Breaking Anonymity, Or The Unmasking Of El Hijo Del Santo

Grrrrrrrrrr……..I dare you to unmask me. I will pummel you in the meantime.

I received an email yesterday from a woman whose son is an alcoholic and who has been struggling alongside her boy and his illness.  I recall talking to the young man last summer over the phone, who had planned on getting into the old treatment center I went to.  He was unsure of this proposition, and my gut instinct told me that he wasn’t ready, that he was going to just get his mother off of his back, that he felt he could probably manage it all on his own.

I wish I had been wrong.

This poor kid ended up relapsing the day he left, and it went downhill from there.  I had been in constant contact with this despairing woman (aren’t all family and friends of alcoholics despairing?  That word was invented for them, methinks).  I explained what her son was most likely going through and described alcoholism and it’s nefarious hooks that dig deep into our minds, body and spirit.  She was briefly buoyed, but cautious.  And then I didn’t hear from her for many months – until last night. Her son had spiralled even further down – living on the street, getting arrested, jumping from shelter to shelter, and had health concerns.  He eventually cracked and asked for help.  He returned to the treatment center and has done well since.  She is now broke and needs to move because of this hardship, but her son is healthy and sober.

I bring this up to illustrate something – that I never would have met this woman nor been able to offer what I could if I wasn’t “out” (recovered alcoholic) with some of my friends.  I have close friends, old friends, who clearly know that I am an alcoholic and have been in treatment and continue to work a recovery program.  These few friends were at my one year medallion.  They understand a bit of my journey and of alcoholism. It was one of these friends who introduced me to the distressed woman and son.  Being open about my path yielded something wonderful – a connection to someone else who was suffering – someone I could reach out to.  Someone to help.  Like someone helped me at some point.

Taking anonymity a little bit too far? Break off into groups and discuss.  Show all work.
Taking anonymity a little bit too far? Break off into groups and discuss. Show all work.

I recall once leaving a meeting, with two people walking behind me out of the door, discussing anonymity.  The young woman was concerned about people at work finding out about her being an alcoholic.  The man, who I know does great service work in the community, stopped and asked her point blank “What’s the downside of people knowing?”.  She paused, unable to respond.  I too found myself lost in thought.  What was the downside of others knowing?  And that line has stuck with me for the last year or so.  It was something that reared it’s head up now and then as I gently stirred around the idea of being more out there, of letting others in on my “other” life.  It’s a question that still dogs me, that swirls around the eddies of my conscious, that licks the edge of my decision or non-decision to break my anonymity.

There has been some discussion of anonymity on the blogs and twitter lately. Much of it stemmed from the release of a documentary called “The Anonymous People” which encourages those in recovery to speak out, to have a voice…and a face.  I haven’t seen it yet, so I can’t opine about it. But what it has done is revisit my idea of anonymity, the current social environment, and my place in it – or not.  This slowly trickling back stream in the recesses of my mind has lately started to push and rush a little bit more in the last six months.  No particular reason why, but I have been feeling this low level rumbling about where I am in the prism of recovery – am I the light, the reflector or the rainbow? Am I all or none of these? And how does my coming out or not coming out change things?  Or is this yet another incident of this alcoholic over thinking things?

Tough call.

Bowzer reflects on this quandary with poise and tranquility.
Bowzer reflects on this quandary with poise and tranquillity.  Either that, or he’s having a grand mal seizure.

For me, anonymity touches three aspects, each with their own questions and challenges:

1) Personal – While I am open to my family and friends, I am still private in my work life and with casual friends / neighbours regarding my alcoholism.   The question of my not drinking has come up at work before and I have answered honestly, but without mentioning being an alcoholic.  The “What’s the downside of people knowing?” really plays a part here.  What would be the issue if I were to expose myself to peers and subordinates?  What fears coarse through my mind and spirit when I think of this?  Silent mocking? Shame? Judgement? Whispers in quiet corners? Me being YouTube-d, someone trying to find some embarrassing episode? I am not sure, but those have crossed my field of vision.  And if that did happen, is that a bad thing?

