Throughout the history of addiction in America, family members have been castigated more as causative agents and sources of recovery sabotage than as recovery resources or individuals deserving services in their own right. Given this history, it is not surprising that family members have most often found healing and purpose when they banded together for their own mutual support and political advocacy.—White & Savage, 2005
Family Blog ImageThe effects of addiction on the family system and the family addiction recovery process have been enduring themes within the resources posted on this website. This week’s blog is a reminder of a few of these resources.
For reviews of history of the addiction treatment field’s attitudes toward, and services to, affected families, see White & Savage, 2005. For those interested in how treatment programs and recovery community organizations might more effectively address parenting in addiction recovery, see White, Arria, & Moe, 2011.
Also of interest may be interviews with some of the most influential advocates of family-focused addiction treatment and recovery support. I particularly recommend the interviews with Dr. Claudia Black, Dr. Stephanie Brown, Dr. Robert Meyers, Jerry Moe, and Sis Wenger. Also of note are interviews or blogs on family-focused recovery advocacy, including those with Jim Contopulos, Gary Mendell, Karen Moyer and Brian Maus, and Bill Williams.
An issue that has obsessed me for decades is how we might break intergenerational cycles of addiction and related problems. Those interested in this issue will find several papers of potential interest (see here, here, and here).
And for the history buffs among my readers, the Chronology of Mutual Aid Groups for Families Affected by Addiction and the Chronology of Al-Anon may also be of interest.
More family-focused interviews and resources are planned. Stay tuned.

Post Date November 20, 2015 by Bill White
Categories Articles
Tags addiction | family | recovery

Saturday, November 21st, 2015 Focus: I make time for lunch to increase my productivity and energy.

It’s a popular notion that we will get more done if we skip lunch. I know, since I used to buy into this belief as well. Today hundreds of thousands of people, if not millions, will skip lunch in order to accomplish more at work. They’ll say, “I have too much to do. I can’t make lunch today.” Or, “lunch is a waste of time. I’ll tough it out and get more done.” “I’m swamped. No time for lunch.” I know since these were a few of my sayings.

Unfortunately they couldn’t be farther from the truth. Etienne Grandjean, M.D., Ph.D., an expert on productivity at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, says eating a good lunch is highly recommended “for both health and work efficiency.” According to various studies, researchers agree that performance scores plunge when people skip lunch and those who skip lunch soon feel more anxious and tense.

Thankfully, the solution is simple. Whether you’re a mom in the middle of running errands with her kids, a CEO in the middle of a major reorganization, or a college student studying for an exam, DON’T SKIP LUNCH. Ignore the temptation to skip lunch in order to get more done by remembering the facts that it doesn’t work. Realize if you make time for lunch you will more than make up for this time with an increase in productivity and energy. Think of it this way. A 20-minute lunch will provide you with hours of energy. It’s worth it.

Excerpted from the article:

Don’t Be Too Busy For Lunch
Written by Jon Gordon M.A.

Read more of this article…


Energy Addict by Jon GordonEnergy Addict: 101 Physical, Mental, and Spiritual Ways to Energize Your Life
by Jon Gordon, M.A. (originally published in hardcover as: “Become an Energy Addict”)

Info/Order this book (new paperback edition with different cover)


