What is Anonymity? A ninja-like stealth state, just appearing and disappearing like a wraith or specter? Roaming the world with a Guy Fawkes mask?
In fellowships like AA or NA, it is often the Holy Grail of 12 traditions.
“Anonymity is the spiritual foundation of all our traditions, ever reminding us to place principles before personalities.”
It is also employed as a weapon at times by those who choose to jealously guard the traditions that they got well with.
I was at an NA meeting tonight. It was an open meeting, so I felt comfortable enough. Open meetings are freely attended by anyone interested in NA. It was once my home group too. I hadn’t been there in about a year, having moved across town.
It was, however, the first meeting Of attended since I began tumbling through hospitalization and amputation, multiple surgeries and all the fun stuff I documented elsewhere (looking at you, Twitter).
I shared, right after the lead speaker. I didn’t even acknowledge him until after the meeting. And I painfully vomited word soup all over the place. My name. A bit about multiple traumas. My job. Trying to pick up the pieces. That was the painful part. Admitting that regardless of my traumas, inner or outer discord, I could not afford to be a victim. I had to carefully choose the topics and words that spewed.
Curiously, I said I was done right at the five minute buzzer. It felt like forever.
I had not finished though. I felt it. A friend I sat next to, slowly and carefully shared what he was going through next, with a clarity that floored me. He was real. Solid. Authentic.
I envied him. It was taking all my physical strength just to attend the hour and a half meeting. I stood after my share to work through the pain. Physical pain. I had opted out of opiates post-discharge, knowing from experience that no matter the reason, the justification, I’ve lost every time I’ve tangled with them. Much like alcohol, I was outmatched when it comes to personal medication management.
Hospitalized, sure. I wasn’t managing it. The robotic vault dispensed my doses to nurses, who gave them to me on schedule. But I digress. I’ll just say I’m outmatched on my own, with my drug of choice.
I stood slightly behind my friend, listening to him share, guilelessly. It reminded me, of me, at some point in my life. When I wasn’t scattered. Shattered. Trying to pick up the pieces. Some people shared about how they wanted to die, prayed for death, in their active addiction. I had actually pulled the trigger, but it remains a shameful secret. And for months, well over a year, I wasn’t sure I wanted to live again. To actually find a way to recover. To make Humpty Dumpty whole again.
I bring up anonymity because despite some vehement comments from time to time that anonymity means secrecy, it clearly says principles before personalities. And I need principles before personalities. Actually, before most everything right now.
Anonymity is not secrecy. We are only as sick as our secrets. I don’t think keeping secret my desire to score while in the pangs of withdrawal, post-hospitalization, would work. It needed to be said.
Anonymity means we are equals in the rooms. I also felt the urge to be grandiose, to mention things that were working out particularly well. There are a few. But not through my efforts. Braggadocio is not anonymity.
So I had shared. Part of my share was that the scope of my recovery had changed. I was venturing broadly beyond the rooms, working with jail populations, homeless and harm reduction. The way I shared that bit, it came out almost as an invitation, before I checked myself. This was NA. Not my broader scope. I needed to respect the turf.
I bring up anonymity, and wish to experience and discuss it as principles before personalities. Not secrecy.
Secrecy harms. Secrecy kills. How it evolved to that… I guess I played my part, over the years. Silence. My silence, when I knew I needed to speak out. I’m not new to the rooms.
During my share I mentioned I hated sharing then thinking on the drive home how I could have done better, been more accurate, more… Guileless? Maybe.
It was true. I could have simply shared “I’m hurting, and I have no idea how to pick up the pieces of my shattered life” and it would have sufficed. Instead, it came out as word soup, a jumble-tumble stuttering mess.
The one thing I felt comfortable with about it was thinking on anonymity as I shared. Trying, hesitantly, with flaws a-plenty, to see if I had it in me to place principles before personalities. Before my own personality.
I think so. I hope so.