Friday, April 9, 2010

Safety in disclosure

When I first came into AA in 1989, there was a lot of controversy about anonymity and what it was. There was still a lot of paradoxical shame about being an alcoholic, paradoxical in that it didn't seem to be a shame to be an active drunk who didn't admit it but considerable shame in going to AA meetings, admitting you had a problem, and doing something about it.

Anonymity is considered the foundation of AA although I would argue that the 12 steps and the honest spiritual program it entails are far more crucial for long-term sobriety. Like many newcomers, I didn't know who to tell I was in recovery and who not to tell. My sponsor made it simple for me. You don't "out" anybody else, and you tell anyone who needs to know so that your sobriety is protected. For me that meant telling a lot of people that I was in recovery so that I would be safe, so that they wouldn't offer me drinks the way they had before.

As the years have gone by, I've become quite open about my recovery. It's not so much to protect me from drinking any more. I very seldom am in a situation where there's alcohol and I feel completely comfortable with just saying "no thanks." But I speak openly and freely of my recovery because I want anyone who's concerned about their own drinking to feel that I am a safe person to talk to about those concerns.

When I first started abstaining from sugar, I wasn't sure how public I wanted to be with it. I did feel some of the same need for protection, in fact, perhaps even more. Most people honor your choice not to drink. They're aware, and more and more so, about the lethal consequences of alcoholism. But people aren't so clear about how dangerous sugar is for some of us and the lethal consequences that it can have. They think you're dieting and don't understand that one piece of cake or a cookie can be the start of a binge just like a glass of wine.

But once I decided to start this blog, I knew there was safety in disclosure. I knew that the more people around me who knew, the stronger my commitment would become. The more support I would have. The more opportunity to explore the whole issue. That I could move from shame about it to curiosity. And so it has been.

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