LEWISTON — An Alcoholics Anonymous member’s story began with the arrival of a Lewiston police officer.
A uniformed cop trying to find somebody — apparently a suspect in a crime — marched into the middle of an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting. He told the group who he was looking for and asked if they’d seen him.
“This is an anonymous program,” the member told him. “No one’s going to tell you if he’s here or not.” A moment later, the frustrated officer walked out, and the meeting resumed.
The suspect had been there the whole time, seated in the front row.
“It was his choice to identify himself or not,” the member said. And each person attending the meeting chose silence rather than break with AA’s 76-year history.
People who attend are anonymous. And what’s said among its members is secret.
“It’s commonly accepted that you don’t go blabbing around what you’ve heard,” said another longtime member.
Yet, some secrets are bigger than others.
On July 11, an Alcoholics Anonymous member and sponsor, Floyd Nadeau of Lewiston, met with police.
He told police that his sponsee, Bob Ryder, 20, of Lewiston, told him he had killed a woman and buried her body in the basement of his 417 Main St. home, according to a police affidavit.
Within hours of Nadeau’s report, police found the body of 38-year-old Danita Brown. Ryder was later charged with murder.
Nadeau had known about the death for two weeks, according to court records. But he held onto the information, reluctant to come forward because of his belief in AA’s confidentiality. He finally went to police after talking with his own sponsor.
I’ve never seen the subject explored in the mainstream, so I’m not going to be too disappointed that the reporter didn’t connect all the dots. AnnaZed sent the article to me, and she observed some odd things, like:
Common practice and tradition, rather than law, keep their secrets, said a member who serves as AA’s public information chairwoman for Maine and New Brunswick.
“All we can do is ask,” said the woman, who did not want her name used. “Sponsors are asked ethically, by our traditions, not to divulge anything about a sponsee.”
Traditions don’t include criminal behavior, though.
“We warn newcomers, ‘If you divulge a criminal act, you’re putting yourself and everyone else in the room in jeopardy,’” she said. Most sponsors would go to police.
“By law, we would have to react,” she said.
Does anyone know what a “Public Information Chairperson” is? And has anyone ever heard that warning to newcomers?