ANONYMITY – When is it okay to break my own anonymity?

The comments below were given by various members of the Conference Steps, Traditions, and Concepts Committee and do not represent a group conscience of the entire committee. The opinions expressed here are solely that of the person giving them. Take what you like and leave the rest.

The Question:
This question is from a member regarding anonymity.  Some S.L.A.A. members feel free to break anonymity to friends and relatives, while others seldom/never break anonymity outside the program.  What if there is good reason like outreach to prison (can’t get inside without id)?  Do you know if S.L.A.A. has anything written elaborating around anonymity?


Response #1:
I am not aware of any S.L.A.A. document on Anonymity other than a couple of statements on our website (see documents under Guidelines at https://slaafws.org/members).
In the draft of the S.L.A.A. 12&12, there are essays on Traditions 11 and 12 which deal with anonymity, but a specific pamphlet on anonymity is a good idea. This should be forwarded to the Conference Literature Committee as a project. Also, for reference, in 2020 The Journal will have a special issue on Anonymity.

Anonymity is an important and often misunderstood topic. It is not something to be used to maintain or enlarge shame. We are as sick as our secrets. Nevertheless, we must face the stigma that our disease carries in today’s society. There are two phrases that, in my opinion, capture the proper positioning for me, for my anonymity, for my healthy recovery:

• “I have the right to say that I am here, but not that you are here.”
• “I am a Sex and Love Addict. I don’t care who knows it as long as I don’t forget it.”

Perhaps more to the point of your question: Is a member free to break his or her anonymity? Yes. We do not govern. We cannot tell any member what to do, whether it’s how to practice the steps or how anonymous they should be. We have guidelines and we hope all members follow them. Tradition Eleven discusses anonymity at the public level, especially at the level of media of any kind. Tradition Eleven also points to our duty to protect the anonymity of our fellow members.
Fear is often the underlying motivation to remain anonymous. Fear we know is a corroding thread. Nevertheless, we have an obligation to protect the anonymity of every member no matter how we handle our own anonymity.

Response #2:
The S.L.A.A. Conference Literature Committee is currently working on a 12 & 12 book, with an extensive discussion of anonymity in Tradition Twelve. Other 12 Step fellowships have also produced literature dealing with anonymity in Tradition Twelve, which may be helpful.

The original function of anonymity in 12 Step recovery was to protect the individual recovering addict from the very real possibility of judgment and condemnation in their community. As the fellowships grew and expanded, it also became clear that anonymity was needed to protect the program itself from being publicly associated with the words, behaviors and potential lapses of any one individual member, no matter how well-meaning.

However, Tradition Twelve tells us that it is up to each individual to determine how they will handle their own anonymity within their own personal life. While it is never appropriate to break another member’s anonymity without their permission, we are free to disclose our own membership however we see fit, if we choose, provided that we remain anonymous at the level of public media.

Personally, I am very open within my personal life regarding my S.L.A.A. membership. I’ve gotten so much out of this program, and I am often excited to share that progress with my close friends. And through the principles of “attraction, rather than promotion,” a number of those friends have approached me over the years to ask for more information. A few have even joined the program themselves! So, for me, personally, breaking my anonymity with my friends is a primary part of “carrying the message” and working my twelfth step.

Response #3:
Tradition Eleven guides us to keep ourselves and our fellows anonymous at the level of press, radio, TV, film and other public media. The intent is threefold. First, so that we do not put ourselves out as an example. If for some reason we slipped it could reflect poorly on the whole fellowship. Second, so that we do not allow the publicity to take away our humility. Staying anonymous at the public level helps to keep me right sized. And third, to respect our fellows by letting them decide to what extent they wish to let people know they are in the program.

But, keeping ourselves anonymous with family, friends, neighbors, or acquaintances is not the intent of Tradition Eleven. It is up to the individual to decide when or if they tell people in their lives that they are a member. I tend to keep my anonymity with family and non-program friends, and I am especially careful at work. But, when I feel my Higher Power nudging me to be of service to a potential new member, I will acknowledge my membership and discuss the many benefits I have gotten from S.L.A.A.

Response #4:
The anonymity of someone else being in the fellowship or at a meeting is the top priority of the membership.

Especially in our town when I have seen celebrities in or meetings – they aren’t asking for it to be in one of those magazines by the checkout counter.

As for our personal anonymity – I believe it is okay to say that we are members of S.L.A.A. in many circumstances. The primary one being if we are trying to help another addict who is suffering. I have disclosed I am in the fellowship and offered to go with them to their first meeting. I have also disclosed to my family. They needed to know where I was going when I said I was off to a meeting. I am dating now and before getting intimate with a partner (and not just 10 seconds before getting intimate) I need to disclose my addiction and that I am part of a twelve step program that helped me stop unhealthy behavior. In another fellowship I do outreach to groups in the hundred that have been arrested for behavior similar to my addiction and disclose my membership in that 12 step program to reach the half dozen that may benefit from 12 steps.

I believe that self-disclosure is permitted as long as it’s not done for personal profit or salacious purposes – using their membership as a badge to help with sales (“I was a Love Addict” as written by a member of S.L.A.A.)

Going by the AA guidance on Anonymity, it is permitted to give interviews for the radio, press or TV as long as your name is not used, no pictures of your face or other identifying information is used.


What do you think?
The CSTCC is a group of volunteers, some of whom were ABM delegates, and others who volunteered out of interest. We do not represent a group conscience of S.L.A.A., but are committed to bringing thoughtful discussion and study of 12 Step Fellowship literature and experience to the questions that are brought to us. We offer this summary as the results of our discussions. We present the major points of concern in the hopes that wider discussion in the Fellowship will help us evolve our customs and practice of the S.L.A.A. program of recovery to better represent the loving guidance of a Higher Power. Always, we affirm the autonomy of each group and the need for each individual to follow her/his own conscience. No decision of this group, or any other, is ever forced upon another, even when we believe a practice is clearly in conflict with the Steps, Traditions, or Concepts.