Twelve is the number of the ultimate authority.
Twelve—-“Anonymity is the spiritual foundation of all our traditions, ever reminding us to place principles before personalities.”
Twelve— And finally, we of Alcoholics Anonymous believe that the principle of anonymity has an immense spiritual significance. It reminds us that we are to place principles before personalities; that we are to practice a genuine humility. This to the end that our great blessings may never spoil us; that we shall forever live in thankful contemplation of Him who presides over us all.
THE spiritual substance of anonymity is sacrifice. Because A.A.’s Twelve Traditions repeatedly ask us to give up personal desires for the common good, we realize that the sacrificial spirit— well symbolized by anonymity— is the foundation of them all. It is A.A.’s proved willingness to make these sacrifices that gives people their high confidence in our future
Desire is the root of evil; illusion is the root of desire, as root beer always seems to go better with vanilla ice cream
“Thousands of candles can be lit from a single candle, and the life of the candle will not be shortened. Happiness never decreases by being shared.” Buddha
It is not what we take up, but what we give up, that makes us rich. Henry Ward Beecher
“Self-sacrifice enables us to sacrifice other people without blushing.” George Bernard Shaw
But in the beginning, anonymity was not born of confidence; it was the child of our early fears. Our first nameless groups of alcoholics were secret societies. New prospects could find us only through a few trusted friends. The bare hint of publicity, even for our work, shocked us. Though ex-drinkers, we still thought we had to hide from public distrust and contempt.
Today there are many Twelve Step programs spin offs from the original concept that address other and specialty specific addictions, for instance O.A. (Over eaters Anonymous) they have an ever deflating, ever expanding hot air balloon hovering over their meeting locations, with well lit over-sized door openings. S.A. (Sex addicts Anonymous) usually located in dungeons in some of the finer neighborhoods and the chair person is addressed as Master or Mistress. G.A. (Gamblers Anonymous) often times found in a closed off track betting pallor’s as they are always willing to take a bet to see who will quit next. And my personal all time favorite, (P.A.) Paranoids Anonymous, their meeting are held in undisclosed locations all around town, the only problem is that nobody will tell you where, or how to find them.
Henry Kissinger said “even a paranoid can have enemies”
When the Big Book appeared in 1939, we called it “Alcoholics Anonymous.” Its foreword made this revealing statement: “It is important that we remain anonymous because we are too few, at present, to handle the overwhelming number of personal appeals which may result from this publication. Being mostly business or professional folk, we could not well carry on our occupations in such an event.” Between these lines, it is easy to read our fear that large numbers of incoming people might break our anonymity wide open.
We might have been the town drunk in a city of millions, now we were afraid some one would recognize us being in sober recovery in A.A.
The one permanent emotion of the inferior man is fear – fear of the unknown, the complex, the inexplicable. What he wants above everything else is safety. ~Henry Louis Mencken
Fear is the highest fence. ~Dudley Nichols
There are several good protections against temptation, but the surest is cowardice. ~Mark Twain
I’m not a paranoid deranged millionaire, Dam it, I’m a billionaire. Howard Hughes
As the A.A. groups multiplied, so did anonymity problems. Enthusiastic over the spectacular recovery of a brother alcoholic, we’d sometimes discuss those intimate and harrowing aspects of his case meant for his sponsor’s ear alone. The aggrieved victim would then tightly declare that his trust had been broken. When such stories got into circulation outside of A.A., the loss of confidence in our anonymity promise was severe. It frequently turned people from us. Clearly, every A.A. member’s name— and story, too— had to be confidential, if he wished. This was our first lesson in the practical application of anonymity.
The only thing that travels faster than bad news is good gossip.
The best way to find out if you can trust somebody is to trust them. Ernest Hemingway
He, who does not trust enough, Will not be trusted. Lao Tzu
Hearing a Fifth Step is a privilege, but what is said is not privileged.