I can’t help but think that much wouldn’t happen.  That most people wouldn’t care.  That most people might be gently shocked, but then again, not really be concerned.  That most likely, many of these folks probably know someone that is in the grips of the grape or struggling. But what compels me to move out of my protective shell is for that last thought – that I might be of service to someone.  Like that woman with her son.  That perhaps I can be a voice for someone, or just be around for the reason of someone to talk to.  That maybe I was meant to do more than just go to meetings or typing a few things here or being sober.  Or not.

This crazy cat understood anonymity.  And poor colour choice for a dude's hat.  In summer.
This crazy cat understood anonymity. And poor colour choice for a dude’s hat. In summer.

2) Online –  Once it’s out there, it’s out there.  That’s one of the dangerous and sharp edges of the internet.  Ask any Facebook user who has tried to delete their online persona or account.  Anyone who has Googled themselves and no doubt had run into something they typed in years ago, or found a picture of themselves from some ancient company newsletter, or had some mention of them deeply implanted in an archaic document of some kind.  So the decision to be out there is not to be taken lightly.   Now, there are many of us in the sobersphere who maintain anonymity, and for valid personal reasons.  Some do not want work staff to find them.  Or others have criminal and legal issues that they don’t want trumpeted.  Some fear ridicule.  Others feel it’s no one’s business but their own.  Everyone has their reason for staying anonymous, and that is highly respected and observed in our circles.

On the other hand, there are many here who clearly feel safe in this community and are out there – face, name, workplace, etc.  Many of these bloggers are not concerned much with others stumbling upon them.  In fact, many are proud to be out there, and wish to show the “who” behind the Gravatar and hope that they can attract others whose voice may be quiet, or stilted.  They realize almost everyone in their own circles of life are already on board and care not if one or two others fall onto their blog.

I am not concerned about someone perhaps tripping over this blog, or what I have to say here.  I don’t mention names, generally, and I don’t publish personal facts.  I rarely post pictures of my family (or they are very old ones) and I don’t give mention of other personal details of my private life.  That is why I keep it recovery focused – the rest of the stuff is immaterial. But what it does come down to is the next area that sobriety and breaking anonymity crosses.

Looks like a 13th stepping attempt going on.  Bad Orko.  Bad!  Leave the newcomer alone!!
Looks like a 13th stepping attempt going on. Bad Orko. Bad! Leave the newcomer alone!!

3) The Traditions of AA – This is where some of the difficulties come in for me.  And this is also where there is a lot of gauntlet throwing down in slight challenge of these.  For those who don’t know, the Traditions, as they are known in the program, are 12 guidelines, if you wish, that help to keep AA, on a whole, intact.  They are there to ensure the stability and growth of AA.  They help steer us away from publicity, donations, leadership issues, etc. As they joke about in the rooms, the 12 Steps help us from committing suicide, and the 12 Traditions help us from committing homicide (you have to be there, stale cup of coffee in hand, believe me).  And embedded in those traditions are the basics of anonymity.  The internet was far from coming to fruition when they came up with the traditions, but since it’s inception, AA does have some “official” stands on anonymity and being online.

I am not going to get into the Traditions, as that can go on for some time, but what I will say is that it’s okay to break anonymity at group level, which means at a group, I can give you my full name, phone number, etc. and not worry about it.  It’s when I get out in the real world, and in any context, that I cannot be a mouthpiece for AA.   I can talk about it privately, one on one, though. (This is where some see this as secretive, but it’s all meant for the good of the group as a whole).  But here’s where I see things a bit differently.  To me, this sobersphere, is like a group.  Anyone who isn’t interested in sobriety or recover most likely won’t be interested in this blog or the ones on my blogroll…unless they were concerned about their own drinking or the drinking of someone they know.  We all know each other out here, for the most part.  I feel like I am part of a family. A wonderful, inclusive, accepting and loving family.  And for that reason, I feel that anonymity isn’t truly broken.  Or is that me rationalizing?

