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Anonymity vs. Secrecy: Do You Know the Difference?

Information for Our Alumnae:

Anonymity vs. Secrecy: Do You Know the Difference?

Can a woman in recovery share her gratitude and speak up about her personal recovery to inspire others? Absolutely! Is she breaking the rules of anonymity as described in her 12-Step Program? No, she is not!

Too often, members of a 12-Step Program confuse anonymity with secrecy, further contributing to the stigma long associated with alcoholism and other drug addiction. But did you know that every time a person in recovery shares her experience, strength and hope with someone outside a 12-Step meeting, she is creating a climate of knowledge and understanding? A climate free from shame or embarrassment makes it possible for more people to feel free to seek treatment.

Chances are that many of the people who knew you when you were drinking and using during active addiction noticed firsthand the often embarrassing behaviors you exhibited. So is there shame in letting people know that you are now doing well in recovery? That you are healthier than ever and filled with profound gratitude for the journey you are on? These are the visible and positive messages that offer hope to those who are still sick and suffering.

As long as you do not publicly identify yourself as a member of AA (or other similar 12-Step programs) you are NOT violating the Traditions of these programs. Just as there is separation of church and state, there is also separation of 12-Step membership, and being a citizen in the world outside of the Fellowships. You can let people know that you are in recovery without ever mentioning a membership in a 12-Step program. They are not mutually exclusive.

AA’s co-founders were both members of the founding Board of Directors of the National Council on Alcoholism (NCA), America’s leading advocacy organization. And they were not representing AA, they were simply active citizens vitally concerned about a serious public health problem. While AA “takes no stand on outside issues,” Bill Wilson and Dr. Bob Smith knew the benefits of and felt compelled to stand up and speak out as private citizens without ever mentioning membership in AA. You can, too!

All across America, healthy people in recovery are replacing shame and secrecy with personal gratitude and a growing willingness to talk openly about their personal recovery. Putting a face and voice on recovery not only does not violate AA’s Traditions but, for many, it actually enhances personal recovery. After all, the bright side of addiction is recovery and that is the message we all need to send and hear!

Neil ScottNeil Scott is a national recovery advocate who has spent the past 30 years carrying the message of hope and the promise of recovery. He is the host of America’s only national nightly radio talk show RECOVERY – Coast to Coast, produced by the non-profit Alliance for Recovery. The show deals exclusively with addiction and recovery and airs every night from 10PM – Midnight PST on radio station 1590 KLFE in Seattle. It is available nationally in streaming audio at, where the last 5 programs are always available on-demand.