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Old 06-29-2014, 10:35 AM   #1 (permalink)
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AA and a breach of anonymity


Hello lovely SR folks,

I am approaching one year sober (July 3) and I've been struggling a lot, especially over the past one month. I've been quite depressed, wondering why, at almost a year, I don't feel farther ahead in my hopefulness about my choice to embrace sobriety. I feel lonely and adrift a good deal of the time.

I see an addictions counsellor, and am happily a member of SR. I joined in April 2013, and did not fully embrace sobriety until July of that year, when I called an addictions agency and fully admitted to being an alcoholic.

I had tried AA in 2012. I struggled with the concept, and upon seeing a former patient at one of the meetings (I'm a retired MD, and she is also an MD), I fled in terror and never returned to meetings. I live in a smaller city, and am known about town because of my former profession.

I post mostly in my July 2013 class and I value the friendships and support there enormously.

However, as I feel I've been floundering I decided to look at AA again, and suspend my reservations about the process. I've read so many encouraging stories of hope and good outcomes here, even from people who, like myself, have struggled with the concept of a faith system, a higher power.

Today, I went to a meeting. Afterwards, I saw a man who had been a former patient too, another MD. He spoke to me and said "I heard you were hanging around these doors". I said, "I thought this was supposed to be anonymous?" He said, "It was another medical person". I knew of course, that it had been my other former female patient. I think it was careless of him also, to divulge the matter in the way he did.

I haven't encountered this woman in any respect since that meeting, but if I choose to continue to explore AA, I'm likely to see her again. I'm struggling to know how to respond to the fact that she breached my anonymity.
I would have never done such a thing. Being in the medical profession especially, I fervently respected and guarded the privacy and anonymity of all my patients, even when/especially when such patients were known to my late husband, colleagues of his/spouses of colleagues and so forth.

I feel very disappointed and let down. I don't feel ashamed or angry, much to my surprise. I've come too far, I guess, to respond in this manner.

I wonder if those more familiar with the AA process might guide me as to how best to deal with this situation? I tend to bottle things up and don't easily reach out for help, but of course, things just go around and around in an endless loop of negativity if I'm left to my own devices, hence my decision to look again at AA.

My initial feeling is to not say anything to this woman, but is that getting off on the "wrong foot" with respect to the AA process? If I speak to her about my disappointment, can there possibly be a good outcome? It's a horrible dilemma for me right now, because there is the whole Dr- Patient (former) dynamic at play too. I'm terribly confused. I just want to do the right thing, and get better.

Many thanks to anyone who might provide me with some help.
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Old 06-29-2014, 10:46 AM   #2 (permalink)
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you should share this experience at the meetings you attend as its the only way it will serve as a warning about the anonymity that has been broken
alcoholics anonymous is anonymous for a reason, people need to feel free to come to aa for help from all walks of life without fear of there drink problem leaking out
professionals are more at risk of losing there livelihoods by loose talk around the meetings

so please speak out about it at the meetings sponsors are suposed to teach members about the importance of anonymity

all i can do is say sorry to you for this and i hope you will carry on with aa each member is responsible for there own actions in aa

we have a yellow card which is read out at the end of everymeeting

it says
who you see here
what you hear here
when you leave here
please let it stay here

in other words dont repeat who you have seen or discuss it with anyone else what has been said by who
gossip kills
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Old 06-29-2014, 10:52 AM   #3 (permalink)
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I'm sorry for your situation.

I'm not in AA so can't over any advice, but clearly your anonymity was compromised.
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Old 06-29-2014, 10:52 AM   #4 (permalink)
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Because of the nature of the program there will always be a percentage of individuals who cannot "keep a secret". Since it is an "honest program" I don't think it would do any harm in asking this person IF and why she thought it was okay to share your involvement.

AA is not a professional organization. So with that comes the risk of people not following the rules, er suggestions. There is a wide variety of folks who come to AA. Some I wouldn't trust holding a balloon for me. Others I would trust with my life. It comes with the territory. And yes, people do talk. Gossip in AA can be rampant some times. It is sad really. But for the most part, real and genuine people (90+%) do keep it inside the rooms.

