Wednesday, December 31, 2008


Tradition 12 states: "Anonymity is the spiritual foundation of all our Traditions, ever reminding us to place principles before personalities."

The past few days, I've been thinking about what this means. My head got a little twisted, trying to come up with how anonymity is tied into my spirituality. Normally, I think of spirituality as being about my connection with my Higher Power, how I practise prayer and meditation. I found lots of information on this tradition within the literature of A.A. This has come up from reading other peoples blogs and comments, especially Patty who wrote about "taking it easy" and Mary's thoughts on creativity.

When I was in treatment the subject of intelligence and creativity came up. In treatment with me were folk who had won prestigious awards in writing, gifted nurses, artisans, computer programmers, musicians, military personal, athletes. An amazing bunch of addicts and alcoholics, all struggling with the same dis-ease. We concluded that intelligence and giftedness were just that, attributes of character that we were born with, that were of no good in keeping clean and sober. If anything, they cause us to think more highly of ourselves that we ought, creating more problems for us that we would solve by self medicating.

So, I am still struggling with this whole award thing. Trying to figure out where humility fits in. It could be just as easy to say that my refusal to acknowledge awards that others have given me is an extension of my ego. That gracious acceptance would be a better response that publicly struggling with that acceptance. I haven't figured this out nor do I want to come across as judgemental or preachy, after all I am only one opinion and there is more than one right answer. For now, the right thing for me is to not build a trophy wall, at the same time accepting that I do get to occasionally get to be heard and acknowledged in blog land.

The following bits of literature spoke strongly to me:

The long form of the traditions states: "And finally, we of Alcoholics Anonymous believe that the principle of anonymity has an immense spiritual significance. It reminds us that we are to place principles before personalities; that we are actually to practise a genuine humility. This to the end that our great blessings may never spoil us; that we shall forever live in thankful contemplation of Him who presides over us all."

On Page 184 of 12 Steps and 12 Traditions I find "The spiritual substance of anonymity is sacrifice. Because A.A.'s Twelve Traditions repeatedly ask us to give up personal desires for the common good, we realize that the sacrificial spirit -- well symbolized by anonymity--is the foundation of them all. It is A.A.'s proved willingness to make these sacrifices that gives people their high confidence in our future."

Then on Pager 187 I found "These experiences taught us that anonymity is real humility at work. It is an all-pervading spiritual quality which today keynotes A.A. life everywhere. Moved by the spirit of anonymity, we try to give up our natural desires for personal distinction as A.A. members both among fellow alcoholics and before the general public. As we lay aside these very human aspirations, we believe that each of us takes part in the weaving of a protective mantle which covers our whole society and under which we may grow and work in unity."

In the booklet "The Best of Bill" is an essay on anonymity. On page 62 it reads:

Our new book, Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions, states that "anonymity is the greatest protection our Society can ever have.'' It says also that "the spiritual substance of anonymity is sacrifice."

Let's turn to AA's twenty years of experience and see how we arrived at that belief, now expressed in our Traditions Eleven and Twelve.At the beginning we sacrificed alcohol. We had to, or it would have killed us. But we couldn't get rid of alcohol unless we made other sacrifices. Big-shotism and phony thinking had to go. We had to toss self-justification, self-pity, and anger right out the window. We had to quit the crazy contest for personal prestige and big bank balances. We had to take personal responsibility for our sorry state and quit blaming others for it.

Were these sacrifices? Yes, they were. To gain enough humility and self-respect to stay alive at all we had to give up what had really been our dearest possession — our ambitions and our illegitimate pride.


Photo Credit: Jim O'Connell


An Irish Friend of Bill said...

the bottom line is you should do what make YOU comfortable, as we are all SOOO different.

i know monks after 11 years training who are very reluctant to teach because of the games it plays with the ego. ultimately its not the ego its how we work with it, but for me the ego puncturing choices are by far the most healing and honest ones.

i do not benefit from 'strokes' as they call them as they feed the ego a bit.
anyways i think you know already what the right answer is regardless of what anyone else makes of it

Annette said...

Wow, great stuff. I love the humility aspect of recovery. Not the sometimes false humility of "religion" but this humility is something different. Something more real. It feels good and right to me. Thanks for sharing your thoughts...very rich stuff.

Shadow said...

insightful post.

Kathy Lynne said...

I appreciate your long as you've got that, awards, no doesn't matter. Happy New Year.

Lou said...

Terrific writing! So often I hear "he/she is so smart without the drugs/drink". As you said, being smart is no ace in the hole when staying sober.

I have been practicing humility by giving annonymously. This concept is very hard (for me anyway). I want so badly to find someway to accidently let it be known it was me. The ego is a tough master!

Cat said...

Have a wonderful new year - I look forward to reading you often in the coming year!

Chris said...

I think one has to look at the nature of recognition. Irish pointed out an interesting dilemma that I think applies here. And the solution to the monks dilemma and to your own has something to do with our point of view.

Do I view receiving an award (or an opportunity to teach) as an indication that I have something? Or do I view it as and expression of gratitude that I share something?

I am always happy to share, whether it is my time, my experience, my money. None of that is really mine anyway, which makes it easy to give.

But when I latch on to the idea that I have something, that something is mine, I get really weird.

It isn't like you've set out to become the official spokesmodel of recovery. They don't make you an authority. They are simply expressions of gratitude, along the line of pointing out to someone new in a meeting someone who has been helpful to you.

On my blog I talk pretty freely about specific 12 step programs and about my experience, but on my blog I am simply Chris M. - yet another tweeker trying to stay sober.

In the places where it is appropriate to, or required that I use my real name I throw some breadcrumbs around so that anyone interested in what worked for me can find it, but I don't purport to be a representative of the group or an authority on anything but my own experience.

Blogging is much like the story of the loaves and fishes. When we share everyone gets fed. When people say "thank you" why not just say "you're welcome"?

As for my own experience, do I love seeing my name in print? Hell yeah. Am I flattered? You betcha. Do I think it means I have something? Seriously, I think it is a complete fluke that I got to stay sober. That had nothing to do with me. If my experience helps someone else give the program a fair shake in their own life then I'm thrilled. I'm directed to share my experience, strength, and hope. What happens after that is none of my business.

(P.S. - It's brilliant that you vet this out here. How else are they going to see it at work?)