Addiction is as much a worldwide geopolitical threat as it is a public health threat. So-called recreational drug use, addiction, aggressive licit and illicit drug trafficking, and the unintended consequences of national and international drug control policies have deeply wounded the cultural, economic, and political fabric of numerous countries and strained international relations. Don Winslow has authored two fact-based novels that illuminate such influences on the cultural, political, economic, and spiritual life of the people of Mexico. Winslow’s works are controversial because of the conclusions he has drawn from his decades of research, including his open call for drug legalization, but the education of any serious student of drug policy would be incomplete without serious reflection on Winslow’s The Power of the Dog (2005) and The Cartel (2015). These twin works propel the reader beyond flashing news headlines of narco massacres and narco king prison escapes to how America’s insatiable appetite for drugs and ill-conceived drug policies have inflicted deep wounds upon the culture and people of Mexico–wounds that may take generations to heal.
Readers should be warned that these books are quite disturbing in their unrelenting portrayal of mass kidnapping, torture, rape, murder, decapitation, and incineration, as well as the corrosion of Mexico’s major social institutions and the moral corruption of nearly everyone on both sides of the drug wars. These books are not for the faint of heart. I found myself asking, “If I can barely stand to read the brutality of these accounts, what must it be like for the people who have witnessed and lived this for so many years?” I found myself wondering how I would respond to someone approaching me with the decision to accept a bag of money for support of a drug cartel or face the immediate death of myself and my family members. Such choices pervade this story of personal tragedies and cultural devastation. Yet, these well-researched and fluidly composed books provide only a partial glimpse behind the deaths and disappearance of more than 100,000 Mexican citizens during the narco wars of recent decades.
Regardless of political persuasion, readers will close these books with a desperate sense that better strategies must be found to manage the problems that can result from excessive drug use—strategies that can avoid the horrific side effects that have been inflicted on individuals, families, communities, and whole cultures. I hope the Winslow books will add weight to calls to re-evaluate American drug control and enforcement policies—“a searching and fearless moral inventory” in recovery language. What role has America played in this massive loss of Mexican lives, the infusion of fear, futility, and hopelessness into Mexican culture? How can amends be made for such harm?
I turned the last page of The Cartel with a profound sense of sadness and a belief that America had done little in recent decades to alter the destruction wrought by the criminal drug syndicates and by militarized, demoralized, and oft-corrupted drug enforcement bodies. I also closed that last page with a desire to write a letter of apology on behalf of my country for the suffering America’s insatiable drug appetites and misguided drug policies have inflicted upon the people of Mexico and upon its cultural institutions. This blog is that letter. We must find a way to move beyond despair to hope if both of our cultures are to find recovery within our shared story.


