Last Sunday’s New York Times carried a provocative article, “Challenging the second “A” in A.A.” by David Colman who described himself as an active member of AA.
When A.A. began in 1935 with Bill W. and Dr. Bob, anonymity was a key part of the 12-step program. It was meant to shield those struggling to become sober from the stigma of being an alchoholic, a stigma far more marked 75 years ago when there was little research on alcoholism as a medical condition over which its sufferers had little control.
Now that alcoholism has beeen identified as an illness there is far less urgency in protecting from shame.
And the most sacred institutions sometimes modify their teaching. For centuries the Catholic church taught that limbo was where little unbaptized babies went. The Church has now dropped that teaching.
Now, considering new medical information and changing attitudes, couldn’t A.A. drop its anonymity plank?
But, hold on. Wait a minute. Suppose some celebrity gets on TV and announces that he is an alcoholic. The media report six weeks later that he has fallen off the wagon and is back in the sauce. Who does that help ? Same thing with an author who writes a book about her alcoholism and then goes back to the booze.
I have a personal angle on this. Back in the sixties I had a drinking problem. I checked out several recovery routes including AA. Many years later I wrote a memoir called “The Inside Story.” How should I handle my addiction problem in the book? After a good deal of thought, I decided to describe my drinking in full but not to mention AA.
Now in 2011 the arguments for ditching anonymity are even stronger. More and more it seems like an anachronistic vestige of the Great Depression, when AA got its start and when alcoholism was seen as not just a weakness but a disgrace.
Does denying one’s participation in a program that is helping your life make any sense?
If staying anonymous is not aan outdated (and sometimes absurd) technicality, is it at least a CHOICE thaty everyone should have?
As the writer, Ms Cheever, put it: “This dancing around and hedging, figuring out ways of saying it that aren’t really saying it, so that people in recovery know what I am talking about — all the code words. I am sure this is not what Bill W. intended?
Should A.A. drop the second “A”?
What do you think?