We do agree as fellow survivors from the ship wreck disease of addiction that confidence is the hand maiden of trust and trust allows me to be of maximum service to God and my fellows.
In the sponsor’s ear all must be made clear that no utterance should come abroad for the gilded edged sword of betrayal cuts both ways as gossip always finds its way home.
Our agreement espoused at the close of each meetings states “who you see hear, what you hear here, let it stay here, and in unison of agreement we chime in, Hear! Hear!
With characteristic intemperance, however, some of our newcomers cared not at all for secrecy. They wanted to shout A.A. from the housetops, and did, Alcoholics barely dry rushed about bright-eyed, buttonholing anyone who would listen to their stories. Others hurried to place them selves before microphones and cameras. Sometimes, they got distressingly drunk and let their groups down with a bang. They had changed from A.A. members into A.A. show-offs
I too am not a bit tamed, I too am untranslatable, I sound my barbaric YAWP over the roofs of the world. Walt Whitman
Buttonholing—– Attract the attention of and detain (someone) in conversation, typically against his or her will.
Often times and especially in A.A. conventions this ploy is used by me to get someone’s uninterested attention. The slightest hook of enthusiastic conversation will hold the victim in a polite but temporary state of suspended animation.
Once you’re known, the whistle has blown, and after all you’re grand platitudes, if you do fall that else will stall that had been sparked by your grandiose self serving attitude.
This phenomenon of contrast really set us thinking. Squarely before us was the question “How anonymous should an A.A. member be?” Our growth made it plain that we couldn’t be a secret society, but it was equally plain that we couldn’t be a vaudeville circuit, either. The charting of a safe path between these extremes took a long time.
All cats are gray in the dark
(When all candles be out, all cats be grey. All things are then of one color, and lacking of any contrast,)
No difference between a black cat and a white cat as long it catches mice Deng Xiaoping
From out of the shadows a sound barley audible Psst, would you like to go to A.A. meeting, I can give you the address but first you must be sworn to absolute secrecy.
Or was it to be: Come one come all see Bill W. and Dr. Bob with their death defying cure for alcoholism, shows nightly at six and nine pm matinees only on Sundays
As a rule, the average newcomer wanted his family to know immediately what he was trying to do. He also wanted to tell others who had tried to help him— his doctor, his minister, and close friends. As he gained confidence, he felt it right to explain his new way of life to his employer and business associates. When opportunities to be helpful came along, he found he could talk easily about A.A. to almost anyone. These quiet disclosures helped him to lose his fear of the alcoholic stigma, and spread the news of A.A.’s existence in his community. Many a new man and woman came to A.A. because of such conversations. Though not in the strict letter of anonymity, such communications were well within its spirit.
There are Alcoholics all around us today living in the desert of despair in respect to the circumstances of their lives. They thirst for the life-giving waters of hope for their arid souls. But seeing none, they die in their thirst. Are we like those underground lakes, like those hidden rivers, full of life-giving water, rushing to and fro, but just out of sight, inaccessible to those who are most in need? Are there times when we fail to share the hope that is within us?
Who also hath made us able to spread the good news of recovery from a hopeless state of mind and body, if not of the letter, but of the spirit: for the letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life.
But it became apparent that the word-of-mouth method was too limited. Our work, as such, needed to be publicized. The A.A. groups would have to reach quickly as many despairing alcoholics as they could. Consequently, many groups began to hold meetings which were open to interested friends and the public, so that the average citizen could see for himself just what A.A. was all about. The response to these meetings was warmly sympathetic. Soon, groups began to receive requests for A.A. speakers to appear before civic organizations, church groups, and medical societies. Provided anonymity was maintained on these platforms, and reporters present were cautioned against the use of names or pictures, the result was fine.
“While it may be true that the best advertising is word-of-mouth, never lose sight of the fact it also can be the worst advertising.” Jef I. Richards
Come one come all, to be a member all is required is a desire, but to be a friend or a supporting family member the locally clergy with a pulpit at the ready, Doctors in need of a miracle cure are welcome. For we have been relieved of the bondage of self and with it the fear of humanity and to be of maximum service it needs be we get the word out so it could be said we are about our Fathers business.