In past communications, I have energetically objected to the marketing slogan “Treatment Works!” Professionally-directed addiction treatment of complex disorders generates highly variable outcomes that defy such simplistic claims. So what can be said of such outcomes? Whether we are talking about widely varying approaches to addiction treatment; participation in a secular, spiritual, or religious recovery mutual aid group; or participation in any of the newer recovery support institutions or services, individual responses span at least six possible outcomes.
First, there may be no sustained measurable effect. This means that the frequency, intensity, and consequences of substance use and one’s global health status are not measurably different following the helping effort than they were before such help was provided. This category includes interventions that produce brief improvements that quickly erode to the pre-service baseline.
Second, there may be a minimal effect. Here, there is a slight measurable decline in substance use indicators and/or a slight improvement in global health indicators, but substance use and related problems continue to exert profoundly negative effects on the individual and his or her family and social network. The effects are measurable, but not substantial enough to effect long-term trajectory of the disorder or its effects on quality of life.
Third, there may be a moderate effect. In this scenario, there are clear changes in substance use severity (frequency, intensity, and consequences), with some substance use and related problems continuing. There may also be a change in one dimension of the disorder (such as achievement of sustained remission of the substance use disorder) but no change in broader indicators of global (physical, cognitive, emotional, relational, spiritual) health or social functioning. Moderate change is medically referred to as partial recovery.
Fourth, there may be an optimal effect, sometimes referred to as full recovery. In this case, the problem resolution effort has resulted in complete resolution of the substance use disorder and measurable improvements in global health and functioning. Optimal effects occur when there is a near-perfect match between the person, the intervention, and the timing of the helping effort.
Fifth, there may be an exemplary or exceptional effect, sometimes referred to as amplified recovery. In this scenario, the intervention is both curative and transformative. This means that the substance use disorder is in complete remission and that the individual has experienced dramatic elevations in global health and service to the community. Sometimes referred to as “getting better than well,” this style can be a product of “quantum change” or “transformational change”–a process of change that is unplanned, positive in its personal and social effects, and permanent—a sudden cleaving of one’s life into the categories of “before” and “after.”
Sixth, there may be a harmful effect, sometimes referred to as iatrogenic illness (injury caused by the helping effort). This means that the individual seeking help is in worse condition (a process of clinical deterioration or other accompanying injury) following, and as a direct result of, the intervention that was purported to be helpful. There is a long history of harm in the name of help within the alcohol and drug problems arena (See here and here).
Here are some further principles/observations related to these potential outcomes.
Effects of interventions into complex disorders (those with multiple etiological influences, diverse and remitting/recurring symptom manifestations, and frequent co-occurring disorders) can vary dramatically from person to person. What is transformative to one may have no, minimal, or even harmful effects on another.
Effects of interventions can vary in the same person at different points in time, suggesting that person-treatment matches must be tailored to evolving stages of addiction and recovery.
No effects and minimal effects can result from interventions that lack any potent ingredients, a mismatch between person/intervention, or the delivery of inadequate or excessive doses of the intervention. The latter effects are comparable to inadequate dose/duration of antibiotic therapy or the harmful side effects of excessive dosages of effective medications.
When one compares the effects of different interventions (e.g., a professionally-directed treatment protocol, participation in a recovery mutual aid organization, participation in a recovery residence or collegiate recovery program, or recovery coaching), there are common factors related to measured effects (shared active ingredients) and intervention-specific factors (active ingredients found only within a particular intervention). The isolation of common and specific factors is as important to potential replication and clinical and cultural adaptations as are measuring general intervention effects.
Combining and sequencing interventions with potent ingredients may generate amplified/synergistic effects greater than could be expected by adding the effects of the separate ingredients. The future of enhancing long-term recovery outcomes may well rest on such combinations and selective sequencing. For example, with some individuals, combining medication with psychosocial support in the treatment of a substance use disorder may generate outcomes superior to either medication or psychosocial support used in isolation.
The presence, degree of potency, and duration of support may have greater influence on recovery outcomes than who (what role) delivers the intervention.
The greater the physical, psychological, and cultural distance between the location of service delivery and a person’s natural environment, the greater the difficulty in sustaining institutional learning within one’s natural environment. Treatment (recovery initiation) may be able to be provided in a remote location, but long-term recovery (maintenance of change) must be anchored within one’s own physical and cultural landscape.
For those interested in average recovery outcomes with and without professionally-directed treatment, see my 2012 monograph summarizing the findings of more than 400 community and clinical studies.
Post Date November 6, 2015 by Bill White
Categories Articles

CAUTION;SMOKING MAY LEAD TO BANK ROBBERY: The True Trials and Tribulations of a Jewish Bankrobber

My Book has been published in MedCrave
I am beside myself as this was a Final 4th step attempt for my (A/A-N/A) Step Work….It became a manuscript, to a full paper and Book available on Amazon EBooks.

Please pay attention to this If you or anyone you know is suffering from Alcohol or Drug abuse. A first person narrator of a True Story of a Man going through a Journey of self discovery.
Thank you for letting a voice stand out of the shadows. Recovery is Real.


