In dealing with the media, the traditions of the 12-step programs require that members remain anonymous, not so much for their protection but for the good of the entire community.
In Tradition 11 of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) it is said: “Our PR policy is based on attraction rather than advertising. We must always maintain personal anonymity at the level of the press, radio and films.” Al-Anon adds, “We must take special care to protect the anonymity of all AA members.”..
Do not use full names or groups of names
When discussing their personal recovery with the media, members identified by their full name, such as those already known in the media, should not also include the specific name of their 12-step recovery group. When members want to discuss the benefits of membership in a particular 12-step group such as Al-Anon or Alcoholics Anonymous, they should only identify by first name.
For example, if John Doe uses his full name in an interview, he shouldn’t name his recovery group. He could just say that he is in a “recovery group”. If he wants to discuss Al-Anon or AA by name, he should only identify himself as John D.
This anonymity is more for the good of the community than to protect the member’s identity. The example shows a famous athlete or television personality – a role model for teenagers – who is recovering and telling the world that AA saved his life. What if that person relapses? The children would think AA was useless and would be less likely to seek it if they had to seek sobriety.
However, Tradition 11 was also developed by the founders of the 12-step programs to avoid other potentially harmful situations...
No advertising required
AA member Alethea notes that the advertisement allows outsiders to change the message so that insiders now hear a different message. The original message of “we’re getting better” has become “things are getting better”. External institutions say it doesn’t matter which 12-step program you go to, they are all the same. However, the support a drug addict would get at an AA meeting of alcoholics is not the same as at a Narcotics Anonymous meeting with other addicts...
Attraction, not advertising
The purpose of 12-level groups is for one member to help another and be responsible for having the attraction to the program. A member does not pass this responsibility off to a spokesperson or an advertising campaign.
Althea notes, “By changing the way we look, how we communicate, dress, and behave in and out of AA spaces – that includes getting the message across so people can see the difference this design makes for a living has given us has worked in our lives. When people see the four changes in our life – mental, emotional, physical, and spiritual – they are drawn in. They don’t need a promotion. This is a program for people who want to. Let we don’t tell each other about what they think what we are about. Let’s just be ready when the suffering alcoholic is ready to open the door and show him what we are. ”
Protecting the anonymity of AA members
Al-Anon member Lin notes that anonymity makes people feel confident of speaking what is in their hearts and minds. “The fact that it is due to my attraction means that people can see the outer change of you due to an inner change in you.” She appreciates the part that has been added to the Al-Anon tradition of protecting the AA member’s anonymity. “If you know that a certain person is drinking because their relative is attending a meeting, you don’t have to say it. That’s why anonymity works.”