Anonymity – a cornerstone of the AA program, which is steadfastly protected, unless breaking it will serve a greater purpose for an individual AA, or AA as a whole – in which case it is dropped like a bad habit.
Among the most important and revered traditions of AA is the practice of anonymity. To any reasonable person it should seem like a good idea, and on its surface, it is — but like with all things AA, they have taken this simple concept, bastardized its meaning, and nefariously use it in ways ranging from the exploitation of others for the greater good of the organization, to an excuse for absolving themselves of accountability. Like their other traditions, anonymity is used selectively, and only when it is of benefit to a member or the group; but it is quickly tossed aside when their AA affiliation will help them in some way. Take a look:
The Stated Purposes of Anonymity
There is, according AA, two primary purposes for anonymity. First, because there is a stigma attached to an alcoholic, which was more pronounced in the early days of AA. It makes sense that its members would want to remain anonymous, and it makes sense that the group would promote this idea. Without anonymity, many people not be willing to seek out help for their problem, and would likely not attend their first meeting. Anonymity provides a reasonable protection for those who need help, but do not want to be stigmatized. This is one of the purposes of anonymity within AA, and it is the understanding that the overwhelming majority of those with little knowledge of AA, has about the purpose of AA anonymity. It can be seen often at in the press, where news stories interview AAs with their faces blacked out, and newspaper articles change the names or do not identify individual members, in order to protect their privacy. Secondly, anonymity prevents those who might use their affiliation with AA for any personal gain. This is what AAs mean when they use the term “principles before personalities”. The second purpose is a way of maintaining humility, and of keeping the ego in check (because we all know nothing is more admirable than a public drunk).
All of this sounds great, but it is not reality. In reality, AA’s use of anonymity is a lot like their use of honesty. Here are some examples of how they use, or break, this concept to suit their purposes –
Breaking Anonymity as an Abuse Excuse
Take the case of William McKernan, a CPA and a thief, who recently pled guilty to seven felony counts, taking in close to $1.5 million dollars in ill-gotten goods; including stealing from a Little League. William M, who has not yet been sentenced, has professed how much he has turned his life around with the help of Alcoholics Anonymous. This is not just common — it is standard practice.
Breaking Anonymity for Spin Control
This type of anonymity, or “Lohanonymity”, is common among celebrities and politicians. Anyone from Mel Gibson to Lindsay Lohan, who finds themselves in a public pickle, suddenly have their participation in Alcoholics Anonymous leaked to the press, as a way of showing that they are now serious about their sobriety. Mel Gibson, Martin Sheen (and Charlie Sheen, when he isn’t picking up hooker or beating his wife) and Robert Downy, Jr.; are but a few examples of celebrities who use AA participation as way to spin their image. Patrick Kennedy, who is currently writing a “sobriety memoir” called Coming Clean, has used AA to wiggle his way out responsibility more than once.
Using Anonymity to Push the Program in the Press
AAs are experts at subterfuge, and nowhere do they do it better than in the press. Whether it is to promote sanitized versions of AA history, like reviewing a play or movie about the life of Bill and Lois Wilson; or, to promote the good deeds of a sober living home or treatment facility, AAs inside of journalism will write puff pieces that paint AA as an effective, altruistic organization. These journalistic two-hatters never mention that they are members of AA or Al-Anon, nor are they expected to do so.
Using Anonymity to Push the Program in Judicial System
Often, the judges and prosecutors who allow offenders to get off, are brainwashed members of AA themselves. I personally know one Federal Judge, and more than one local judge, who are all active in AA, and use it as a sentencing tool; and I know of multiple prosecutors who are in AA, as well. Not long ago, we posted a story that quoted a judge in Wisconsin who, though he did not admit to being an AA, let it be known that he was part of the cult, when he allowed a felon to get off by stamping his ticket into AA. From the court transcript:
Judge Tim Doyle said that the defendant has been hesitant to admit to drug problems, but he should take his family’s advice and go through treatment.
“Well, Mr. Jeremy Huey, your father thinks that you need to get sober, stay sober-clean and sober-and he thinks that you can probably best accomplish that through a 12-step program because he’s involved in a 12-step program, and it has worked for him,” the judge said. “For what it’s worth, I’m about the same age as your dad-a little bit older, been sober about the same length of time-and I would vouch for everything your father has been telling you.”
Judges and prosecutors in AA are not obligated or expected to reveal the conflict of interest they have in sentencing people to a program to which they belong, whose stated objective is to perpetuate the program. They pretend (and likely believe) that they are doing what is in the best interest of the individual, and we pretend to believe that they are objective.
Using Anonymity as an Excuse for Negative Research and Statistics
How many times have you heard this?: “There is no way to effectively study AA, or to do an accurate survey, because all AAs are anonymous.”
Of course, this is absolutely ridiculous. To begin with, AAs do subject themselves to research and studies. Just not the ones that would prove or disprove AA is effective. There have been multiple studies by AA apologists like the Moos clowns that look at the effectiveness of continued AA participation for those who have been in the program for a period of time. For example, there are studies that show a correlation (Note the word “correlation” and not “cause”. AAs use this little trick to con people into believing that it is AA that keeps people sober. They avoid research on cause of drinking abstinence like the plague.) between AA attendance and abstinence. These people are knowingly a part of these studies. Secondly, the idea that a person’s name would be publicized, or that a list of a study’s participants would be disclosed, is absurd. Thousands of drugs and treatments are done every year, and the participants remain anonymous.
If AAs and the 12-step industry truly believed that it worked, they would participate in and conduct research – but they don’t, and they use anonymity as a lame excuse.
Using Anonymity to Protect Each Other From Accountability
I’ve heard the damndest things in AA meetings. Anything from adultery to murder – and everything in-between – is confessed in AA share sessions, and in conversations between two AAs. One of AA’s trite slogans – “You’re only as sick as your secrets” – only applies within the confines of AA. Confession is big part of any cult indoctrination, so it is encouraged and promoted. However, AAs are expected to open up and share things only with each other, and they are expected to keep what they hear in house. This is fine for moral failings and petty crime, but AAs take it to the extreme, and they become complicate in the confessed acts by protecting members who admit to some disturbing and criminal behavior. The same types of things that would get slack-jawed stares, and would send fellow members running to the police if they were confessed to in Toastmasters or the Rotary Club, are looked at as protected information in AA.
AA does not want to be considered a religion, and they want to be considered a “fellowship”, and not a treatment – but at the same time they ask for the same considerations given to clergy members and the medical profession. It is another example of special pleading, and of AA wanting to have it both ways.