Dr. Dole always regarded methadone as a legitimate medication to normalize aberrant metabolism and thus behavior in the chronic disease of opioid addiction…Dr. Dole was always at the service of patients and advocacy groups to help resolve issues of stigma and misdirected policies…–Herman Joseph and Joycelyn Sue Woods, 2006
In 1964, Dr. Vincent Dole and two colleagues, Dr. Marie Nyswander and Dr. Mary Jeanne Kreek, pioneered methadone maintenance in the treatment of heroin addiction. A half century later, their work stands as a pivotal milestone in the history of addiction treatment. Few subjects within the history of addiction treatment have elicited greater heat and less light than the rhetorical debates that long raged and continue today on methadone maintenance treatment (MMT). I have detailed earlier (see here) my transformation from a rabid critic of MMT (a role I acquired by osmosis during my early years in the field) to a supporter of MMT and other forms of medication-assisted treatment (MAT), even as I sought to elevate the quality of such treatments. The papers and speeches I made on MMT/MAT (see here, here, and here as examples) generated some of the harshest criticisms of my professional career.
As MMT passes the half century mark, I thought it appropriate to revisit some of the original MMT papers authored by Dr. Dole and co-authors. In rereading these early papers and Dr. Dole’s later reflections on the evolution of MMT, I was struck anew by his passionate appeals for science-grounded addiction treatment and by his fierce loyalty to the needs of patients. I recalled that same passion when I interviewed him as part of my research for Slaying the Dragon.
All addiction professionals and recovery support specialists should be knowledgeable of the science and history of MMT. I have highlighted below some excerpts from the papers of Dr. Dole to provide some historical perspective on the evolution of methadone maintenance as practiced in the United States—in Dr. Dole’s own words. I hope to return later to highlight the thought and work of his collaborators, Dr. Nyswander and Dr. Kreek.
On His Initial Introduction to the Addictions Field
“I said what a shame it was that there was none of the scientific thought in the field of addiction that I had encountered in my other researches. It didn’t have recognition as a scientific problem.” (1989)
On Perception of Persons Addicted to Opiates
“. . . the traditional image of the narcotics addict (weak character, hedonistic, unreliable, depraved, dangerous) is totally false. . . .I had an exceptionally gifted teacher, Marie Nyswander, who taught me how to listen to patients rather than rush into their problems with pre-formed judgements. . . .the typical heroin addict is a gentle person, trapped in chemical slavery, pathetically grateful for understanding and effective treatment. In short, a sick person needing treatment.” (1994a)
“. . . it must not be too quickly assumed that these are weak individuals who would fail in society if relieved of the compulsion to obtain drugs. The potential strengths of addicts, like their faults, cannot be judged while the addicts are trapped in the orbit of drug abuse.” (Dole & Nyswander, 1967)
Nature of Opioid Addiction / Rationale for MMT
“It is postulated that the high rate of relapse of addicts after detoxification from heroin is due to persistent derangement of the endogenous ligand-narcotic receptor system and that methadone in adequate daily dose compensates for this defect…methadone maintenance provides a safe and effective way to normalize the function of otherwise intractable narcotics addicts.” (1988)
“The most important principle to recognize is that addiction is a medical disease. And, as a medical disease, it’s the responsibility of the medical profession. . .” (1996)
“It is important to distinguish the causes from the consequences of addiction . . . The rapid disappearance of theft and antisocial behavior in patients on the methadone maintenance program strongly supports the hypothesis that the crimes that they have previously committed as addicts were a consequence of drug hunger, not the expression of some more basic psychopathology.” (Dole & Nyswander, 1967)
On Complexity of Opioid Addiction and MMT
“I urged that physicians should see that the problem was one of rehabilitating people with a very complicated mixture of social problems on top of a specific medical problem. . . The strength of the early [MMT] programs as designed by Marie Nyswander was in their sensitivity to human problems. The stupidity of thinking that just giving methadone will solve a complicated social problem seems to me beyond comprehension. . .” (1989)
On Perception of MMT as “Drug Substitution”
“This medication [methadone] given in fixed dose to tolerant subjects, does not make patients “high” or cause any other narcotic effects. On the contrary it eliminates the abnormal euphoric responses of addicts to narcotic drugs.” (Dole, Nyswander, & Kreek, 1966)
“What was not anticipated at the onset was the nearly universal reaction against substituting one drug for another, even when the second drug enabled the addict to function normally. . . . The analogous long term use of other medications such as insulin and digitalis in medical practice has not been considered relevant.” (Dole & Nyswander, 1976)
