Pathway to Anonymity: Setting Aside Everything We Think We Know

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Most of us have probably attended a significant number of meetings where we read How It Works. We often refer to The Twelve Traditions as “Why it works.” How a thing works and why it works are usually two different ideas. Here, let’s give some attention to the transformative power of the 12th tradition, especially the parts about anonymity and working these principles in all our affairs.

Tradition 12: “Anonymity is the spiritual foundation of all our Traditions, ever reminding us to place principles above personalities.”

Undoubtedly, alcohol is cunning, baffling, and powerful. Before recovery, people suffering from alcohol addiction carried the selfishness blamethrower, which kept wellness as far away from them as possible. The Big Book reads that we had a thinking problem, not a drinking problem and that drinking was but a symptom of our thinking problem.

Conversely, before recovery, those suffering from people addiction habitually lose themselves in the selfishness of other people. They continually walked directly into the blast of the blamethrower until, over time, recovered and realized that, as they say in the Friends of Lois Program, The Three C’s: We didn’t Cause it, we can’t Control it, and can’t Cure it. Alcoholism has to run its course; trying to play God to save the alcoholic from themselves is impossible. Throwing a pillow under the alcoholic when they are falling toward their bottom, my Sponsor explained to me, can kill them. We have to let them hit the concrete, she explained.

One of the hardest things I’ve done in my entire life was to let alcoholism take its course in the life of someone I loved desperately. Ultimately, this wonderful human being drank herself to death. I knew that she had a Higher Power God and that it wasn’t me. Part of How It Works reads, “Probably no human power could have relieved us from our alcoholism.”

It is not a moral weakness to be an alcoholic.My Sponsor explained to me further that My Alcoholic was holding on to the bottle and drowning. I was holding on to her to save her from drowning. My Sponsor said if I didn’t let go of her, I would drown right along with her. I prayed about it steadfastly and received a message from my Higher Power about the course of action I was to take. I truly Let Go and Let God. This transformed into not being ”one of” the hardest things but was without a doubt the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my entire life.

It is not a moral weakness to be an alcoholic. I eventually came to believe that I would no longer judge an alcoholic for drinking themselves to death, just as I would not judge someone who was suffering from obesity that died of a heart attack. Alcoholism and heart conditions are both diseases.

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But where does the 12th tradition fit into all of this? My sponsor said that if God took away all my character defects, I would disappear (or become anonymous), also known as, become the hole in the doughnut.

If there is one who has all power, and that One is God, then what is my role in providing service to those who reach out for help? Fleshing this out was simple but not easy for me.

I’ve heard it said that it is none of my business what others think of me. That has brought me some peace. I started to believe that it is also none of my business what I think of me. Instead, I thought it was only my business what God thought of me.

Whether they know it or not, perhaps when someone reaches out for the hand of help, it is probably the case that God is directing their attention to you. Some people think they are not ready to sponsor, but if God puts it on someone’s heart to ask you for help (because they are attracted to something in your life), who are you to tell them “No?” Praying about your answer and telling them “No” afterward is not you telling them “No” but it is your Higher Power telling them “No.” God led them to you to hear a “No” and go to the next person and learn how to accept the no answers of life. You are not Omni-responsible. God is. When the Big Book reads that there is one who has all power, it might mean that you don’t get any (control). Thus, we are back to the hole in the doughnut thing. That’s the anonymity part.

Steps 1 to 11 are there to clean and keep our gifts clean in preparation for Step 12. Step 11 suggests we seek through prayer and meditation only for knowledge of God’s will for us and the power to carry that out. We can only do this by becoming invisible ourselves. We have to get out of our own way to be of maximum service to our fellow and our Higher Power.

When I (as a Messenger) tell my story, it’s a story about how all roads lead from and back to God. God gave me the 12-Step program, and the 12-Step program and Fellowship gave me God. When we surrender our will and life to the care of God as we understand God, our problems are no longer ours. Most of us can’t get out of our own way because of fear. The program founders begged us to be fearless and thorough “from the very start” of getting out of our own way (beginning Step 4) because they knew from experience how fearful they were and how it kept them in a self-imposed prison.

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Consider the Serenity Prayer. Perhaps you have not because you ask not? Anonymity is a gift, not a curse, from God. The smaller I get; the bigger God gets. God grants us serenity and acceptance; both are gifts from God (our part is to be willing to ask for it). Courage is a gift that we received from God, as is wisdom. Profound principles that rise out of working Steps 1 through 11 allow us to pass on these gifts through step 12 (if we get out of our own way to do so).

We are the Messengers, not the Message. If people remember us more than our Message when we tell our story, we have failed them. If you get out of your own way and realize it’s not about you, you can’t fail them or yourself. You’re in charge of what you say; people are in charge of what they hear.

If everyone has turned their will in their lives over the care of God, they will hear God’s will even if we say everything wrong and they don’t understand anything that comes into their ears. God can transform everything! Remember that it’s not possible to be off your spiritual path. All mistakes are blessings in disguise. As Bill W. was fond of saying, “In God’s Economy, nothing is wasted.”

The Highest Degree of Self-Esteem comes from God-Esteem.

Take what you like and leave the rest. We have no ultimate authority but a loving God that is expressed through our Group Conscience.


Timothy G. Cameron is a Double Winner (Friend of Bill & Lois), Motivational Healer, Writer, Founder of Phoenix 490. 

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Last Updated on February 24, 2022

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