As the Betty Ford Center celebrates its 30th birthday and the “First Lady of Recovery”, a reader asks: “Isn’t it time to get rid of the ‘Anonymous’ in AA’s name?”
BILL: “When I go someplace they’re serving liquor,” writes Eddie, “I tell them right off I’m in AA. ‘Anonymous’ sounds like you’re ashamed. I’m proud to tell the world I’m a member of AA and so far today, I’ve got this devil beat.”
DR. DAVE: You belong to that school of thought yourself, Bill. You’ve told us often enough in these columns you’re a member too.
BILL: The Betty Ford people are celebrating their 30th anniversary this month. My feeling is that by open avowal of her addiction, First Lady Ford helped take alcoholism out of the shadows. Therefore, I turned to Dr. Keith Humphreys, an old friend who is Professor of Psychiatry at Stanford and Advisory Council Member, Betty Ford Institute and asked if he agreed. “I am not in recovery,” Keith wrote me, “so I don’t pretend to understand the fear and shame that recovering people may feel before they reveal their substance abuse history. But I do know from the heroic example of Ms. Ford and people like her that when someone who is successful — as a parent, employee, community leader or whatever — is open about being in recovery, it brings hope to the many people still struggling with addiction – a magnificent gift.”
DR. DAVE: Today that world of shame and disgrace feels far away. Thursday my daughter Hanna and I drove to Portland to listen to Bruce Springsteen play the best of New York–New Jersey Rock and Roll. On the way, I listened to a great interview with his guitarist, Nils Lofgren openly talking about his 20 years of alcoholism recovery–while, in an early era, Beatles icon Ringo Starr had to keep his drinking and recovery secret.
BILL: I loved that interview! It takes me back to the later days of Ringo’s music where he put together an All-Start Band with musicians, many of whom, like Nils and Ringo, were openly recovering…
DR. DAVE: But the important thing about the UN-anonymous path that Betty Ford blazed is that we now have actual people and their stories to understand alcoholism and its addiction. In fact, I strongly recommend that interested readers go to this website and join the national “coming out” of persons who are open about their recovery Faces and Voices of Recovery.
BILL: I love that website and its also got the link to the international online recovery meetings called In the Rooms.
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