Do you wear your sobriety as a badge of honor, or do you hide it away like your stepdad did his collection of porn magazines? That’s the topic of today’s blog post, which is why I wrote that question, instead of a different one.
After immersing myself in sobriety culture, I’ve recognized two main schools of thought when it comes to sobriety and anonymity: 1) being honest and open about being an alcoholic in recovery with people outside of AA, and 2) hiding that shit away, like your stepdad did his… oh wait, I’ve already written that, so let’s get on with talking about the pros and cons of both schools of thought, and by “let’s get on with talking,” I mean I’ll write the words and you can read them.
That type of talking.
- Hiding that shit away and being deep undercover
Anonymity to some people means going to any length maintain it, including getting pissed at family members who betray it.
When I first started going to AA, people exhibiting this school of thought surprised me a little, but then again, doing anything that didn’t involve making myself vomit on a Saturday afternoon also surprised me, so what did I know?
It makes total sense you’d want to hide the fact you’re an alcoholic from certain people. Your employer, for example. It’s difficult enough to get ahead on a level playing field, let alone when your employer knows you’re one glass of chardonnay on a ponce’s yacht away from devolving into an employee who shouldn’t be let anywhere near heavy machinery.
This school of thought is also an easier way to live your life. As I’ve mentioned before on this blog, people don’t like the word alcoholic, and by extension, they don’t like the alcoholic. He challenges them to think about their own drinking habits just by mentioning he doesn’t drink, or even by just choosing to drink a club soda at a bar instead of joining him in a round of Jägerbombs, and we all know how Baby reacts when you even just feign taking his bottle away.
My sponsor is a heavy proponent of this school of thought, so much so that he’s asked me to refer to him as codename White Knight if I mention him or her on the blog, and I totally respect that, White Knight, I really do.
Just kidding. It’s definitely a him.
My girlfriend, who has allowed me to use her forename, only spelled backwards, takes her anonymity so seriously she’s masquerading as an active alcoholic. When Iris had a discussion with a colleague about her plans for the 17th of May—Norway’s national day; the biggest drinking day on the calendar—she told her colleague she was going to start drinking in the morning and get progressively shitfaced as the day went on, like any respectable Norwegian. Iris, to maintain her anonymity, is deep undercover as the diametric opposite of what she is, like Donnie Brasco.
That’s some serious anonymity game, Iris.
- Being honest and open about it
For one White Knight, I come across one and a half alcoholics in recovery who don’t sweat remaining anonymous. I both respect these people and think they’re idiots.
Let me explain.
On the one hand, they’re letting their small part of the world know—at least anyone who’ll listen, at least—that they’re one beer mix-up at a bar away from devolving into the type of person who you question has on clean underwear each morning.
They may choose to only tell select people—a really close friend at work, maybe, or the person with whom they’re having an affair—but the problem with anonymity is you can’t pick and choose with whom you have it. You tell one person, and the cat’s out the bag. When you decide to tell Bill at work, you have to assume Bill will tell all and sundry, including your boss, who’s the person who decides who operates the heavy machinery.
See where I’m going with this?
That’s the idiot part.
The part that I respect is that I think it’s important to destroy this ridiculous stereotype people have of the alcoholic—that the only type of alcoholic that exists is the whirlwind alcoholic who loses his job, drinks whisky for breakfast, and eventually loses everything.
By telling people you’re an alcoholic, by presenting yourself well—with fresh underwear and a finely chosen aftershave, for example—you are, inch by inch, destroying this ridiculous stereotype.
The reason that’s important is that stereotype is dangerous. People use it as a yardstick, justifying their carrying on drinking, when they’re so close to getting help.
So there we have it.
What’s my preference? I hear you ask. I think in early sobriety, you don’t have a choice. Get thinking of that codename, because until you have a solid length of sober time under your belt, your sobriety doesn’t command any respect. People might clap at AA when you get your 24-hour medallion, but that’s more out of encouragement than congratulations.
As I’m in early sobriety, I’m really careful about whom I tell. I have an online presence as an alcoholic in recovery, and assume the chances of my boss reading this shit are slim to none. They’re insignificant.
Only when I get to around five years of sobriety, if that day comes—knock on wood and take it one day at a time, yada yada yada—will I consider whether I want to be a White Knight, or that dude who upon meeting a new colleague immediately tells them they once crashed their car into a tree while simultaneously pissing themselves, and that’s not even the funny part.
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