awareness of alcoholism increased, the stigma decreased and soon some AA members began to publicly acknowledge their affiliation in the media. Have I done that? No I have not. I have never said that I am a member of AA, or NA, or CODA, or any other 12 step fellowship.
There was a famous athlete who went to the media and announced his affiliation to AA and at first the founders were OK with it... having never experienced the backlash of publicity. Other members followed by breaking their anonymity. Some motivated by goodwill, others by personal gain, while some tied in their affiliation to improve their business.
It didn't take long for AA to realize that over zealous self-serving anonymity breakers could quickly jeopardize the fellowships hard won reputation. And they saw that if one person was made an exception other exceptions would follow. To insure the unity, effectiveness, and welfare of AA - anonymity had to be universal. It was the guardian of all that AA stood for.
In stressing the equality of all AA members in unity and the common bond for the recovery from alcoholism anonymity serves as the spiritual foundation of the fellowship.
In 1946 Bill W wrote, “The word anonymous has immense spiritual significance, subtlety and powerfully, it reminds us we are always to place principles before personalities. That we have renounce personal glorification in public that our movement not only preaches but actually practices a true humility as a whole.” You renounce personal glorification in public.
Myself, I don't want glorification, that is not what I am about. I don't want to be glorified for something I am powerless over. That glorification belongs to my Higher Power. My recovery is not for me, my writings are not for me. They are for my Higher Power. I also believe it is Her wish, that I share the gift She has given me with you.
Facts about anonymity in AA – from AA conference approved literature. It is not the media's responsibility to maintain AA's traditions, it is our own individual responsibility! OK, it's not the media's responsibility – but what if someone in the media is a member of AA or NA or CA? Nowhere in conference approved literature does it say that an alcoholic who is in the media most maintain the traditions.
It is not my responsibility as a writer and the webmaster of Dreaming With Dave to maintain the traditions of a program in which I have not assumed membership too. If I said that I was a member of AA or NA or Alanon or ACOA or CODA or any other number of 12 Step fellowships, then yes, it would be my responsibility to maintain those traditions.
***ANY DOUBT AT ALL? READ THIS***
From AA conference approved literature, “AA members may disclose their identity and speak as recovered alcoholics, giving radio, TV, and internet interviews without violating the traditions so long as their AA membership is not revealed.”
Want to read that again from the General Service Office of AA?
“AA members may disclose their identity and speak as recovered alcoholics, giving radio, TV, and internet interviews without violating the traditions so long as their AA membership is not revealed.” Again, I have never revealed in public what program I am a member of.
From still other conference approved literature – Experience suggests that AA members respect the right of other AA members to maintain their own level of anonymity at whatever level they wish. When speaking as AA members at non-AA events people usually use first names only. Did you notice in that last sentence it says "usually."
Everything with the traditions were written as a suggestion... it is not written with severe bondage or a supreme law... it is freedom of choice and the freedom of an individuals own anonymity.
I have never intentionally broken the 11th Tradition of any 12 Step fellowship. By using AA approved literature I do believe that I am following the traditions. Why did I use AA literature? Because every other 12 Step program is modeled after AA.
As Dr Bob himself said, kind of comically and sarcastically, “Since our tradition on anonymity designates the exact level where the line should be held, it must be obvious to everyone who can read and understand the English language that to maintain anonymity at any other level is definitely a violation of this tradition.” So with the writings of Dr. Bob and conference approved literature, there is no doubt in my mind that I have not violated the 11th Tradition.
I would like to thank the Monty Man at Take 12 Radio for letting me have a listen to his broadcast on this subject. He is the one who did the research on this... and for that I'll be eternally grateful...