We Failed Idealists Need Attention

By Rick R.

I came from a family riddled with alcoholic drinkers and many of them had the same problem as I did. I recall the first month or so, when I got sober, still hanging out with them at our favorite watering hole, drinking ginger ale. I would slip out every night at 8:00 p.m. and go to the AA meeting at 8:30 p.m. and return at 10:30 p.m. without telling anyone where I was going. I didn’t want anybody to know I was checking out the AA program. I didn’t want to face the ridicule at the time, and I wasn’t sure it was going to work for me. If it didn’t work, I wouldn’t have put up with them mocking me. You might say that I was protecting my anonymity at the time and didn’t even know it. 

After thirty days, I didn’t care who knew about it because I believed I found the answer, and I had. Soon, I was one of those guys who wanted to shout it from the rooftops and try to sober up everyone around me, and you know how that turned out. As I dragged each of my five brothers to AA meetings, it seemed they each learned just enough to be able to rationalize exactly why they were not alcoholics, and they ridiculed me anyway. Since then, one brother, a nephew, and a niece have committed suicide. 

That was among the experiences that gave me hard earned lessons to respect the principle of anonymity. Of the rest of my immediate family of ten siblings, only one sister saw something in me that she liked. She got sober in the program and hasn’t had a drink in over forty-eight years. 

We are exposed to the discussions in AA meetings as newer members complain about someone breaking their anonymity; or ones wanting to shout it from the rooftops, like my former self. Such will always be the case in AA as that is one of the symptoms of alcoholism. We are failed idealists who need attention. But as we get more experience, we learn the true value of the spirit of anonymity. We can always come up with some noble reason for tooting our own horn. We can dress it up in the altruistic motive of sacrificing one’s own anonymity to save someone’s life, which sometimes, in the long run, destroys the chance of being a good example. Often the result is just the opposite, which  I have personally witnessed. Tradition Twelve talks of Anonymity as” The spiritual foundation of all our Tradition ever reminding us to place principles before personalities.”

There is a difference between the” Spirit of the law”, and the” Letter of the law.” We who have been diligent with the program have been highly influenced by the Spirit of what the founders learned and introduced us to in the form of the 12 steps and the 12 traditions.  They all come in the form of unselfishness of the spirit. I have yet to find one prayer or principle in the two books we use as reference guides, that are of a material nature or of selfish motives. This tells me the things I do, as the result of practicing the principles of the program, should be done unselfishly and without fanfare. So long as I needed the attention I was always seeking when I was looking for the photo opp., I was still only following the letter of the law, so to speak. When I came to understand the Spirit of Anonymity, I was able to rein in my EGO and my selfish motives. I try to be a good role model and do so quietly. It seems to work better that way.   

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