BY: GEORGE B. | ALEXANDRIA, VIRGINIA
When I first found Alcoholics Anonymous, part of its appeal lay in the second word of its name. Anonymity about my own alcoholism was something that I certainly wanted. Even though my friends and co-workers had seen me drunk often enough, I didn’t want them to know that I was so far gone I had to go to those AA meetings.
Then, after I’d been in the Fellowship for a short time and discovered that it was full of great ideas and wonderful people, I was ready to announce to anyone who would listen that I was a member of Alcoholics Anonymous and to shout its many virtues to the world. Fortunately, a wise sponsor restrained my boisterous impulses.
Soon I learned that my experience wasn’t unique. Many other AAs have followed a similar path in their own explorations of anonymity, as did the organization as a whole. Bill W. writes that in the beginning, anonymity was not born of confidence. Instead, it was the child of early fears. When the Big Book first appeared in 1939, the Fore-ward stated that it was important for the Fellowship to remain anonymous because we were too few to handle the overwhelming number of personal appeals that might result from the book’s publication.
In the “Twelve and Twelve,” Bill W. tells how he and others began to throw anonymity to the four winds and speak publicly about the wonderful things that AA had to offer; how he and others became “AA show-offs,” shouting the virtues of the organization from the housetops; and how this began to have serious consequences for the future integrity of the cause.
Out of this unrestrained egotism came the Eleventh and Twelfth Traditions regarding anonymity at the public level and placing principles ahead of personalities.
Just as anonymity is good for the organization, I’ve found it good for my personal spiritual growth. For it has taught me that my greatest usefulness, peace, and contentment come from quietly giving what I can to others instead of trying to get all of the praise that I can for myself–something that once seemed so important. Anonymity protects the organization from the big-mouths and the show-offs. It also protects me from myself.