March 1, 2006
In March, Alcoholics Anonymous sent its annual Anonymity Letter to the media, expressing gratitude for protecting the identities of its members at the public level and asking for their continuing help. It further thanks the media for coverage worldwide that, since A.A.’s beginnings in 1935, “has played a vital part in carrying A.A.’s message of hope and recovery to the many people still suffering from alcoholism.”
The Anonymity Letter is now 57 years old and remains A.A.’s main media event. Compared with the wordy missive that was first sent off in 1949, today’s letter is brief and featured on A.A.’s Website (www.aa.org) as well. Yet the message, despite tucks and trims, remains the same, asking the media to identify A.A. members only by their first names and last initials, and to use no recognizable pictures or electronic images. Written in English, French and Spanish, it goes out to a media list that includes over 9,000 daily and weekly newspapers and radio and TV stations in the U.S. and Canada.
Emphasizing that A.A. members are always happy to see articles about their Fellowship, but not in terms of individual personalities, the letter points out that “the principle of anonymity is a basic tenet of our Fellowship. Those who are reluctant to seek our help may overcome their fear of exposure if they are confident their anonymity will be respected. In addition, and perhaps less understood, our tradition of anonymity at the public level acts as a restraint on our members, reminding us that we are a program of principles, not personalities – and that no individual member may presume to act as a spokesman or leader of A.A.”
Because A.A. has given so many sick alcoholics their very lives back, there are some who question the Fellowship’s adherence to anonymity. In an era when the media reaches and educates so many people up close and with great impact, they wonder if perhaps A.A.’s anonymity tradition keeps members from connecting with the alcoholic in pain.
Many more, however, are quick to point out that individual recovery in A.A. comes first: The anonymity tradition, often called the heartbeat of A.A., is designed to keep egos in check, to give members a way of bridling their drive for personal prestige and power-in short, to stay sober. They further note that, thanks in large part to the anonymity tradition, some 2 million alcoholics worldwide have found sobriety in A.A., and more are coming every day.
Media inquiries should be directed to:
Public Information Coordinator (212) 870-3119 or firstname.lastname@example.org