"Wanna get a triple foam peppermint low-fat soy latte after?"
“Wanna get a triple foam peppermint low-fat soy latte after?”

So what’s the verdict after all this navel gazing and star searching?

Not sure.

The greatest challenge comes from within.  And the simple question is this – is this ego / pride talking, or is this an authentic desire to open up, spread wings, stay truer to myself and be open for others if they need help?   Can I be comfortable as a member of a group that stresses anonymity and yet be out there?  My bro of bro’s Marius (from Trudging Through The Fire) had some great advice and thoughts on this a while back, and challenges some of the more traditional thoughts generally thought of regarding the program and anonymity. (I know, Marius challenging the status quo? I was shocked too)  I have had time to chew on what he’s said, and see that after some consideration, I am in alignment with his point of view.  I think service, on a higher plane, is where I am directed.  I have spoken about signs from the Creator before in this space, and I have always tried to do the next indicated thing.  I have tried to be in tune with that little voice that likes to tell me the right thing to do.  And so it’s really about being in alignment with His will, not mine.

But there is still something that nags at me.

I am not sure what it is.  There seems to be something blocking me from coming out outright.  From jumping out of the birthday cake with a sash and a smile.  From taking the big leap.  I am not sure if it’s fear, or just being uncomfortable.  Or just that finality. Or something that I am not meant to do now.  Who knows.  What I can say is that I have had no compunction with anyone else being so open about their recovery and being an alcoholic.  In fact, I love it.  I know for many out there, it’s not a big deal and it wasn’t a difficult choice.  I do wish to be there soon and not worry about any downsides, if there are any.  I do wish to be of maximum service to others and show that we’re not a bunch of homeless people slugging back hand sanitizer (ok, some of us are, but you know what I mean). That we have a face, that we’re like others, that we are others, that we’re the coaches, teachers, workers, parents, children, etc. that you see every day.  That we are all different, and yet the same deep down.

I will find my answer.  I know I will.  I will find out where my voice is needed, and where my heart belongs.  Where my shoulders need to be opened up for a sobbing, shaking head to land on.  Where my arms need to open up embrace someone who thinks death as a choice.  Where I can plant my feet and catch someone who is on the rebound and ready to give up and whither away.

In the meantime, I smile inside when I hear others talk about their conquests at the bars, when they talk about having to taper off, when I overhear rumours of so-and-so being a problem drinker, when the direction of a conversation turns to the bottle.  I know that if someone needs some help, I will be there.  My hand will always be there, outstretched and ready to grab them and tell them that it’s okay.  You’re not alone.  Right now, I am there, you can feel my breath, but I am anonymous.  Receding into the light, reflecting, hoping to see rainbow whenever I gaze upon you, hoping to see you be well.

Be well.


33 Comments Add yours

  1. jrj1701 says:

    Remaining anonymous has its advantages and its downside. You can still help those who are in need without blowing your anonymity, and maybe broaden your horizons, get out of the AA box (which I feel you do). AA can give you some special perspectives on life, some good tools in recognizing problem situations and overcoming the challenges, yet folks don’t need to know that you conquered that specific mountain, what they need is a light in the darkness. You have the potential to guide folks to that light, and that can never be hidden for long. I think you hear a calling, please don’t ignore it.+++

    1. Your points are valid…and I like what you say about being the light. I think we can all do that in the capacities that we are able to do them. And like you said there are pros and cons…and that is precisely the question – to do so or not? But I am leaving it up the Universe to decide. To the Creator. Like all the other things that I am not sure of.

      Thanks for the great comments and further food for thought.


