I'm interested in other opinions not only from Kathy Lynne, but from anyone who has something different and intelligent to say about Tradition XI (access to link requires subscription).
Dear Kathy Lynne,
Am I saying that a person can't talk about the fact that he or she is in recovery? No, absolutely not.
Am I saying that a person can't say that he or she is a member of A.A.? Well, it depends. Most obviously it depends on the context within which the person is speaking.
If that person is 12th-stepping another alcoholic one on one, why then, yes, of course it's appropriate to mention that it was through A.A that he or she got sober. However, if that person is being interviewed for publication in a newspaper, on the radio, on television, in a book, in a film, for the BBC Online or—as far as I'm concerned—posting on a personally identifiable blog, then no, it's not appropriate to mention that fact.
Between these two examples there's a lot of territory, much of it gray. I've spoken of my recovery through A.A. to some fairly large groups of non-alcoholics. I thought it was okay because of the circumstances, the nature of the event and the audience. One instance that comes to mind was a testimonial I gave in early recovery before a few dozen like-minded but primarily non-alcoholic fellow travelers at a week-long religious retreat. Incidentally, that testimonial was recorded and today, with my current understanding of the 11th Tradition, I would either insist on it not being recorded or give a testimonial that did not mention A.A. explicitly.
I've avoided speaking of my association with A.A. to other audiences because of the differing circumstances, the differing nature of the event and the differing audience. An example of this would be sharing at the microphone at one of my religious denomination's conventions, whether it were being recorded or not. If it were relevant, I might mention A.A. in general but I would certainly not mention my membership in A.A. Even one on one, when the person I'm talking to obviously has no interest in or need to be getting sober and I know of no one close to them that might be helped indirectly, I'll leave my being in A.A. out of the discussion.
I held a job recently where most people—there were 14 of us in all—knew that I was involved in volunteer work. Only one—my brother—might have known that most of this was A.A. service (when pressed about what I am doing and I don't want to reveal my association with A.A., I usually say I am doing volunteer work in the field of education and prevention of alcoholism). The editor of our company newsletter, which has a very small circulation but is also published on the World Wide Web, asked a couple of us to write about our volunteer work. Instead of writing about what I was then actively engaged in—A.A. service—I wrote about something I had been involved in several years earlier: the establishment of an orphanage for homeless children in Nepal.
Less obviously but perhaps more imporant than the context within which the person is speaking is the motivation behind what he or she is saying.
Whenever I am moved to speak about my involvement in A.A., I try to look honestly at why I am so moved. Is it because it will make me look good? Is it because I want people to know I'm in A.A.? So they'll believe that I practice what I preach? Am I feeling proud of being in A.A.? If so, then these are indications that it's my will I'm thinking of exercising and that it's probably not a good idea to say what I'm thinking of saying.
Is it because I see an opportunity to carry the message to a sick and suffering alcoholic? Is it because I of the tremendous and ever-increasing debt I owe to A.A.? Am I feeling humble? If so, then perhaps it is appropriate to break my anonymity. As I've pointed out before, I'm one of those rare alcoholics—at least in this part of the world—that uses my full name when I introduce myself at meetings and other A.A. events (unless they are being recorded).
Please keep in mind that this is my interpretation of the 11th Tradition, although, to be completely frank, you'd have a very hard time convincing me otherwise. If you do disagree with me, I'd be very interested in hearing about and trying to understand how you reconcile your opinions with the 11th Tradition.
Finally, it's interesting that you should mention Craig Ferguson. I watched that monologue the night it aired. I blogged about it on 9 August. You can see exactly what I think about what he said by reading my post.
Yours in sobriety,
05 October 2007
More on Anonymity
This post started out as a comment inresponse to Kathy Lynne's comment on my post Online Anonymity, but it got so long I decided to post it rather than leave it buried in the comments. So here it is.