IS IT ANONYMITY? – is it appropriate to give personal contact information during a telephone meeting?

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:
I need affirmation, materials and literature citations to support that the process being involved in a phone meeting which I attend regarding people volunteering as sponsors is a break of Tradition 12. There is a statement in the format that if anyone would like to volunteer to be a sponsor, to please give your name and contact information.
I would appreciate any knowledge and/or direction toward the Tradition of not revealing relationships within the Fellowship from the committee.


Tradition 11 speaks only of maintaining anonymity at the level of public media, essentially meaning outside the fellowship itself. This prevents the fellowship from being identified by the public with individuals, and prevents individual egos from seeking attention outside the fellowship using their membership as the entry. This danger is described on page 181 of AA’s Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions. Tradition 12 is even more important to this question, however, and to answer this inquiry needs also to consider Tradition 5, which states that each group has but one primary purpose, and that is to carry the message of recovery through the 12 steps to those who suffer from sex and love addiction in any of its many forms.

Within the fellowship, using first names and keeping our attention on helping each other apply the principles of the 12 steps to the challenges of living rather than on skills and knowledge used in our professions or personal lives, means that who we are to the world is of no importance when we come to meetings to share with each other. What we do to recover is all we need to share with each other. This exercise in humility keeps our relationships focused on spiritual values, not on titles, reputations, and occupations.

It is never wrong for any individual S.L.A.A. member to maintain full privacy around their names and contact information. The invitation for members who are available to sponsor newcomers or retreads to identify themselves and provide contact information is not a way to recruit “groupies” or to promote themselves (if the individual’s motives are spiritually grounded), is simply a way to facilitate those who need sponsors, finding them. That is completely justified by the fifth tradition about our group purpose. On page 151 of the AA Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions, it speaks to the importance of the individual’s in groups reaching out to others to maintain their own sobriety and fulfill the group purpose. Page 185 discusses the problems that can arise around anonymity questions within the fellowship, but then the value of moderation in talking about recovery to others is also discussed.

In my own opinion, the right of individual privacy is absolute, but if privacy was held completely by everyone, support outside of meetings would not be possible. It must be individual choice. However, broadcasting who is sponsoring who has built-in dangers of ego expanding for sponsors with a list of grateful sponsees who publicize the sponsor’s identity and brilliant guidance. Humility suggests that the sponsee should share what guidance has been helpful, not who gave it. For members to identify themselves as available to sponsor, however, is not endorsement by the group, but simply a statement of willingness to volunteer. It helps a newcomer who is shy and fearful of rejection to find a sponsor. That is a good thing for both of them. Privacy about the details of their recovery work together then keeps the spirit of anonymity strong, while still fulfilling the purpose for which our groups exists.

If all the people who are involved are members of S.L.A.A., then there is no breach of anonymity if they are sharing names & contact information with each other. It isn’t even a breach for someone to share both their first and last names if they so desire. It IS a breach to share someone’s name and contact information with someone outside the program. So, I’d say that what you are describing is okay.

Thank you for the question. As usual, before I provide an answer, I like to read again the tradition in question. As we do not have a S.L.A.A. 12 Steps and 12 Traditions (12 X12), I refer to the A.A. 12 X12. In reading A.A.’s twelfth tradition, I gathered that anonymity refers to not disclosing information about another member shared in confidence and not attracting attention on one’s personality when sharing about A.A. (or, in this instance S.L.A.A.), especially with regards to various medias, as “principles come before personalities.” Also, I believe that offering to be a sponsor is rather an action of service rather than a show of personality.

Now, the context of sharing personal information in a phone meeting can be tricky.

Not so much about revealing relationships, which I believe is not the focus of the Twelfth Tradition, but the fact of exposing personal information to a whole group. In my “physical” group, there is the opening for members who wish to be sponsors to introduce themselves before the group. Then, members interested in communicating with them can go to that person and ask privately for contact info. This way, no one really knows who went to see that person and what the result of the discussion was.

On the phone this is more difficult because you cannot go and talk to that person directly.  Personally, I would not want everybody in the group to know my phone number and I believe this is where aspects relating to anonymity or, more important, privacy and even safety, should be considered. I would certainly like to know, if I needed one, whom within the group would be willing to be a sponsor. Then only the potential sponsor(s) would decline his/her/their name(s). The point would be to find a way to get in contact privately.  Could the chair or someone else in the group act as  an intermediate, let’s say from a confidential list of numbers one would keep and from which personal information could be shared with the consent of the persons involved. If not, the group, I believe, would have to discuss the matter and find ways to protect privacy. I know this looks very complicated, but my point is that more than protecting the anonymity of relationships, the group should try to find solutions to protect the privacy of personal information.

Thank you for the question. As usual, before I provide an answer, I like to read again the tradition in question. As we do not have a S.L.A.A. 12 Steps and 12 Traditions (12 X12), I refer to the A.A. 12 X12. In reading A.A.’s twelfth tradition, I gathered that anonymity refers to not disclosing information about another member shared in confidence and not attracting attention on one’s personality when sharing about A.A. (or, in this instance S.L.A.A.), especially with regards to various medias, as “principles come before personalities.” Also, I believe that offering to be a sponsor is rather an action of service rather than a show of personality.

Now, the context of sharing personal information in a phone meeting can be tricky.

Not so much about revealing relationships, which I believe is not the focus of the Twelfth Tradition, but the fact of exposing personal information to a whole group. In my “physical” group, there is the opening for members who wish to be sponsors to introduce themselves before the group. Then, members interested in communicating with them can go to that person and ask privately for contact info. This way, no one really knows who went to see that person and what the result of the discussion was.

On the phone this is more difficult because you cannot go and talk to that person directly. Personally, I would not want everybody in the group to know my phone number and I believe this is where aspects relating to anonymity or, more important, privacy and even safety, should be considered. I would certainly like to know, if I needed one, whom within the group would be willing to be a sponsor. Then only the potential sponsor(s) would decline his/her/their name(s).  The point would be to find a way to get in contact privately.  Could the chair or someone else in the group act as  an intermediate, let’s say from a confidential list of numbers one would keep and from which personal information could be shared with the consent of the persons involved. If not, the group, I believe, would have to discuss the matter and find ways to protect privacy. I know this looks very complicated, but my point is that more than protecting the anonymity of relationships, the group should try to find solutions to protect the privacy of personal information.


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.