  2. fern says:

    Paul, I’m sure the answer of what God’s will is for you will be answered in its own sweet time. For now, I think you are doing what you should be doing — you touch people who struggle with alcoholism even in your anonymity. Of course, I speak only for myself but I’m guessing there are many of us that don’t know who you are but you are a guiding light in the darkness. –Fern

    1. Thank you Fern, for the warm and kind comments. I think we all help each other here. Even when we struggle, we help others – they can relate to our struggles and know that they are not alone. Sometimes I see people in meetings who put on a perma-smile and get all Stepford Wifey or Hubby and have nothing but rainbows and kittens spilling out of them, and while that is wonderful (who doesn’t love kittens?) it’s also good to see the struggles. We’re human and we’ve done all the pretending we’ve needed to do in our drinking days. So thank YOU for all that you have contributed to my recovery as well…and to others.


  3. I think you are extremely helpful and generous with helping others whether or not you break anonymity. Maybe you could bring it up at an AA meeting and see what people say? I know that I personally never stumbled upon a sober blog until the day that I decided I needed help. I am hesitant to name my full name on my blog because I am not sure I will be able to be as honest if I do, but my need for anonymity is already less than it initially was. It’s a conundrum. Best of luck working it all out. Peace! Jen

    1. Thank Jeni – muchly appreciated. AA does have it’s Traditions and some online anonymity guidelines. Many of the AA’s I know don’t go online, so it’s a different world to most of them.

      I see what you mean about the need for anonymity being less than when you started – that is exactly what quandary I am in. I think some of us (not all) guard ourselves at the beginning – for good reason. But as we move along our journeys, we feel less shame, less need for being closed up about it, less of a compunction to protect it. But it’s all an individual thing.

      Glad you’re here and part of the community 🙂

      Love and light,

  4. furtheron says:

    I wrote a long comment – WordPress swallowed it… grrr…

    Whatever – here is some guidance…

    I blew it as I was out on the web before I knew it – like you I considered it a group, not press, film etc. I still don’t but AA as a whole disagrees with me, I have to respect that as best I can now.

    1. Ugh – I hate when long responses get chewed up (notice it’s only the long ones that get mangled?). Thank you for the link – I printed it up and read it. Good stuff. Here is the link I read a while back –

      That is the one from AA – but it still feels a bit dated, for some reason.

      Anyway, I think the word you bring up – respect – is key here. And in the end, I think that any thing done with respect is much easier that all out battling. If I may say, your blog is very respectful and to me a great example of an AA at work. And I have used yours as an example of how I would do things. 🙂

      Thanks again,


  5. sherryd32148 says:

    I think of my alcoholism the same way I think of my sexual preference or anything else that is deeply personal – it’s my business and with whom I choose to share it is my business as well.

    One of the biggest issues I had with AA was the concept of anonymity. To me, it felt like hiding which felt like shame. So FOR me, it didn’t work. But again, that was purely a personal decision. I would never OUT anyone who didn’t want to be there – everyone has their own reasons.

    Great post and discussion Paul. Thank you.


    1. You know Sherry – you bring up the one thing that I didn’t talk about in the post – shame. I know in the trailer for that movie, there is a gent who proposes that perhaps we are anonymous because of shame. In my case, I dismiss that, as it’s not so black and white. There are many things we look at when we decide to open up or not. Not all of us are in the same boat. It’s not about shame – it’s about making a decision that not only impacts me, but others as well (family, work, etc). But in the end, I realize it’s not that big a thing, in my own case. I can’t say it is for others.

      I recall you not too long ago “coming out” and really – must have been a relief and also a new genuine you emerging. We all have our time and reasons.

      Thanks Sherry for your insights 🙂


  6. mishedup says:

    Thanks for this Paul…

    I love the 11th tradition because it makes me feel safe in the rooms. Or made me….now I don’t care. But when I came in I sure did. When I came in full of shame and self-loathing and not understanding this and feeling so different from everyone/…thank god there was no one there to out me.

    Now i happily out myself, which is my prerogative. I am seeing the Anonymous people tomorrow night, a showing put together by an online friend, full of other online friends, bloggers and strangers…tho I imagine the strangers are only because I haven’t yet met them.

