When I first arrived in Al‑Anon, I was not practicing any spiritual principle of anonymity. The way I believed I could get the alcoholic to stop drinking was to tell everyone, which only added to the craziness, and those I was choosing to share with could not understand or offer any suggestions for how I might find relief from the family disease of alcoholism.
As I listened in Al‑Anon meetings and learned that maintaining anonymity is meant not only to protect Al‑Anon members but also members of Alcoholics Anonymous, I realized I needed to change my attitude and way of thinking!
A search for the word anonymity in the 2022–2025 Al‑Anon/Alateen Service Manual (P-24/27) v2 shows that it is mentioned over 100 times! This underscores the tremendous importance of Traditions Eleven and Twelve.
Tradition Eleven says: “Our public relations policy is based on attraction rather than promotion; we need always maintain personal anonymity at the level of press, radio, films, and TV. We need guard with special care the anonymity of all AA members.”
Likewise, Tradition Twelve affirms: “Anonymity is the spiritual foundation of all our Traditions, ever reminding us to place principles above personalities.”
It was with relief that I found this safe place where I was understood and felt a sense of belonging. Anonymity did not mean I needed to isolate; I could connect with other members and share my despair with those I learned to trust. This helped me keep the focus on myself.
Before the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, I took on the service role of Digital Communications Coordinator, a new position for my Area. My plan was to ease into the demands of this role gradually. My Higher Power definitely has a sense of humor, because right away, in-person meetings closed, and we became reliant on electronic ways of meeting and doing service. We also had to learn how to support members in protecting anonymity in a rapidly growing electronic environment.
We set up accounts on electronic platforms and linked them to the Area—encouraging service arms and groups to consider doing the same—to protect the anonymity of members. We also adapted our guidelines for sharing, addressing how we named ourselves onscreen and encouraging privacy so that others in the home could not hear or see our meetings, thus applying the same principle of anonymity we followed when we met in person.
The Al‑Anon social media policy provides direction on sharing social media posts to attract newcomers while maintaining personal anonymity. The policy can be found on pages 127–128 in the Service Manual.
The pamphlet Why Anonymity in Al‑Anon? (P-33) opens with this quote from the Service Manual: “Anonymity in Al‑Anon is a sacred trust, basic to our fellowship and its survival.” It lists some of the numerous mentions of anonymity in our Conference Approved Literature (CAL). It also goes on to describe how we can attract newcomers while honoring the principle of anonymity and offers us choices about handling our personal anonymity.
I have learned that the spiritual principle of anonymity does not mean Al‑Anon is above the law. It cannot be used as a legal basis to shield criminal behavior. Honoring the principle of anonymity in this way helps ensure Al-Anon remains a safe place.
By Tracey S., Group Services Specialist
The Forum, November 2023
Feel free to reprint this article on your service arm website or newsletter, along with this credit line: Reprinted with permission of The Forum, Al‑Anon Family Group Headquarters, Inc., Virginia Beach, VA.