What is anonymity?
In Twelve Step programs, anonymity means preserving the confidentiality of a person’s identity in the program. It also means that everything said in meetings will be held in strict confidence.
This principle of confidentiality is often expressed in meetings by this simple saying:
What you see here,
What you hear here,
When you leave here,
Let it stay here.
There are two exceptions to this rule:
- Members who feel you may be in danger are allowed to respectfully discuss your situation with your sponsor.
- If you confess an unreported crime to your sponsor, that person reserves the option to report the crime. Your sponsor cannot promise you the same legal confidentiality that you would receive from a lawyer, minister, or doctor. Depending on the situation, your sponsor may even be legally obligated to report the crime, especially if questioned by the police or in a court of law. If you confess a crime, be ready to face the consequences.
Meeting confidentiality guidelines
- Never “out” a member (break their anonymity in the program) outside of meetings.
- Never ever “out” a member to the media, press, radio, TV, or entertainment and film industries.
- Never repeat anything said at a meeting without the permission of the person who said it.
It’s not a breach of confidentiality to identify yourself to another person, or to the media, as an alcoholic. There may be times when you want to speak out about the dangers of addiction and the rights of alcoholics and drug addicts. But it is a breach to identify yourself to the media as an AA member. Individuals who do so could expose the program to considerable controversy, because the media might perpetuate the idea that that person’s individual views or experiences represent those of others or of the entire AA organization.
Why is it important to maintain anonymity in aa and other twelve Step groups?
The principle of anonymity is so fundamental to Alcoholics Anonymous that it is part of the program’s name. In society at large, there is still a great deal of stigma associated with alcoholism. Job discrimination against alcoholics is common in some industries. Anonymity helps protect all members from identification as alcoholics, and helps members focus on their similarities to others rather than differences.
Anonymity helps protect AA and its members from grandiosity. Members of AA have the right to speak for themselves, but not for other members or for the organization as a whole. When individual members make comments to the press about their AA membership, they may risk the reputation of the program or of other members.