Saturday, December 18, 2010

Recovery Blogging and Anonymity - Is There a Problem?

What is your motivation for blogging about your recovery journey?

My motivation for blogging is simply to share my experience, strength and hope with those who still suffer, as I am called to do in Step 12.

What are your thoughts regarding the anonymity of yourself and others both online and off?

In my experience, many of the non-online recovery meetings I attend -- you know, the ones I actually have to get into my car, drive to, and see people face to face at -- have incorporated the following into their meeting format announcements on anonymity: "do not disclose what you hear here or who you see here without that person's expressed consent."

For example, even something as basic as me asking my sponsor who she saw at a meeting would result in this response from her: "you should have gone if you wanted to know." She's right.

I think it is never my place to disclose information about other people by any means (Internet, telephone conversation, email, etc.) in a way that will identify them to others who know them (even something as simple as their attendance at a particular meeting.)

Some bloggers write about the people they sponsor or people in their meetings (and even the details of what these people share in the meetings) and I literally cringe. I try never to do this. I try only to talk about me ("try" being the key word here.) 

On the other hand, maybe people have given these bloggers their permission to discuss their life on the blog. 

For me, blogging is no different than being in an open recovery meeting where anyone is invited to attend.  In both cases, my goals are the same: 
  1. to share my experience, strength, and hope with others and
  2. to try not to talk about other people and their stories 
However, my anonymity is greater protected online than at an open meeting because one, people know who I am at the meetings I frequent and two, if they don't know me they can obviously see what I look like. Neither is possible online because I do not use my real name nor do I post any pictures of myself or anyone I know.

Do you protect your anonymity online and if so, how?

In addition to not using my full name nor posting any photos of myself or those whom I know, I also have not told anyone who knows me in "real life" about this blog (including my program friends, my sponsor, the women I sponsor, non-program friends, family members -with one exception - etc.)

They all know that I do a lot of recovery reading online. They also know that I write a lot but do not know that one of the mediums I use when writing is a blog platform. My husband knows about my blog, he is the only one.

I also do not report specific details about meeting topics, days, times, and what I specifically said in a meeting or to another person.  I never know who might stumble across my blog and think, "Wow, (insert my real name) just said the exact same thing in a meeting last thursday that had the exact same topic.  Oh wow, this girl said these things in a meeting last thursday, too..." 

Maybe I am being paranoid but I haven't yet figured out how to conveniently block my IP address every time I comment on another blog.  I know that many stat counters track times and locations of visitors and so do the blog platforms when visitors leave comments. 

Therefore, it would not take much effort for someone to figure out a person's geographical location.  Although, maybe a lot of people don't know this and in that case, I am going to regret pointing it out!  :)

What do the 12 step programs say about online anonymity and how do you apply it to your Internet activities?

The literature of several 12 step programs states and I quote: "At this altitude (press, radio, films, and television), anonymity -100% anonymity - was the only possible answer. Here, principles would have to come before personalities, without exception."

It also says, "The promoter instinct in us might be our undoing. If even one ["self-appointed members presenting themselves as messiahs representing (the program) before the whole public"] publicly got drunk, or was lured into using (the program's) name for his own purposes, the damage might be irreparable." This is where more is being revealed to me.

"...self-appointed members presenting themselves as messiahs representing (the program) before the whole public..."

First of all, after my blog was up and going for several months, I all of the sudden got a weird feeling about identifying myself as a member of any particular 12 step program because it felt like my "promoter instinct" was kicking in...even though I had a disclaimer statement on my blog's homepage saying that I was in no way representing any 12 step program or any other organization as a whole, that my blog was simply my opinions, etc, etc,.

Nonetheless, I went back through almost 100 posts and changed any reference to any program name to the generic words, "recovery program" or "a 12 step program" because there are many different kinds of recovery and 12 step programs, not just the ones I am in. (I am still in the process of changing these references so if you come across one or notice that I slip one in by accident please let me know.) 