On Functioning of MMT Patients
“[MMT] patients are normally alert and functional; they live active lives, hold responsible jobs, succeed in school, care for families, have normal sexual activity and normal children, and have no greater incidence of psychopathology or general medical problems than their drug-free peers.” (1988)
On Importance of Service Relationships within MMT
“Like teachers in a one-room school, we knew each patient personally. The ones in trouble were seen more often, the successful ones, less often; all were followed closely enough for us to know what they were doing.” (1971)
“I made a practice of spending two or three hours almost every day just sitting and talking with the addicts in a somewhat aimless way. I was just trying to get a sense of their way of thinking, their values, their experiences. They educated me about a world that was out of my reach, one that I had never been in and would never enter.” (1989)
“The most that any chemical agent can do for an addict is to relieve his compulsive drive for illicit narcotic. To give him hope and self-respect requires human warmth; to become a productive citizen he needs the effective support of persons who can help him find a job and protect him from discrimination. It is these human qualities that the treatment programs of the past five years have failed.” (Dole & Nyswander, 1976)
“. . . with addiction we’re dealing with a disease in which human relationships are integral to rehabilitation. (1989)
On Early Fears about the Future of MMT
“The success of this treatment in rehabilitation of addicts will decline significantly if methadone programs cease to be medical institutions, and instead become instruments of another bureaucracy.” (1971)
On Early MMT Expansion
“The difficulty was not that methadone expanded, or that it did so rapidly, but that it expanded faster than medical competence developed. . . . across the country people who had very little understanding of the pharmacology of methadone, and no comprehension of the wider array of medical and social problems presented by addicts, jumped into the field, feeling that all they had to do was hand out the drug.” (1989)
“. . . abstinence rather than rehabilitation was restored as the goal of treatment; doses were lowered to levels that were frequently inadequate; administrators became punitive and often contemptuous of the patients’ (now called “clients”) termination of maintenance was encouraged despite an 80% relapse rate…Underfunded, crowded, operating in poor quarters, harassed by teams of inspectors who criticized their deficiencies without providing money or political support for improvement, with a negative image fueled by disinformation in the media, the methadone clinics nevertheless survived, thanks to the dedication of their overworked staffs.” (1999)
On Coerced Involvement in MMT
“Is it proper for a judge to force treatment on an addict by sentencing him to a maintenance program? Is it advisable for a physician to accept patients on these terms? I would say definitely no to both of these questions. . . . I would object to the imposition of methadone maintenance treatment just as strongly as I have objected in the past to its unavailability . . .” (1971)
On Withholding or Reducing Methadone Dose for Rule Violations
“The results are generally poor, as might be expected from the fact that limiting or withholding medication that reduces drug hunger increases the need for illicit narcotics.” (1988)
On Regulation of MMT
“Bureaucratic control of methadone programs has given us “slots,” a rule book, and an army of inspectors, but relatively little rehabilitation.” (Dole & Nyswander, 1976)
“True patient-oriented [MMT] treatment guidelines will emerge when the medical profession insists on applying the same standards of chemotherapy in addictions as it applies to chemotherapy in infectious disease, cancer, schizophrenia, depression, and endocrine disorders.” (1992)
“. . . the contempt with which many regulators and program administrators have treated their [MMT] patients seems to be scandalous.” (1996)
On Termination of MMT
“. . . methadone patients are not necessarily committed to a lifelong dependence on the medication. A significant fraction of the abstinent ex-addicts in New York today has previously been stabilized and socially rehabilitated in methadone programs. The key to this result is the realization that the most important objective in treatment of an addict is support of good health and normal function. This may or may not require continuation of maintenance.” (1994)
“The question of whether and when to discontinue methadone therapy can be answered in medical terms if the treatment is judged by the same standards as apply to other chronic diseases.” (1973)
“. . . the possibility of detoxification should be evaluated on an individual basis, taking into account the patient’s own desires in the matter, his progress in rehabilitation, and the potential hazards of relapse.” (Cushman & Dole, 1973)
On Predicting Positive Outcomes Following Termination of MMT