    I love the message of this movie, of the whole recovery movement it represents….the de-stigmatizing of addiction. The teaching…people need to understand that this is a disease like any other, and it KILLS people. Looking with compassion and help rather than ostracizing and judgement is the only way to really make a difference.
    That is part of the solution that I want to be involved in.

    No spokespeople for AA, I accept and understand that, am grateful for it. I out myself as being in a 12 step program..a fine line but acceptable, I think. One on one I talk about AA, which is the whole plan, right? One drunk talking to another? But in the bigger picture, until the world at large starts looking at this disease differently, people will continue to die.

    I’ll report back what i thought of the movie, and thanks for the discussion…it’s an important one.

    1. You make some wicked points here. I recall getting all amped about this whole thing, then I read some counter points on it, then that made me sit and think too. It was like a tennis match in my head. Point. Counter Point. And that’s why it’s been in my head for a while now. Having said that, I also look at something else – my intentions. And even as I type this now, deep down I don’t feel that it’s anything else other than just me opening up a bit more and hoping that others see that we too are “normal” in many respects, and that we are capable of change. And to be open to someone talking about it too.

      I love your POV and it’s wonderful. I would love to also hear what you think of the movie! I think the larger social picture is also involved…I am not shocked at how people think of alcoholism and drug addiction. Very few truly understand it…other than those afflicted with it or who know someone in it.

      Please do report back!


  7. I’m open about my road to sobriety and blog with my real name. I don’t, however, post links to my blog on my personal Facebook page. I’m not ashamed of anything but my “friends” aren’t my target audience and Facebook isn’t the right medium for what I write about. Anyone who is more than an acquaintance knows I’m an alcoholic but I carefully choose what I share in person or on my blog because not everyone has earned the right to know the details. It’s a fine line to walk sometimes. In my early days of sobriety, I gravitated toward people who were open about their recovery because I was looking to see my face in theirs. I think everyone has the right to do their work in private with the protection of anonymity. If they choose to go “public”, that’s ok too.

    1. I think you do a great job in how you approach things on your blog, Karen. Another inspiration, to be honest. And what you say about it not being a right for everyone to know everything…and of course, we show some restraint and self-containment. Even in anonymity, I still am careful what I write. There are some things that just stay with me and my family, or my sponsor, or the Creator. I am careful not to cause harm with what I say and who I write about, which is why I rarely write about others. Or vent about sponsees, etc. lol.

      Thank Karen – insightful words as usual 🙂


  8. Al K Hall says:

    The people at work know i’m recovering in AA because they were all aware of my suicide attempt and so i wanted them to know i was getting better.

    About anonymity in general, i was kind of surprised when i learned that Roger Ebert received a lot of flack when he came out as sober and in AA. i though, “WTF, if the guy wants people to know, so be it. Hell, it might even influence someone else to give it a shot.”

    Just a couple days ago, however, i saw the documentary “Bill W.” and learned that Time magazine offered Bill W. the cover as Man of the Year and, after a lot of thought, he turned them down. He understood it could be good advertising for AA, but he also didn’t want AA to become a place where people got into an ego race. i was able to see that maybe the reason for anonymity in AA was not to protect the person, but the organization.

    So, no answers, but i’m glad you asked the question!

    1. Yeah, I remember the flack the poor guy got. For what? He made an impact – still has, here we are talking about it! I also like how Craig Ferguson did it (saw on your blog) and others – clearly out there, but keeping the traditions in check. Difficult line to hold onto, but many do it very well (Russell Brand also comes to mind)

      I bought that doc (Bill W.) – loved it. Funny thing is that while he was technically anonymous, he was well known – congress hearings, talks outside AA, etc. Kinda hard to be anonymous when you’re him. But I understand the spirit of his declining the Time mag cover.

      I think letting others know around us isn’t a big thing – I wouldn’t go on the company website and post something there, but if I were one on one with someone and it came up, I might just mention I am an alcoholic and I am in recovery and kind of leave it at that. The online thing is the one that has had me wondering about, even with information out there. I think the idea of our intentions is key and respect.

