A counselor friend says that the best thing about 12 Step fellowships is the worst thing about them as well.
In a spirit of anonymity members don't ask personal questions and respect each others privacy. What we know about each other is what is disclosed. There are no background checks, urine or hair tests, interrogations or membership cards. No one is voted in or out. Taking something someone shared at a meeting outside of the meeting is a serious issue: the Traditions of the 12 Step programs clearly state that "anonymity is the spiritual foundation of our program."
It's so important that "Anonymous" is the last name of all 12 Step programs.
You walk in the door, give your first name and you are accepted at face value. The only requirement for membership is the desire to stop. You are who, and what, you say you are.
When I have written before on this subject, it's been about the impact on the group of taking information out of the meeting and onto the street. But there is another abuse of anonymity that is, perhaps, even more dangerous.
Deception. In an anonymous program, it's easy to do.
Who I am, what my motives are, my clean and sober time--all of these things are unmonitored. For the most part, that works fine, and trusting relationships are formed in a spirit of true fellowship and sisterhood. It truly is a spiritual foundation for recovery.
But what if I am not what I say I am? There have been instances that I have seen firsthand, where someone presents as clean and sober for years who is still in active addiction. He or she may chair or speak at meetings, hold a position of responsibility, even sponsor others, all the while maintaining a dark secret. We encourage each other in the 12 Step programs to "get honest". But when someone who has been living a lie gets honest. the impact on others is powerful. Finding out that your sponsor has been drinking or getting high throughout his or her relationship with you is the psychic equivalent to a punch in the solar plexus. The whole world goes dark.
The program that saves your life now seems like a dangerous and untrustworthy place. You feel betrayed.
In a sense, you have been betrayed, and it is certainly to be expected that you are going to be hurt and angry, but it's important to remember that the very thing that allowed for deception, anonymity, is going to be your ticket to recovery.
Because, if you can step back a little, you will see a room full of people who are exactly what they say they are and are ready, willing and able to help you walk the walk to recovery. In the Programs, while we may have different lengths of time, or different addictions, or different higher powers, we are all there to help each other to get another day. Even the lapsed member has something to give, not what he pretended to be, but what he or she is, a sick individual who needs help, and hopefully, has a desire to stop. We can show what that is by example.
Keep coming back.
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