Now, I realize that it would not take much effort for someone to figure out which programs I am in based on what addictions I talk about on this blog but I am doing the best I can to not "promote" those programs by name.

"...was lured into using (the program's) name for his own purposes..."

Next, if my purpose for blogging becomes anything more than being available in a spirit of loving service to my fellows, then I know I should stop. This is why I do not have ads on my blog, for example.

"...publicly got drunk..."

Finally, "even if one publicly got drunk...the damage might be irreparable." Could this happen online? I guess if I wrote a blog post blog post while drunk and told everyone, "hey!  I'm drunk!"  hmmmm....
Any thoughts on this one?

12 step program statements specific to anonymity online

One of the 12 step program's statements on anonymity and internet websites clearly says that "as long as full names and photos are not used, the principles of anonymity are being upheld."

Here is another great reference:


MySpace, Facebook and other social networking Web sites are public in nature. Though users create accounts and utilize usernames and passwords, once on the site, it is a public medium where members and non-members mingle.  As long as individuals do not identify themselves as members, there is no conflict of interest. However, someone using their full name and/or a likeness, such as a full-face photograph, would be contrary to the spirit of the Eleventh Tradition, which states in the Long Form that, “…our [last] names and pictures as members ought not be broadcast, filmed or publicly printed.”  Experience suggests that it is in keeping with the Eleventh Tradition not to disclose membership on social networking sites as well as on any other Web site, blog, electronic bulletin board, etc., that is not composed solely of members, is not password protected or is accessible to the public.

Final Thoughts

In my opinion, any form a self-promotion (i.e., using full name, photo of self, making money, gaining favors, fame, or prestige in anyway) in conjunction with use of any program's name is a definite violation of its stated Traditions.  That being said, I have to remember that the programs themselves state that these Traditions are only "suggestions" (i. e., not laws.)

However, if someone is blatantly ignoring the suggestions on anonymity, I do believe that I have a responsibility as a member of such programs to humbly bring my concern to that person's attention for the sole purpose of helping the programs remain safe, anonymous havens for all those who need them. 

These traditions also teach me how to consider what is best for EVERYONE involved, not just myself, which is another reason to remain anonymous online and off. 

Finally, as with anything in life, I try to remember to work Step 3 and trust that God will safeguard these 12 step programs no matter how badly we may screw them  up! :)


  1. Marie, thanks for your Christmas wishes. Also thanks for laying it on the line re 'anonymity on line'. It has not been a problem with me, even though sometime through the years I may have breached this spiritual concept.

    I still believe we all do the best we can, and God takes care of the rest. Everything you wrote has great merit.

    And yes...when a Tradition is being flagrantly violated, it is my responsibility to 'reach out' and try and be a part of the solution to the problem.

    You done good here, girl!

  2. I was placed in the position of speaking about anonymity at a couple of district workshops in our area not long ago. It was a WONDERFUL opportunity to learn more about anonymity (since I'm always willing to learn more when I'm placed in a position of responsibility in front of a crowd)to carry the message of the program to others.

    You made some great points here Marie, thanks for sharing your views!

  3. I like how you laid this all this out,good food for thought. And yes I have cringed as well, even at myself in hindsight.
    Thanks Marie

  4. Some great points and observations here Marie...God bless you for all you do to help others on line and off. I hope you have a wonderful Christmas! :-)

  5. You have been quiet for a while. I hope all is okay with you.

  6. In the end, for me, it comes down to this: I like to


    There's a big difference between "the newcomer at my Monday noon AA meeting in downtown relapsed again, and his wife kicked him out, and now he's relapsed on gambling, too" and retelling the concepts "when one door closes, the another one opens," or "wow: if that oldtimer still uses the group as their Higher Power, maybe I could, too."

    In 12 Step we re-tell each other's stories/ analogies/ cliches/ ideas all the time, but, UNLIKE THE LITERARY WORLD, it's best form if we do NOT credit the source.

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Thank you for sharing!