      More shall be revealed, I suppose.

      Great comments!


  9. Lisa Neumann says:

    My reply is equivalent to a one ton truck that I’ve manged to bring to the size of the period at the end of this sentence.

    Anonymity is personal, but if you’re going to name an exact organization, any organization, that has a tradition of anonymity it is best to honor that tradition. I am of the non-anonymous type of alcoholic. Period.

    I struggled so much with this when I wrote my book (published). When I finally found my solution I found so much peace in not feeling shame over who I was.

    Just because you’re an alcoholic doesn’t mean you’re anonymous.

    Love this post, brought up a lot for me. I barely scratched my reply.

    1. Yes – I get that whole one ton truck thing…so much to take in and take on, I suppose. I think the bind I find myself in now is having had named an organization and mentioned it’s traditions. So part of me now feels bound by that. I even thought of starting another blog, and keeping it separate from this one, where it is not mentioned, but certainly spoken of in general ways. But seems a bit much at this point. Oh well.

      You certainly came top of mind when I first struggled with this. As did a few others. I was hoping you would chime in with some thoughts, and you have some wonderful ones here, Lisa.

      “Just because you’re an alcoholic doesn’t mean you’re anonymous.” – loved this. I think we are sometimes felt to be silent at times, when I really want to shout it out and show that it’s ok to do so.

      Thank you for your insight…much appreciated 🙂


      1. Lisa Neumann says:

        This is my fourth site. True followers follow. You’ll find your way. You’re vibrating too strong not to. Love being the spectator for once.

        1. Fourth? Wow! I am learning more and more here. You bear a lot of fruit in your commentary, Lisa. 🙂

          1. Lisa Neumann says:

            Remind me to tell you about the time I got arrested at 3 years SOBER. And spent the night in jail!

            “There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.” – Hamlet

  10. Erika says:

    Paul, your writing is outstanding. I have to go through your posts twice just to check if I got everything the first time. The second time round is always the best one because you are such a beautiful soul and it shows in your writing. Thank you for being a wonderful recovering alcoholic. You had to go through your struggles for us, members of the sobersphere, to read your amazing material. Much love to you, dear Paul. Keep strutting your impeccable writing in these blogosphere. I am grateful for you. 🙂

    1. You make me blush, Erika. Thank you for this. I sometimes wish I could live up to how I write about things…lol. Progress, not perfection. You are a shining light for me, and others, Erika – you show me how to so passionate about life and to love for the sake of love. Thank you for being you.


  11. Hi Paul! You know I love this topic and I have written about it several times myself. For me in the beginning anonymity was very important, i don’t think I would have stepped a foot in the rooms if I didn’t feel somewhat safe. And I truly understand the importance of it and the whole idea of attraction rather than promotion. But for me today I would like to be able to say, my name is Maggie Shores and I am an alcoholic and I am a member of _ _ 12 step program which saved my life! But I can’t do that in a public forum. This is what I am told by my district GSR. If you don’t use your real name you can call the fellowship by it’s name, if you are using your real name you should refer to it as other. For me this is a personal choice, it is to have a face as a recovering alcoholic and be more of service, I didn’t know any people in recovery before, now I have 150+ friends on FB that are all in recovery, strangely enough only 26 liked my Sober Courage FB page!? I find that alarming – the shame associated with alcoholism and/or addictions is still so huge! And the general lack of understanding amongst the public is also overwhelming. Well, anyway, I can go forever, but thank you for bringing it up, it link its a personal choice for sure. And you touch many propel with your words weather you’re anonymous or not! Sending many hugs! But it also keeps me more accountable in my sobriety.

