5 Reasons To Protect Your Anonymity In Recovery
Anonymity means a non-disclosure of involvement in recovery, that what is communicated in a small group isn’t shared with anyone else. Anonymity has been an important concept in the recovery movement’s history, but contemporary social changes have created new challenges. Social media websites and sensationalized “reality TV” shows about the rehab process have made it more fashionable to be (superficially) “out in the open” about addiction and recovery, and to keep less of our lives private. Yet, the countercultural respect for anonymity still has value in the deeply personal and sensitive recovery process.
1) Anonymity creates a sense of safety in a small group, giving the courage to take that important first step.
Drug and alcohol abuse is deeply stigmatized, and can be a cause for great shame and hopelessness. Addicts are often highly skilled at managing this shame by rationalizing behavior, and denying it’s a problem they can’t control. Admitting your human imperfections to others can be a very fearful process, because disclosing struggles can invite the judgment of others. Anonymity removes that fear of judgment by insuring the difficult challenges of beginning the sobriety process will be kept private.
2) Anonymity provides security, so that you can be honest with yourself and your fellow people in recovery.
The most insidious form of deception is self-deception, or failing to come to terms with our own truth. Dealing with the challenges of recovery often means learning for the first time how to look at the unvarnished self, of taking steps to admit your own truth, of learning to not feel the shame that keeps humans from facing themselves as they really are. Safety and acceptance from a recovery small group, counselor, or sobriety partner can be very helpful in helping you develop honesty, and keeping your secrets confidential is an important part of building this non-judgmental trust.
3) Anonymity makes everyone in recovery equal, so no one draws attention to himself or herself at the expense of everyone else.
Observation into the dynamics of a small group reveals that some people are naturally more talkative, out-going, or even attention seeking then others. If one person had the ability to become a “spokesperson,” it would alienate and marginalize quieter members, further increasing their reluctance to work to be heard. The group as a whole would begin to be associated with a single charismatic personality, bringing the focus on a person, not the process everyone involved must go through. In this way, anonymity protects the group as a whole, allowing each person room to speak and be heard for his or her self, and not overwhelm anyone else’s story.
4) When dealing with your addiction or need for recovery, you need space to shed your other identities.
Substance abuse is an issue that affects people of every walk of life or socially constructed category imaginable. Thus, in your recovery group you will probably encounter people very different from yourself. Race, socio-economic class, ethnicity, religion, gender, sexual orientation, or career should not be a barrier allowing you to come together to support each other on the path to recovery. Anonymity takes the focus off our outside lives that may be very different, and puts the focus on what we have in common, the shared need for healing from addiction.
5) Your story and your truth belong to you alone, so understand it yourself before trusting others with it.
Anonymity does not mean that you are required to keep your personal struggles a secret; in fact, truthful sharing of secrets with loved ones is an important part of recovery. However, this is a painful process that needs to take time, and anonymity gives safe space to process things on your own, so that you can share your truth on your own time. Un-learning addictive habits is hard work that requires a great deal of self-love and self-patience, so you are the only one who has the right determine when and how your story is told.