I understand why, being a professional and publicly known, it is difficult for some to enter the realm of AA. Yours is one example. I wish you luck going forward. I do know that some travel out of their way to attend meetings. If it is an option, consider it.
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Old 06-29-2014, 10:54 AM   #5 (permalink)
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Hello Leshar,
I know this is difficult. I am also a very visible professional person, and many people know me. In my profession I have a rock solid reputation, and some people at meetings who know me are visibly surprised, but that wears off in minutes. We all go, regardless of the mask on the outside, because we are alcoholics, and we want to improve our lives. Were these closed meetings or open to the public?
My first reaction was that even though these are peers, and former patients, they are alcoholics too. We establish a brotherhood in our AA groups, with a high regard for the anonymity part of it. I don't think you were betrayed at all since it was two people in the group having the discussion. We look out for each other, and there may have been a lot of concern in their conversation. You are new, do you have a sponsor? That will be very important, and a good discussion to have with them.
I would advise you to keep your eye on the prize. Lifelong sobriety is worth almost any price, and it also means that if you are giving AA a try, that you embrace and work the 12 steps. Step 1 says:
We admitted we were powerless over alcohol—that our lives had become unmanageable.
Concentrate on that "unmanageable" part. You are giving up the control of all situations in the first 3 steps which are the foundation of the entire program. I wish you the best, you cannot do it alone, and AA works for many people. I attend meetings regularly and the experience and insight are priceless if you truly want to stay sober. I learned long ago that I had to check my ego at the door when I go to a meeting, it has no place amongst the comrades you will find there. Hope that helps.
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Old 06-29-2014, 10:55 AM   #6 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by desypete View Post
we have a yellow card which is read out at the end of everymeeting

it says
who you see here
what you hear here
when you leave here
please let it stay here
I like this, though in every walk of life people fail to stick to the rules!! . . . hopefully you can find a solution!!
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Old 06-29-2014, 11:00 AM   #7 (permalink)
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Thank you, Desypete.

This was the first AA meeting I've attended since the Spring of 2012.
A gentleman introduced me to some ladies after today's meeting, and they suggested that I attend a ladies' meeting this Wednesday.

I should add that when I saw my former female patient at an AA meeting in 2012, and I said I "fled in terror", I didn't actually run away from the meeting. I figured at the time, no, I've got to see this through, and at the end of the meeting, I said "Hello" to her, she happened to be sitting in the row ahead of me. We spoke briefly, I remember she said she had a sponsor, and that she attended a women's meeting.
I admit, I sort of freaked out about running into her again, and this "excuse" fuelled my decision not to return to AA.

I imagine she may attend the women's meeting that was suggested to me. This is where I'm struggling.
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Old 06-29-2014, 11:01 AM   #8 (permalink)
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I agree with purpleknight. People are not going to be closed-mouthed about everything.

I have a big issue with sharing personal stuff with anyone. AA meetings are no exception. If you go to AA meetings, people are going to want to know about you and there is no way to be closed-mouthed about things. If you are not a person who shares intimate details easily, AA is a painful process.

There is always counseling, or other spiritual practices or hobbies. I think just being part of the world and making friends works pretty well - especially if you have recently retired and feel at odds. What about volunteering at a free clinic or a homeless shelter? Getting out of your head is the main thing.

And not drinking.
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Old 06-29-2014, 11:15 AM   #9 (permalink)
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Thanks to all for the further responses.