    1. Sorry, looks like spell/ grammar check has failed me lOl! Thanks again Paul, I am going to read the links now, get some more insight! 🙂

    2. You make some wonderful comments here, Maggie. Since writing this, I printed up reams of material about 12-step and AA and other material regarding anonymity. And your GSR is correct – you can use your name and talk in general terms (using lingo, etc) about recovery, OR you can talk about being in AA and NOT using your full name or pic. That’s the official line, so to speak. But it’s not always practiced, and there are lots of folks who question anonymity in this day and age. Many articles out there who feel it’s an outdated thing – that the stigma was HUGE back in the day, so that was why there was anonymity. Today is a much better (even though there is still some stigma – but i wonder how much of that is self-created), so the thought is that it’s had it’s day and we should be free to talk about something that saved our lives. Anyway, it’s a person thing and in the end, I know that I will be able to see what I need to see and respond in the way I need to. Cryptic, I know…lol.

      Thank you so much, Maggie – always love your comments.


  12. risingwoman says:


    As you know, I have never been to an AA meeting, and although I am familiar with the philosophy of AA, I don’t really know it fully.

    Being open with my identity has never really been an issue for me, and I have never asked myself why that is. I think maybe that is the sign of when you are ready: it’s like, if you have to ask if you are an alcoholic, you probably are. And if you have to ask why you should relinquish your anonymity, then you are probably not ready to do so.

    All in good time. Or maybe never. In the end, it comes down to you, since it’s your choice. You don’t ‘owe’ it to the world to live out loud; it’s something that you may, however, decide that you owe yourself 😉

    1. Great points, as usual, Michelle. I like what you say about “if you have to ask…” I am of that point of view as well. I think when we start asking if there is a Santa Claus, then we know the jig is up…lol. There are many ideas / reasons behind anonymity in AA. One is that if you go around saying you are in AA, and then you get drunk, then people will think AA doesn’t work. Another component is that it’s about humility. We don’t use last names, we don’t make money off of it, etc. There are no leaders, no paid workers, no finacial affiliations of any kind, etc. Autonomous.

      It goes on – and many of these things I understand and agree with. On the other hand, as mentioned in many places, some see it as unusual to discuss something that has saved their lives. For me, AA and recovery in general, is part of my life. I feel strange at times not mentioning it to some folks. It’s like I am being inauthentic. At the same time, it’s not like I want a sandwich board on me at all times saying I am in recovery. Like everything, there is balance, and I get it.

      So yeah, I will open up. It will just have to be in a different way 🙂

      Thanks Michelle for your openness and honesty – you are a shining light of an example of what I am going for 🙂

      Love and light and hugs,

  13. “What I can say is that I have had no compunction with anyone else being so open about their recovery and being an alcoholic. In fact, I love it. I know for many out there, it’s not a big deal and it wasn’t a difficult choice. I do wish to be there soon and not worry about any downsides, if there are any.”

    Your post was quite thought provoking and well written. Paul, this ^ comment reminded me of something researcher Brené Brown said — something I really resonated with:

    “The difficult thing is that vulnerability is the first thing I look for in you and the last thing I’m willing to show you. In you, it’s courage and daring. In me, it’s weakness.”

    Also, I resonated with your comment regarding the Internet — that once it’s out there, it’s out there. That can feel quite daunting. I completely understand. I’ve only recently put my picture out there. Very recently, and I’ve been active on the internet since the mid 90’s.

    Love the last image and its faceted symbolism. One of my hobbies is gemology. I am especially smitten by diamonds, but not for the traditional reasons. Diamonds (the hardest natural material known to man. It spends millions of years in the dark, under tremendous heat and pressure — waiting to be unearthed, faceted and polished so that it’s brilliance, fire, and scintillation can be admired in the light.

    The image also reminded me of Pink Floyd’s album cover “Dark Side of the Moon”. A win, win. 🙂


    1. Thank you so much for your insightful and wonderful comments, Victoria. I am so glad that we have connected. It was in reading your own post on vulnerability that I thought more and more about this. And yes, it’s strange that I got to read your work, and the first one I read is your revealing yourself…synchronicity? hmmmmm…. It’s funny how that works.

