This word has both boring and sinister meanings as of this writing. Anonymous donors generously give money to worthy causes while keeping the source of the gift a secret. That’s considered an unselfish action. Unfortunately, people who become well known publicly often receive anonymous death threats.
If the word has so many ideas connected to it, why would it be declared the spiritual foundation of all Twelve Step traditions? Besides, isn’t there something slightly suspicious about concealed identities? If someone has nothing to hide, why shouldn’t they let everyone in the world know they’re in recovery?
I once heard a famous person asked to disclose how much money they made. Without hesitation, she replied, “That’s not a secret. But it IS private.” That answer comes to mind whenever I think about anonymity and Twelve Step recovery. Who we are is not a secret. But it is private.
The definition: anonymity – quality or state of bearing or giving no name.
What is an ordinary activity during which people do not give their name? I thought of several examples, but one sprang vividly to mind. When our family went to the beach, the local community provided outdoor showers for use by visiting swimmers.
There were quaint wooden stalls with provided us with just enough privacy to get clean and perhaps change clothes. They were freely available and sometimes had fanciful names or pictures on them so it was possible to tell them apart. Whether the swimmers were rinsing off or changing into comfortable clothes was absolutely nobody’s business. Those public changing stalls provided something special, in hindsight: a safe and anonymous sanctuary.
I hope you don’t know what addictive despair feels like. I pray you never believe that dying seems like a much better idea than living. But I have experienced those feelings and I would never have admitted them openly in public—I simply couldn’t. Then, I found myself safely among others who had been that far down the scale themselves. There, a discovered a connection to hope and recovery.
Anonymity was the spiritual foundation for me.