The fairest word ever heard is the sound of my own name, and my image pleasing as to be a likeness of he who sent me and for the common good I will refrain from my fifteen minutes of fame and make no claim for public notoriety.
Then came our first few excursions into major publicity, which were breathtaking. Cleveland’s Plain Dealer articles about us ran that town’s membership from a few into hundreds overnight. The news stories of Mr. Rockefeller’s dinner for Alcoholics Anonymous helped double our total membership in a year’s time. Jack Alexander’s famous Saturday Evening Post piece made A.A. a national institution. Such tributes as these brought opportunities for still more recognition. Other newspapers and magazines wanted A.A. stories. Film companies wanted to photograph us. Radio, and finally television, besieged us with requests for appearances. What should we do?
Ego is to the true self what a flashlight is to a spotlight. John Bradshaw
I wasn’t naked; I was completely covered by a blue spotlight. Gypsy Rose Lee
We had to question what we were doing, was the greater good, public advertised endorsements and a loss of our personal anonymity, or were we not but throwing out the baby of anonymity with the bath water of public promotion?
As this tide offering top public approval swept in, we realized that it could do us incalculable good or great harm. Everything would depend upon how it was channeled. We simply couldn’t afford to take the chance of letting self-appointed members present themselves as messiahs representing A.A. before the whole public. The promoter instinct in us might be our undoing. If even one publicly got drunk, or was lured into using A.A.’s name for his own purposes, the damage might be irreparable. At this altitude (press, radio, films, and television), anonymity— 100 percent anonymity— was the only possible answer. Here, principles would have to come before personalities, without exception.
Any man may easily do harm, but not every man can do good to another. Plato
I only wish that ordinary people had an unlimited capacity for doing harm; then they might have an unlimited power for doing good. Socrates
“The world is not dangerous because of those who do harm but because of those who look at it without doing anything” Albert Einstein
Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. Albert Einstein
Messiah: is a redeemer figure expected or foretold in one form or another by a religion.
No One person can speak for A.A. We have no big shots for if one is shot we all are shot
What percentage of of 100% of anonymity don’t you understand?
These experiences taught us that anonymity is real humility at work. It is an all-pervading spiritual quality which today keynotes A.A. life everywhere. Moved by the spirit of anonymity, we try to give up our natural desires for personal distinction as A.A. members both among fellow alcoholics and before the general public. As we lay aside these very human aspirations, we believe that each of us takes part in the weaving of a protective mantle which covers our whole Society and under which we may grow and work in unity.
“He [Dr. Bob] said there were two ways to break the anonymity Tradition: (1) by giving your name at the public level of press or radio; (2) by being so anonymous that you can’t be reached by other drunks.”
“The A.A. who hides his identity from his fellow A.A. by using only a given name violates the Tradition just as much as the A.A. who permits his name to appear in the press in connection with matters pertaining to A.A.
As humility is the hand maiden of anonymity, Dr. Bob had the handle on the candle when it came to the shadowy room of anonymity with the bright light of humility.
“Perpetual quietness of heart. It is to have no trouble. It is never to be fretted or vexed, irritable or sore; to wonder at nothing that is done to me, to feel nothing done against me. “It is to be at rest when nobody praises me, and when I am blamed or despised, it is to have a blessed home in myself where I can go in and shut the door and pray to my Father in secret and be at peace, as in a deep sea of calmness, when all around and about is seeming trouble.”
We are sure that humility, expressed by anonymity, is the greatest safeguard that Alcoholics Anonymous can ever have.
For after all that is said, we would become undone if it wasn’t, all for one and one for all.
May God grant you always…A sunbeam to warm you, a moonbeam to charm you, a sheltering Angel so nothing can harm you. Laughter to cheer you. Faithful friends near you. And whenever you pray, Heaven to hear you.”