      And your analogy of the diamonds can be used on so many levels – and I can see your fascination with them. Admiration in the light – isn’t that a lovely thing to aim for – in others and in our selves?

      Glimmering 🙂

      Thanks for this.


  14. Hi Paul,

    I’ve been away from the computer for a week or so, came back and read this… all I am thinking is: “Oh Shit!!!!!!!”

    Actually, the word in my head is even more crass, I have the mouth/mind of a truck driver in my “real” life.

    Okay, so I’m going to say something that will come as no surprise to you at all, since you read my blog: I have given little to no thought on this subject. I can back up this fact with reams of posts that do the exact opposite of what everyone is saying above.

    I’ve kind of thought about the traditions with regard to me personally, but I guess I just never viewed myself, or even my blog, as a mouthpiece for AA (am I even allowed to write that last sentence?). For me, I am just blogging about my experiences in my personal recovery, and AA happens to be a part of it… my intent is not to promote AA in any way, it’s just to talk about a very important component of my journey to recovery. Maybe I am underselling my importance, but who gives a fig if I am a member of AA, except me? I don’t express opinions on the 12-step program in and of itself, I am speaking of the impact it had on my life….

    Or at least that was what I thought, before I read this post. Now I am afraid I’ve got to turn in my membership card, since I’ve apparently broken the most sacred of traditions.

    I need to say it again: Oh Shit. I guess the best I can do, at this point, is move forward with this new information, and be more careful about the way I word things on my blog. If an amends needs to be made, I guess the light bulb will go off sooner or later…

    As always, Paul, you’ve given me food for thought!


    1. oh Josie!

      I didn’t mean to make you feel bad about things by posting this. I think everyone has their path in this, and although there are “official company lines” (lol) I don’t think any drastic actions are required for folks like us. I posted a pic of myself once, but I am not upset about it. No need to be. And no need to get anxious over your blog, Josie. In the end, what I look at is how useful am I to others? How helpful am I being? And your blog helps people, Josie. Lots of them. I have learned that even though there may not be many comments, I know people lurk. They read and digest. They are seeking a way out, and need to hear stories of others who have climbed out of alcoholism. That’s the price of admission, in my books.

      You see, I wrote my post because I was seeing lots of people online (blogs, twitter, recovery boards) who were using names, pics, etc. and talking about NA, AA, etc. So I was curious as to what the real deal was. And here’s the thing – I really *like* that people are showing their faces, etc. I like it. I hope that I am going with the spirit of the “law” rather than having to go strictly by the letter. I would be curious what Bill W and Dr. Bob would think of the internet and anonymity. Something tells me Bill W would be over the moon with it and not see issues with us disclosing ourselves for this end.

      Don’t you dare change a thing there, Josie! And stop chastising yourself for something that is clearly very positive and loving in your corner of the world. You mean too much to me and others to change it up. I look forward to your Monday, post AA meeting roundups 🙂


  15. I know this is an old post but the bit about helping the mother of an alcoholic made me read on. I’ve read a lot since but I think despairing was a word you used for family’s affected by this disease.
    I do despair at times, wish I could share my pain with others.
    We also have to remain anonymous to protect ourselves and our alcoholic.
    I have shared with close friends and colleagues, only people I believe I can trust, when I do it seems they all know someone who suffers.
    I think its more the stigma of the disease that causes problems.
    I believe if we all spoke out more it wouldn’t be such a hidden disease. I’m not proud or disappointed with my sons sufferings, I wish I could share more, I know when I do I get something back.
    I find it sad how you guys share and help each other so much, but there must be 4 family members for every alcoholic? Yet I struggle to find support from others.
    If we could speak more openly it would help everyone so much.
    I have learnt to say the words “my son is an alcoholic” without being embarrassed. Its a disease he has just like any other disease. Its the others that don’t understand that have the problem. But at the same time, I understand for him, I have to choose carefully who I say those words too.
    I’ve enjoyed reading your thoughts on this, and everything I read helps me understand a little more.
    Thank you from an anonymous mum.

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