“Available data suggest that the longer a patient continues in a maintenance program that provides adequate doses (e.g., five years or more), the greater his or her probability of permanent abstinence after termination of [MMT] treatment. Apparently, the neurochemical adaptations produced by thousands of heroin injections (with sudden impact on the nervous system and rapid elimination) are capable of gradual repair in some cases under the steady conditions of methadone maintenance.” (1994)
On the Need for Post-MMT Recovery Checkups
“A good physician, experienced in treatment of chronic disease, will weigh these factors before attempting detoxification and will follow his patient for several years afterward, keeping the door open for return to maintenance if indicated.” (1973)
On Patient Advocacy
“. . . I think methadone patient advocacy groups are going to grow in proportion to the numbers of people or programs who abuse their powers over methadone patients.” (1996)
Future View of MMT
“I would say 30 years from now that current attitudes regarding methadone as substituting one drug for another and other negative outlooks on drug addicts in general will seem pretty archaic. What’s happening today seems more like a carryover of medieval attitudes that affected much of the thinking toward mental illness in the last century.” (1996)
“Methadone is very valuable in controlling a specific kind of addiction, namely opioid addiction . . . But the emphasis should be on the fact that you’re controlling the disease; you’re not curing the disease. In time, and with full knowledge of all disturbances to in the neurohormonal systems in the brain, we may find ways to remedy and cure or restore a person to “normal”.” (1996)
On His Involvement with Alcoholics Anonymous
“. . . before accepting the position [non-alcoholic trustee of the Board of A.A], I discussed my research with Executives of the fellowship and raised the question as to whether this appointment might involve a conflict of interest. . . . The insisted that they saw no problem. . . They were right. There never has been a problem in my association with AA, and my admiration for Bill Wilson and the dedicated AA members that I came to know increased over the years.” (1991)
“At the last trustee meeting that we both attended, he [Bill Wilson] spoke to me of his deep concern for the alcoholics who are not reached by AA, and for those who enter and drop out and never return. . . . He suggested that in my future research I should look for an analogue of methadone, a medicine that would relieve the alcoholic’s sometimes irresistible craving and enable him to continue his progress in AA toward social and emotional recovery, following the Twelve Steps.” (1991)
Dole, V.P., & Nyswander, M.E. (1965). A medical treatment for diacetylmorphine (heroin) addiction. Journal of the American Medical Association, 193, 646-650.
Dole, V.P., Nyswander, M.E., & Kreek, M.J. (1966). Narcotic blockade. Archives of Internal Medicine, 118, 304-309.
Dole, V.P., & Nyswander, M.E. (1967). Heroin addiction—a metabolic disease. Archives of Internal Medicine, 120, 19-24.
Dole, V. P. (1971). Methadone maintenance treatment for 25,000 addicts. Journal of the American Medical Association, 215, 1131-1134.
Dole, V.P. (1973). Detoxification of methadone patients and public policy. Journal of the American Medical Association, 226, 780-781.
Cushman, P., & Dole, V.P. (1973). Detoxification of rehabilitated methadone-maintained patients. Journal of the American Medical Association, 226(7), 747-752.
Dole, V.P., & Nyswander, M.E. (1976). Methadone maintenance treatment: A ten year perspective. Journal of the American Medical Association, 235, 2117-2119.
Dole, V. P. & Joseph, H. (1978). Long-term outcome of patients treated with methadone maintenance. Annals of the New York Academy of Science, 311, 173-180.
Dole, V.P. (1988). Implications of methadone maintenance for theories of addiction. The Albert Lasker Medical Awards. Journal of the American Medical Association, 260, 3025-3029.
Dole, V.P. (1989). Interview. In D. Courtwright and J. H. Des Jarlais, Addicts who survived (pp. 331-343). Knoxville, TN: The University of Tennessee Press.
Dole, V.P. (1992). Hazards of process regulation: The example of methadone maintenance. Journal of the American Medical Association, 267, 2234-2235.
Dole, V.P. (1994a). What we have learned from three decades of methadone maintenance treatment. Drug and Alcohol Review, 13, 3-4.
Dole, V.P. (1994b). Addiction as a public health problem. Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research, 15(5), 749-752.
Dole, V.P. (1996). Interview with Dr. Vincent Dole, M.D.: Methadone: The next 30 years? Addiction Treatment Forum, Winter, 1-6.
Dole, V.P. (1997). What is “methadone maintenance treatment”? Journal of Maintenance in the Addictions, 1(1), 7-8.
Dole, V.P. (2002). Conversation with Vincent Dole. In G. Edwards (Ed.), Addiction: Evolution of a specialist field (pp. 3-10). Oxford: Blackwell Science Ltd. (Reprinted from Conversation with Vincent Dole, by Dole, V.P., 1994, Addiction, 89, 23-29).
Joseph, H., & Woods, J. S. (2006). In the service of patients: The legacy of Dr. Dole. Heroin Addiction and Related Clinical Problems, 8(4), 9-28.


