A Study of Tradition 11

The 12 Traditions of A.A. and Al-Anon

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Maintaining Anonymity. © Getty Images

When dealing with the media, the traditions of the 12 step programs request that members maintain anonymity, not so much for their protection, but for the good of the fellowship as a whole.

Tradition 11: Our public relations policy is based on attraction rather than promotion; we need always maintain personal anonymity at the level of press, radio and films. Al-Anon Addition: We need guard with special care the anonymity of all A.A. members.

When discussing their personal recovery with the media, members who are identified by their full names -- such as the case of those who are already well known in the media -- they should not also identify the specific name of their 12 step recovery group.

If members wish to discuss the benefits of membership in a specific 12 step group, such as Al-Anon or Alcoholics Anonymous, they then should not identify themselves except by first name only.


Many recovering members have the attitude "When I was drinking, everybody knew I was the town drunk, why should I hide my identity now that I am recovering?"

The answer is, for the good of the fellowship. The example is given of a famous athlete or television personality -- a role model for youth -- who gets into recovery and announces to the entire world that A.A. has saved his life. What happens if that person relapses? The kids say, "Well, so much for A.A.!"

But Tradition 11 was also developed by the founders of the 12 step programs in order to avoid other potentially damaging situations, as related below by visitors to the Alcoholism site:

Promotion Not Needed

Through my years in AA, I have seen what promotion has done to AA as a whole, it has allowed outsiders to change our message, so many changes that insiders now hear a different message.

Slowly we have replaced "we get better" with "things get better," we have allowed outside institutions to tell us that it does not matter which 12 step program you go to they are all the same. I got to watch a drug addict die at an AA meeting because alcoholics couldn't relate to what he was trying to say, they didn't understand and she died from withdrawal at an AA meeting.

By trying to save the world we are not adhering to our singleness of purpose -- one AA helping another AA. Our hearts are in the right place, but as a whole, we are doing more harm than good. AA's early success rate was around 75 percent. Today's rate has dropped drastically from all the promotion.

On an individual level AA's seem to forget that we are responsible for being the attractions, by changing our appearance, how we communicate, dress, and conduct ourselves in and out of the rooms of AA. That's part of carrying the message also, to let people see the difference that this design for a living we were given has worked in our life.

When people SEE the four changes in our life -- mental, emotional, physical, and spiritual -- they are attracted. They need no promotion. This is a program for people who want it. Let's not let others tell us what they think we are about.

Let's just be ready when the suffering alcoholic is ready to open the door and show him what we are.


Inward Change

From the viewpoint of an Al-anon member, I can see the benefits of this. Anonymity is what makes people feel safe to speak what's in their hearts and on their minds. The fact that it's based on attraction to me means people can see the outward change of you due to an inward change in you.

The part added to the Al-Anon tradition is of the utmost importance. If you know a particular person drinks because their relative is at a meeting you don't need to tell it. That's why the anonymity works.

Buddy, your part about the "no picture" on the page... is that due to anonymity? I bet it does. That's why these rooms online are so great. You don't know who you're talking to and can share openly. I've been helped by so many.

Thanks, Lin

Note from BuddyT: Yes, because I find it necessary to mention my program of recovery in order to help some of the visitors to this site, I feel that I am therefore prohibited from using my full name. Likewise, my photograph would immediately identify me to many.


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