Speaking openly about addiction does not carry the stigma it once did. Many people keep quiet to abide by a directive from Alcoholics Anonymous to keep any 12-step affiliations anonymous. However, celebrities and others are speaking out about addiction and recovery in record numbers. In light of this change of events, many wonder if it is still necessary to keep addiction and recovery anonymous. Find out the reason anonymity was so important and whether it still matters.


Purpose of Anonymity

A core tenet of addiction recovery since 1939, anonymity is mentioned in the AA’s Twelve Traditions and Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous, adopted by various recovery programs along the way. While participants are free to tell people about sobriety, individuals are not supposed to specify involvement with a 12-step group. The following purposes are served by anonymity:

  • Protects privacy of AA members. No records or full names are supposed to be used, ensuring privacy of all members. This creates a safe space to share stories and learn from one another.
  • Protects integrity of 12-step programs. Members are not supposed to use the program for self-promotion.
  • Levels the playing field. Regardless of status, gender, wealth or length of sobriety, everyone is equal. Judgment is removed from the process, which fosters humility.


Looking Ahead

A movement exists to pull away from anonymity. It is not that people advocate ‘outing’ others in recovery, but many people believe recovery should be a space of invitation to share about sobriety (including participation in a 12-step program). This supports personal empowerment and an opportunity to enhance awareness of the disease and treatment on a wider scale. Celebrities, politicians and political figures are opening up about struggles with addiction. People are writing books and stories of addiction and recovery are major plot lines in television shows. Slowly, people in recovery are overcoming stereotypes and assumptions with more accurate representations being integrated into mainstream culture.


Stigma to Awareness

Breaking down the stigma of addiction has been a slow process. Many view addiction as a sign of weakness or a character flaw. To overcome stereotypes, people need to see the reality of addiction. It does not just affect a person experiencing homelessness, it affects average, everyday people. Talking about personal experiences with addiction recovery can be uncomfortable but in sobriety, individuals live extremely uncomfortable moments which pale in comparison to speaking out about recovery. The focus on talking about recovery is on empowerment and health, even after living through a destructive path of addiction. For some, it is to be celebrated rather than looked down upon.


Whether or not to share personal details of a recovery story is always an individual choice. According to some, the key is not to miss out on opportunities for activism and advocacy which can help save lives.


The process of recovery from addiction is an individual one. If you are seeking support and help in overcoming addiction, Hired Power can help. Call us to find out how we can come alongside you on the journey to recovery and beyond.