The Value of Anonymity

Many people will have heard the word anonymity in the context of organisations such as Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous.

Anyone entering a rehab or treatment center for alcoholism or drug addiction of any type will probably have some sense of the importance of privacy and potential secrecy of other people not finding out that they had a problem.

Many people assume that anonymity and secrecy are the same thing or confuse secrecy with privacy and blur the whole concept of an individual’s right to their own health and their own life.

Anyone entering a rehab or treatment center will in some sense have reached a point in their life where they are in critical need of some type of help, whether they know it or not.

The time spent in a rehab, normally about 30 days, will at least give the individual some time to get their breath back and begin the process of understanding what has happened to them in a safe and secure environment.

A rehab more than anything else is in a sense a bit of a bubble. Rehabs will acknowledge this and say that being part of a bubble or a safe and secure environment away from the plces where they have been drinking or using is an important part of their recovery.

Anonymity is intended to work at different levels for the individual whilst in rehab and/or whilst they are in the process of recovery in 12 step fellowships such as Alcoholics Anonymous.

At its most basic level, anonymity does provide a degree of confidentiality and privacy that allows the individual to own their own problems in a nonjudgemental and safe environment.

Whilst it may be patently obvious to every one else in the individual’s life that they have a chronic drink and/or drug problem, the denial that the alcoholic has and the sense of isolation that they have internally about their life means they feel hugely vulnerable to any one else finding out that they have a need to drink which they cannot control.

Anonymity is a powerful safety valve that is hugely important to an alcoholic especially in the early stages of their recovery. It is meant to take the pressure off them that they feel internally about their drinking and / drug use.

There will come a point when an alcoholic feels comfortable telling his / her immediate circle of family and friends that he / she is in recovery and what the nature of that recovery consists of.

However the freedom as to when the alcoholic tells people is something that is crucially important for them to decide, and should be based on their own internal sense of acceptance of their alcoholism, not any external pressure.