Help. Hope. Healing.

Deeper Anonymity

By Rex Goode

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Beginning with Alcoholics Anonymous, self-help addiction recovery fellowships began to refer to themselves as “Anonymous.” There was an element of confidentiality in the meaning of “anonymous” but the purpose in refering to those groups as “anonymous” was deeper than mere confidentiality.

Like religious movements that have a canon, including our own restoration movement, the twelve steps and other iconic literature of their movement began to be more deeply interpreted. The result was a deeper understanding of what anonymity means within a 12-step fellowship.

It extends well beyond the ability to attend a meeting without your addiction becoming public knowledge. It, like many other 12-step principles, becomes a basis for one’s personality and daily living.

Anonymity also means that I do not attend meetings with the goal in mind to be overly noticed or looked up to. I am there to share about my own stuff and not inject myself into another person’s time as an expert or person of greater experience. I remain anonymous in that I don’t offer crosstalk; I don’t represent the group to the outside world; and I remain focused on what I need to do for my own recovery.

Crosstalk is the practical antithesis to anonymity. Different groups define rules against crosstalk with varying degrees of strictness. Most “Anonymous” groups do not allow it at all, meaning that each person has his say and is done. There is no feedback and no conversation. This, I believe, is true of the Addiction Recovery Program (ARP) of the Church.

Others define it more liberally in that feedback is allowed after each persons checks in, as long as that feedback does not constitute crosstalk. For those purposes, crosstalk is any form of advice, any form of rescuing, or any form of fixing another person. Only comments in support of the other person are permitted.

Here at LDSR, we don’t even define crosstalk, because we do allow comments of almost any intention. It wouldn’t make for a useful resource if it were kept as strict as an AA meeting. The nature of a bulletin board system requires some level of conversation for it to be useful. There is no inconsistency with it, because LDSR is not a 12-step fellowship.

In our early years, there was a bit of contention between those who were accustomed to 12-step anonymity and those who were more interested in a conversational style of fellowship. This required a defining of LDSR as something that was a place to have supportive conversations between those struggle with sexual addiction or in some way impacted by it. We don’t make any claims as to having a program to use or success that follows it. We are based on the premise that self-expression and community lead to healing.

Despite this, there is some value in anonymity in its deeper sense here. It would certainly not be the place to make a name for oneself. While it’s good to have examples of people who are succeeding, it is best to approach participation on our boards from the standpoint of being in need of support. It has never worked out for someone to come to the boards with the intention of “showing others how it is done.”

It also is not useful to come as a knight in shining armor to rescue damsels in distress or correct fellow erring knights. It is best to be here as an equal, ready to lay bare any difficulties and ask for support. In responding to others, do so as an equal who has experienced the same things.

We practice confidentiality because there is danger in private conversations between addicts. In Latter-day Saint culture, it is not desirable for private conversations about sexual matters between people of the opposite sex, so we don’t allow the sharing of email addresses, phone numbers, or other means of making private contact in mixed-gender forums.

Practicing anonymity in my personal life is something I do as appropriate to situations. I am not a 12-stepper, so I don’t feel obligated as they do to practice those principles in all of my affairs. I do think that anonymity has appropriate expression in many situations and relationships. For example, crosstalking my wife is a dangerous proposition. When she shares a frustration with me, she’s not looking for advice, rescuing, or fixing. People don’t necessarily want my stellar advice and superior knowledge. I’m indeed a legend in my own mind, but I often remind myself that a struggling friend is looking for love and support more than what sage advice I can offer.

There are times when I drop anonymity altogether. I’m paid to offer training in life skills. I am expected to give good advice to technical clients. Parenting requires me to rescue sometimes. For me, anonymity is a tool. I use it often. Sometimes a different tool is better. I like being complex that way.

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5 Responses to “Deeper Anonymity”

  1. julie said:

    I liked how you explained this Rex and I’m glad that I finally read your article on this. It helps me in that I am part of a 12 step group. I don’t always read what I should to understand it better. I need to be better about that, but it’s so true that a lot of times I just need to tell someone about my stuff and have them just listen without all the advice. Sometimes I do want someone to tell me what to do, but that is something only I can decide and if that person is wise they would realize that. I think practicing this anonymity is good for learning to solve our own problems and not waiting for someone to rescue us.

  2. Rex Goode said:

    Thanks, Julie. I’ve always been one to wish for a rescuer. I grew up that way. My life in my stepfamily was not happy. I didn’t know anything about my father or where he had gone. I spent a lot of my childhood fantasizing about my father coming into my life to take me away from all of that–my knight in shining armor. It extended into my adult life and was a lot of the basis of my acting out behavior with men. Always looking for that one man who was going to take me into his arms and make everything OK. As I’ve become healthier, the better balance has been to try to work things out for myself as much as possible, but ask for help when I truly need it. Hardest of all is to accept help that is offered.

  3. ifonlyican said:

    This is very encouraging to me, thank you. The other 12 step programs I’ve participated in left me feeling frustrated and empty. Now I know why. I need the dialog, the chance to respond and communicate. My husband and bishop are very supportive…if I need to vent, they are there. But sometimes I need to actually converse with people who know what I’m going through and can empathize, not just sympathize. So I’m glad that our anonymity here does not limit our ability to respond or ask for response.

  4. Rex Goode said:

    Thanks, ifonlyican. I am glad you like this. Please join us on the Daily Journal, if you aren’t already there. The conversation is only as good as the participation.

  5. Lugg said:

    With sexual addiction I feel that for me, annonimity is critical. I feel that if others knew my problem, I would be perceived as a bad person. I have struggled with my problem for over 40 years. I have had it under control for up to 3 years without acting out and then I will fall off the wagon. I can’t imagine people know about my problem, other than my Bishop and wife, as I am ashamed of it. This web site does allow that annomimity and allows me to talk about it with others without the fear of them really knowing who I am.

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