The recent surge in social media discussions about anonymity and recovery advocacy (see here and here for examples) have triggered increased email inquiries about my thoughts as a recovery historian on these discussions. Some have pointedly asked which side I am on, as if an anonymity war had been launched forcing one to choose one camp or the other. If there is such an emerging split, I find myself challenging all who frame this issue as a war. I challenge recovery advocates who feel anonymity is a musty, outdated concept that has lost all value in the 21st century, and I challenge those in 12-Step fellowships who suggest that public disclosure of one’s recovery status is a breach of 12-Step Traditions. Here are selected excerpts from what I have written on this topic over the past 15 years.
A.A.’s predecessors had been wounded by leaders and members who either used visibility as a springboard for financial profit or whose public downfall brought discredit to the organization. A.A. avoided both of these pitfalls by declaring that no one with a name (at least a full name) could speak for A.A. Anonymity, while practiced as a spiritual exercise, also protected A.A. as an organization and brought many individuals into recovery who saw in anonymity a shroud of protection from the injury that can result from one’s being linked to a socially stigmatized condition. (2001)
Radical recovery is not an invitation to violate the anonymity traditions of Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous, and other twelve-step fellowships. It is an invitation for some individuals and family members in twelve-step recovery and those from other pathways of recovery to talk publicly about their recovery status without reference to the means by which that recovery was achieved, e.g., without specific references to AA/NA affiliation at the level of press. It is an invitation for people to become a messenger of recovery apart from their particular identities as members of AA, NA, CA, WFS, WFS, SOS, LSR, or other recovery societies. (2004)
Anonymity served many practical functions in the early decades of AA, and quite animated discussions continue on the extent to which these functions continue or do not need to continue in the twenty-first century. Three such practicalities were most prominent. First, anonymity at the level of press (and the cultural etiquette of not using last names within meetings and admonitions of “who you see here, what you hear here, when you leave here, let it stay here”) helped attract and protect the identities of alcoholics whose affiliation with AA, if publicly known, could cause harm to them or other parties. Second, anonymity at the level of press protected AA from public damage to its reputation that could occur if a publicly identified AA member or leader experienced a resumption of destructive drinking and related mayhem. The principle of anonymity and the practice of leadership rotation also helped AA avoid the organizational pitfalls of charismatic leadership and a centralized hierarchy that publicly personified AA. That function was particularly significant at an organizational level within a fellowship that defined the central problem of its members in terms of “self-centeredness,” “self-will run riot” and “playing God.” An argument could be made that the social stigma attached to alcoholism has declined in recent decades, making the first two functions less vital, although I don’t think this same argument could be made in such 12-Step groups as Narcotics Anonymous, Cocaine Anonymous, Heroin Anonymous, and other 12-Step groups for persons addicted primarily to illicit drugs. (2013)
