Anonymity as a Philosophy
Anonymity is a philosophy that is often difficult to practice. When you have turned your life around, you want to shout it from the rooftops and tout your accomplishments to all the world. Given that the relapse rate is very high, it is not a good idea to blow your own horn when you may find yourself back on a barstool in short order. In the early days of AA, there were a few celebrities who went to meetings and publicly pronounced that they were now living the clean and sober life courtesy of this great new organization called Alcoholics Anonymous. A little while later, the press reported their latest drunken scene at the Stork Club. Not good public relations.
There was also a stigma against alcoholics. It was considered a moral failing and a sign of low character, and attempts at recovery were not respected. They were often considered the last-ditch efforts of a scoundrel. Ironically, people were fired from jobs if the employer learned that they were in AA. Fortunately, that's a far cry from these more compassionate times.
There is also the connection between anonymity and humility. A distinction should be made between humility and humiliation. As Aristotle observed, the truly unselfish act must be done willingly, not to score points and impress people and enhance your reputation. AA urges its members to place “principles before personalities.” The importance of this philosophy cannot be underestimated. The principles of Alcoholics Anonymous are noble and life-affirming. People being people, sometimes self-important egotists can monopolize a meeting, feeding their hubris with vainglorious efforts to establish themselves as the authority on AA and recovery. Such prima donnas must be shunned by a newcomer. They are the antithesis of midwives in the Socratic tradition. They cross the line from humble philosopher to cult leader wannabe. After all, people did not happily sashay through the doors of an AA meeting because life was wonderful and they were totally together, deep, and wise thinkers. AA represents a cross-section of the population — the Idiot Factor is as present as at your job or local diner.
Recovery, especially in the early stages, is a deeply difficult and personal struggle, and it is best to make the effort amidst the friendly confines of an AA meeting room where you can draw on the fellowship of like-minded folks.