In the movie “Fight Club,” Tyler Durden says, “The first rule of Fight Club is, you do not talk about Fight Club. The second rule of Fight Club is, you DO NOT talk about Fight Club.” In other words, it’s important to stay quiet about what happens in Fight Club. This is the principle behind the anonymity built into the Alcoholics Anonymous program. If you’ve heard about the importance of staying anonymous but don’t know what it means, keep reading to learn more about the program and why anonymity is one of its central components.
What Is Anonymity in AA?
In Alcoholics Anonymous, anonymity helps protect members from exploitation and reduces the shame many people feel regarding alcohol or drug use. On a personal level, you may be concerned about your loved ones finding out about your addiction. You may also feel ashamed of your drinking and the negative behaviors that accompany your addiction.
By promising personal anonymity, AA makes it easier for you to overcome your fears and attend your first meeting. Anonymity also prevents other AA members from using the information shared at AA meetings for personal gain.
The Origins of Anonymity
The founding members of Alcoholics Anonymous understood the shame that many people experience when they have an alcohol use disorder. They also knew what it was like to worry that your alcohol addiction will become public knowledge. Therefore, they decided that confidentiality was of the utmost importance in making people feel comfortable enough to attend AA meetings.
The “tell no one” mentality of Fight Club doesn’t align with the principle of anonymity promoted by Alcoholics Anonymous. Anonymity isn’t a way to keep people from finding out about the program; it’s a way to make members feel more comfortable.
The principle of anonymity acts as a reminder that AA members should place their principles above their personal desires. It also reminds members not to reveal any information shared during AA meetings. According to an Alcoholics Anonymous publication titled Understanding Anonymity, anonymity “is the cornerstone of our security as a movement.”
FAQ on Anonymity in AA
The AA General Service Office estimates that AA had more than 2.1 million members in 2018. For every member, anonymity enhances privacy and makes it easier to share during meetings.
We’ve answered some of the most frequently asked questions about anonymity to help you understand what it entails and why it’s beneficial to you as an AA member.
Am I allowed to tell other people I’m in Alcoholics Anonymous?
Yes. The principle of anonymity dictates that you should never share anything about another member that you learned during an AA meeting. It doesn’t require you to hide your membership from the people you trust. In fact, according to the Alcoholics Anonymous 2014 member survey, 75% of members have told their doctors they’re in AA.
What if I run into someone I know when I’m with another AA member?
It’s your responsibility to safeguard the privacy of your fellow AA Anonymous members. If you run into an acquaintance while you’re with another AA member, don’t mention that both of you belong to AA. It’s up to other members to decide if or when they want to reveal their membership.
How does anonymity benefit me?
As a member of AA, the principle of anonymity benefits you in several ways. First, you have the peace of mind of knowing other members won’t share your information with anyone else. That peace of mind may make you more comfortable sharing during AA meetings.
Second, anonymity creates a safe environment for all members. With everyone operating under the principle of anonymity, you can take comfort in knowing that your status as an alcoholic won’t be revealed unless you choose to share with others. This puts you in control of your recovery.
Finally, anonymity creates an atmosphere of trust among AA members. When you trust your fellow group members, you’re more likely to be truthful with them. Telling the truth about your addiction is the first step to recovery.
What should I do if I see someone famous at an AA meeting?
The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism estimates that more than 14 million adults have an alcohol use disorder. With so many Americans struggling with their alcohol use, there’s a good chance you may see a public figure at one of your AA meetings.
If this happens, the principle of anonymity still applies. You should keep confidential anything the person shares during the AA meetings, and you should also avoid asking for an autograph or asking the person questions about their work. Public figures should be treated just like any other AA member to ensure they receive the same benefits as everyone else.
Why is it difficult for some people to follow this principle?
Some people struggle with the principle of anonymity because they’re looking for a way to avoid admitting their own mistakes or confronting their own alcoholism. Others struggle with anonymity because they believe sharing information about AA is beneficial to others. For example, writer David Colman published an article in The New York Times admitting that he’s a member of AA, which inspired some people and angered others. This crosses into the territory of ‘attraction rather than promotion’, a concept in AA that the program should not be advertised as an organization, but rather, referred to through personal connections.
How do some people follow this principle while also acknowledging their participation in the program?
People who feel it’s important to share that AA has helped them achieve sobriety often use shorthand to acknowledge their participation in AA without coming out and saying they’re members. For example, people may say they’re “in the program,” or ask each other, “You do the thing?”
Do I have to say my full name and admit that I’m an alcoholic at AA Anonymous meetings?
When you attend an AA meeting, you should share only your first name. This helps protect everyone’s anonymity. Additionally, you’re not required to state that you’re an alcoholic.
If you feel uncomfortable at your first meeting, you can state your first name and say something like “It’s my first time here” or “I just joined Alcoholics Anonymous.”
You don’t have to feel ashamed about your alcohol use. If you need help achieving sobriety, call FHE Health at (844) 299-0618. We have a team of caring professionals available to discuss your circumstances and determine the best treatment approach.