LBrain, I wonder if I may indeed need to travel further afield.
BlueSkiesAhead, I know the bottom line is as you say, "keeping my eye on the prize". I'm not sure if you understand what I meant? I encountered the woman over two years ago, and today, the man told me that he'd heard I'd been "hanging around" the meetings, not a very nice way of putting it, I thought, so clearly this woman breached my anonymity by telling him she'd seen me, two years before, so I do feel disappointed and puzzled, not betrayed actually. Funnily enough, at the meeting where I met my former patient two years ago, I remember the speaker talking about how, in his opinion, anonymity in AA was a nebulous concept, and to be careful, because people loved to gossip! She gossiped, in my opinion, and I don't know how to deal with it, if I'm to try AA again. I just want to not let it bother me, but I don't want to get into a school yard fight about it, or be petty and silly about it. I guess I just expected better of her, being that she, like me, ought to be bound the medical code of ethics, at the very least, that I hold dear.
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Old 06-29-2014, 11:18 AM   #10 (permalink)
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Thanks, biminiblue,

Yes, I know I need to expand my social circle and get more involved in my community.
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Old 06-29-2014, 11:24 AM   #11 (permalink)
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If, a member of AA drops my name to another AA member I don't have a problem with it.
I've had people outside AA I've told them to give my number to a family member or friend with alcohol problems.
I do understand with your profession it would be wise to keep your anonimity.
That being said, no one is supposed to mention a person's name they saw at a meeting.
At this stage in my recovery, it's not a concern for me.
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Old 06-29-2014, 11:33 AM   #12 (permalink)
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Thanks, Captainzing. If I understand what you're saying, the fact that the "breach" was all within AA is acceptable? That's cool with me if this is what you're saying. Truly, I mean I just need to know what is what, and the best way to handle all this!
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Old 06-29-2014, 11:33 AM   #13 (permalink)
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Perhaps there's more shame to this matter after all. I'm starting to feel quite sick, physically, about the whole thing.
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Old 06-29-2014, 11:44 AM   #14 (permalink)
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I would bring it up at the next meeting you go to. Perhaps the women's meeting this person may be at. I'd put it out there to the group so it can reinforce the courtesy of not talking about who is seen at meetings. I'd be upset if someone dropped my name in such a way.
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Old 06-29-2014, 11:46 AM   #15 (permalink)
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BlueSkiesAhead,

I'm sorry, I see now what you meant, in the same way as Captainzing put it about the discussion all being within the AA framework. I apologize for my misunderstanding.
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Old 06-29-2014, 11:48 AM   #16 (permalink)
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Thank you, Least. I don't want to keep running away.
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Old 06-29-2014, 11:50 AM   #17 (permalink)
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I attend AA and it's fairly common for those within AA to say they saw or spoke with so and so at another meeting. So I too think it may be an unspoken theory that it's okay to share with those involved with AA about others...as for those outside of AA it's definitely not okay to share about who or what was seen and heard at a meeting.They have open meetings for this : )

As for the shame aspect, I dealt with this for a long time and it actually kept me out of the rooms of AA. Today I accept who I am and the disease I was born with and I'd rather save my a** than save face! Today I tell people all the time that I'm a member of AA and hope to continue to spread the message of hope and recovery! One thing that comes to mind is principles before personalities.

Hoping for serenity for you concerning the situation.
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Old 06-29-2014, 11:53 AM   #18 (permalink)
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Thanks, Ultradad. You sound to be a good place. I'm not there. I long for serenity.
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Old 06-29-2014, 11:54 AM   #19 (permalink)
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In my AA group, we do talk "about" other members amongst ourselves mainly out of concern and attempting to help ... often in a twelfth step fashion. This seems to not be the case in your situation ... seems more like gossip. I would be concerned if this person was talking about you outside the circle of AA, (which may be what you are ultimately concerned about?) but not so much if it was between two members. But I am not you and cannot tell you how you should feel about this. It's clearly a concern for you and it needs to be addressed before it becomes something more. It's already making you feel ill and that's not a good mental direction to be going. I agree with desypete that perhaps it should be addressed in a meeting. I wish you the best in handling this situation and please stay strong with your sobriety ... you're almost at a year! Nothing is worth giving up on that!
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Old 06-29-2014, 11:56 AM   #20 (permalink)
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Leshar, it comes and goes : ) For me, it truly was a spiritual experience (not religious) and I found that through AA. You'll get there. I believe in you!
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