Anonymity is the spiritual foundation of all our traditions,
Ever reminding us to place principles above personalities.
Our public relations policy is based on attraction rather than promotion;
We need always maintain personal anonymity at the level of press, radio, TV and films.
We need guard with special care the anonymity of all AA members.
“In Al-Anon, attraction means we share how the program works for us and how it can work for others.
We attract when we convey that Al-Anon and Alateen groups are friendly and inviting to all.
Attraction is drawing others to us by reflecting positive qualities. Means of attraction include:
- Providing information
- Generating goodwill
- Cooperating with professionals and the media
- Explaining how Al-Anon/Alateen works in our lives.”
Many members are surprised to find that the tradition allows us to issue press releases about our meetings and events, provide Public Service Announcements to TV and Radio stations, give catalogues and order forms to libraries who may want to order books and pamphlets, place ads in newspapers, school yearbooks, church bulletins and community publications, create websites for members and potential members, and list contact information in telephone directories. Al-Anon is not a secret – in fact we’d all benefit if more people took advantage of the tools and principles of the program. What is a secret is that Joe or Nancy or Maria is a member. That’s a key difference and it’s important to understand what is at stake when we speak about the program to people outside the rooms or interact with the press or other organizations. The tradition makes it very clear – we attract anonymously…
- A member shares, “Tradition 11 is such a gift! A policy of anonymity and attraction rather than promotion creates an oasis of safety and freedom in a world that is increasingly full of big personalities with loud voices all pushing agendas on us. If there were celebrities representing Al-Anon I might never have walked through the door simply because of my feelings about THEM. Or I may have felt intimidated by their presence. By stressing anonymity we are free to simply be allies in our recovery … one day at a time working the program.”
- A member shares, “There are as many different ways of experiencing Al-Anon as there are participants in the program and Tradition 11 says none of us speak for the program as a whole.”
- A member shares, “To me the 11th Tradition is about personal responsibility and respect and a caring for people wherever they are in their recovery. Personal progress depends on unity which depends on anonymity which is a main spiritual principle of Al-Anon.”
By relying on our spiritual principles, we are able to represent the true nature of the program when we share it with others.
- A member shares, “The reminder of attraction rather than promotion helps us to be humble and to trust our own growing serenity and peace will be enough to help others find their way to program.”
- A member shares, “I don’t have to earn love. I don’t have to earn respect. I just have to practice the principles and show up the best me I can be in the moment. Then I will attract the right people.”
When the AA and Al-Anon fellowships were first forming, they discovered that there were many hazards in sharing the program. First there was the problem presented when a member talked about the program publicly… and then fell off the wagon. Not a good look. And not helpful for members who were under enough pressure without having to “represent” the program as a whole. Then there were the risks to the people in our lives. We are warned in particular to guard the anonymity of the alcoholics we know. This is one reason the term “qualifier” was unofficially adopted by many Al-Anon members. It was shorter than “the person whose drinking bothers me” and safer than potentially “outing” someone by referring to them as a husband, wife, son or daughter. While the stigma of alcoholism has lessened in some circles, it can still impact a person’s standing at work and in the community and most importantly it can impact the alcoholic’s recovery. Finally there were the dangers to our own personal recovery. There are triggers inherent in spreading the word about a program that had changed our lives. Given our Al-Anonic tendencies, it was a very small step from sharing to promoting…
“If we “promote,” we no longer merely exhibit our value and worth; instead, we are in a “selling” mode
that may result in resistance rather than encourage the attraction of new members.
- Using “pressure tactics” – not taking “no” for an answer.
- Making promises.
- Comparing ourselves to self-help or professional programs for families.
- Exaggerating or misrepresenting Al-Anon’s purpose; that we can help everyone.
- Presenting ourselves as a spokesperson for Al-Anon Family Groups, by allowing our full name, face, and membership to be identified at the level of press, radio, film, TV, and internet.”
“Promoting” is what brought many of us into program. We’d tried everything to get someone to change, to do it our way, to agree we were right. Luckily Tradition Eleven protects us from our own worst tendencies. We are to attract… not promote.
- A member shares, “Tradition Eleven reminds me that it’s not my job to convince anyone to change their ways or come to program. When I first heard attraction rather than promotion it sounded passive to me, but I’ve learned that surrendering the need to promote program and asking for guidance from Higher Power actually makes me more clear and capable of influencing positive outcomes. When I put aside my agenda and don’t push anyone to come to program, when I keep the focus on my own recovery, when I remember it’s up to HP and I listen for HP’s guidance, I’m more likely to take effective actions, to step up and do service, to have the Grace to drop my judgments and be more welcoming to those whose paths may be different from mine. After all, it was the warm hugs and smiles and calm presence of other members that reassured me I could find healing in the rooms.”
- A member shares, “Promotion is my will. Attraction is God’s will.”
No one says this is easy. Finding the line between attraction and promotion takes awareness and discipline. It’s also important to keep practicing our program – to know what we are feeling and stand up for ourselves.
- A member shares, “It’s important to me to have a voice – to not go silent, to not check out. So the challenge is to be active - to let go of the anger and emotion and to let go of the results.”
- A member shares, “Honestly, I have doubts about this tradition. While I have no answers, I do have a question: Is there a better way? In my community, there are about 25 AA meetings a week. Al-Anon meets once during that same seven-day stretch. Given the wide swathe of damage caused by substance abuse, the reverse makes more sense. Recently I saw for the first time a federally funded public health campaign to acknowledge the impact of alcoholism. The ad’s focus was an adorable child. The fact that this child will grow up has yet to seep into the public consciousness. Luckily, the anonymity of the Internet brings Al-Anonic voices to the fore in a way that meshes with this tradition. In forums like this site, people can learn about our path and how we live it. But mine is not to question why. While I’m a life-long seeker of truth, I bow to the tradition and assume that if a change is needed, it will come. As an AA friend says, “The information is there for those who want it.”
The information is there and in doing service in the spirit of this tradition, we can help make it more widely available. The key is to be willing to do the service and carry the message.