I still see the value of anonymity at the level of press as a protection of all 12-Step programs, and leaders within the new recovery advocacy movement distinguish public disclosure of recovery status (including at the level of press) with disclosure of one’s affiliation with AA or another 12-Step program at the level of press. I think disclosure of recovery status at the level of press without reference to affiliation with AA or another 12-Step program complies with the letter of Traditions Ten & Eleven, but it may not always meet the spirit of the Traditions (Tradition Twelve)….I think the practical justifications for anonymity change and may even be lost as cultural contexts change, but anonymity as “spiritual foundation” comes from a quite different source—not cultural context and the personal or organizational threats such context pose, but from the essential dilemma of individuals seeking recovery within a 12-Step framework. One of the central discoveries within AA was that the alcoholic could not recover using only resources within the self. The alcoholic’s essential problem, whether as a cause or consequence of alcoholism, was, in AA’s view, entrapment within the self. The most cursory scan of AA’s basic text, Alcoholics Anonymous, is informative. AA’s founding generation viewed such things as self-awareness, self-knowledge, self-control, self-discipline, self-assertion, self-reliance, and self-confidence not as virtues but as part of the central pathology of alcoholism (along with other self-hyphenated conditions, e.g., self-justification, self-pity, and self-deception). So what AA constructed via its steps and rituals was a “we program” rather than an “I program” of recovery that allowed the alcoholic to escape entrapment within the self—a program that required nothing less than the “destruction of self-centeredness” (AA, 1939, p. 30). When AA literature speaks of anonymity as a “spiritual principle,” it does so out of a profound understanding of the importance of self-transcendence as the vehicle for sobriety and serenity. You can hear people depicting AA as a “selfish program” to mean that the alcoholic must get sober for self and not for others, but you find a quite different orientation on the issue of anonymity. The “spiritual substance” of anonymity according to AA’s core literature is not selfishness but “sacrifice.” (AA, 1952/1981, p. 184). What is sacrificed in AA (and in acts of heroism) are one’s “natural desires for personal distinction,” which in AA are eschewed in favor of “humility, expressed by anonymity” (AA, 1952/1981, p. 87). Applying this understanding, one could see how an AA or NA member choosing public recovery advocacy could technically meet the letter of Tradition Eleven (not disclosing AA affiliation at the level of press), but violate the pervading spirit of the Traditions (Tradition Twelve). This could occur when advocacy is used as a stage for assertion of self (flowing from ego / narcissism / pride and the desire for personal recognition) rather than as a platform for acts of service, which flow from remorse, gratitude, humility, and a commitment to service. (2013)
There is a purity—perhaps even a nobility—to recovery advocacy when it meets the heroism criteria. There is a zone of service and connection to community within advocacy work, and I think we must do a regular gut check to make sure we remain within that zone and not drift into advocacy as an assertion of ego. The intensity of camera lights, the proffered microphone, and seeing our published words and images can be as intoxicating and destructive as any drug if we allow ourselves to be seduced by them. If we shift our focus from the power of the message to our power as a messenger, we risk, like Icarus of myth, flying towards the sun and our own self-destruction. To avoid that, we have to speak as a community of recovering people and avoid becoming recovery celebrities—even on the smallest of stages. We must stay closely connected to diverse communities of recovery and speak publicly not as an individual or representative of one path of recovery, but on behalf of all people in recovery. The fact that no one is fully qualified to do that helps us maintain a sense of humility even as we embrace the very real importance of the work to be done. The spirit of anonymity—that suppression of self-centeredness—can be respected when we speak by embracing the wonderful varieties of recovery experience rather than as individuals competing for attention and superiority. (2013)