An anonymous comment, dated February 15th, on my posting "Is AA A Cult?" has given me food for thought for the past week or so since I read it.
Here it is, copy/pasted in its entirety:
Whatever happened to the Traditions, Mr. Sponsorpants? Eleven protects us all, and Twelve states that anonymity is the, "spiritual foundation." Those words are not chosen lightly. This entire site turns my stomach and gives me the hee-bee-geebies. Thank Heaven this fellowship is self-correcting, but I have to shake my head at this entire endeavour of YOURS, MR. SPONSORPANTS. People might start to think you speak for the Program. uh.... Please, pray on it, and consider taking it down, and keep it in the rooms. "What you hear here and whom you see here, let it stay here when you leave here!!!" I sincerely feel this site violates the spirit of our sacred fellowship.
I've had enough turmoil lately -- and enough fatigue from working some crazy-ass long hours at work now -- that I needed to really take some time before I spoke to this comment -- but I knew I would, since it raises a larger and important question about sobriety, anonymity and the internet.
In thinking about this, and the blog in general (as I close in on almost three years of regular blogging on AA and sobriety), I can see where someone might be very troubled by what I've done here. (And I am going to limit this to what I've done -- what others have, are, or will do is not something I have control over. AA has taught me to try to take responsibility for my side of the street, and although I do it imperfectly, I can say that I do consistently try to do it.)
Out of a combination of laziness and a desire not to be repetitive I do not always state, with every entry in which I discuss other AA's in any way -- or anyone else, for that matter -- that, to preserve anonymity, while everything I write here is, to the best of my ability, 100% true, it is not 100% factual.
That is, I work hard to be true to the spirit of a conversation or an exchange or a person or a share or whatever, without giving identifying facts which would break anonymity. I know I've mentioned before that, to my credit (and the occasional sponsee's chagrin) I have an excellent auditory memory -- that is, I remember what I hear very well. Thus when I talk about conversations, etc., I believe I am telling the truth -- my quotes are fairly accurate, given a margin for human error. I may not get something word-pefect, but I fairly provide context and capture meaning.
But what I write about others is purposely, to preserve anonymity, not factual. That is, if I say I had a conversation with someone (a sponsee, a friend, a co-worker) it might actually (for example) have been two people, blended into one, to convey a point or paint a picture. Or specific descriptives about someone are not at all factual, but are in fact altered to keep the person anonymous -- though I still try to convey to the reader the sense of a person or situation's dynamic. (A crude example of that -- and one I've not used in any story which is why I use it here -- is that I might describe someone who had terrible, terrifying table manners as a person who spoke too loudly, and spit a bit when they spoke, over dinner -- you get the sense of a potentially uncomfortable social dynamic over a meal, but the facts have been changed to preserve anonymity.) I always in some way blur or omit gender, age, time sober, location, etc. (at the cost of some clumsy syntax, but that's the price required to do that.)
If that hasn't been said as often as it should, or been made clear when I've tried to address it, I'll link this entry to the "Who Are You, Mr. SponsorPants?" heading on the right of the site, and hopefully that will feature the information more prominently for anyone who has questions or concerns. I think it a reasonable assumption that a blog reader, if curious about authorship and/or content, clicks around a little bit.
As for people thinking I speak for AA, I feel like my conscience is pretty clear on that front. I've repeated the fact that I do not -- and that in fact no one does -- speak for AA in any way, shape or form on any entry where it is germane to the point(s) being made.
The whole Mr. SponsorPants blog started as an act of service born of my sincere prayer for help. (And one is always in danger, when thinking that they're acting on an answer to a prayer, of being at the least foolish and at the most dangerous, I think that's important to acknowledge too.) As with any act of service I have done in sobriety, my ego has occasionally wormed its way in. At the same time, God gave us gifts to use, and if we're using them in a sincere effort to be of service then using them -- and enjoying using them -- is the right thing to be doing (the "proper use of the will" as the book "Alcoholics Anonymous" says).
My first sponsor had a beautiful singing voice. He was, in fact, a professional singer. Early in my sobriety I told him I was worried that I was "performing" when I shared. That I was "trying" to be funny. He asked me if I thought of things to say before I shared, and I truthfully answered 'not very much.' He asked me if I was trying to be funny on purpose, or it sometimes just came out that way, but I was also just trying to be honest. I said, again truthfully, that I wasn't entirely sure, but it mostly just came out that way. Then he asked me if he should purposely sing off-key when we sang "Happy Birthday" to someone taking a cake for a sober anniversary. Caught off guard by the question I'm sure I said something like 'of course not!' He said that if he was trying to sing louder than everyone to show off, then that was ego, but if he was singing loudly to help the group's song then that was service -- that he was using the gifts God gave him in service to the meeting. He put it better than I am now, but the spirit of that idea has always helped me in sorting out using our abilities for service or for ego. I crack wise when I write to entertain myself more than anything else (also it's just the way my mind works) -- and sometimes it helps people take information in -- or just brighten a day, for God's sake. (And if I'm occasionally taken too literally rather than in the spirit of fun which is intended... well, half on me for not being clear, and half on the literal taker for having a stick up their ass losing their sense of fun.) So although sometimes my ego has stepped in, on the whole I think "the spirit of our sacred fellowship" is as much about service and carrying the message as it is anything else.
And while I do not advocate in any way a change to the Traditions or the customs and principles which the fellowship of AA has developed over time and which serve us so well, in the 21st Century how people find and take in information has most definitely changed.
As I understand my AA history (and I have absolutely no doubt that someone will gently correct me if I am mistaken on this) the motivation for writing the book "Alcoholics Anonymous" was two-fold: First, to accurately record and present AA's 12 suggested Steps and plan for recovery to anyone who might need it, and second, to reach people who might not find their way into an AA meeting -- either from not having one near them or from a fear of being seen at one or whatever. Also, the personal stories in the back of the Big Book (AA's nickname for the book "Alcoholics Anonymous") were so that people could "hear" other people talk about their alcoholism and recovery and possibly identify.
I think virtually any writing about AA and sobriety on the internet has the opportunity to do those same things: Accurately quote and present AA's plan for recovery, and share personal experiences about drinking, practicing AA's principles, and living sober, for others to identify with. (And as anyone with some sober miles under their belt will tell you, the need to identify with other sober AA's -- and be comforted and inspired by them -- does not vanish over time.)
So hopefully this blog can be a part of that larger purpose. While I want to take personal responsibility for anything here that is problematic regarding AA's traditions, etc., I also want to laud the great extended spiritual family of recovering bloggers -- in every 12 Step fellowship -- who share their experience and wisdom in this fashion -- whether it's every day or only occasionally. If someone Googles anything 12 Step related they will find a lot of help out there now -- and that's a moving and wonderful thing.
Again I am certain that someone will be glad to correct me if I am greatly mistaken, but I think that carrying the Traditions forward and applying their spirit to a new and ever-changing world of how people find and take in information is not the same thing as violating them.
Hopefully this post has been more demonstrative than defensive -- I gave the comment, the questions it raised for me, and this writing a lot of thought before I brought it to the table.