One of the most charming aspects of Alcoholics Anonymous is its complete anonymity. People are not forced to reveal their name if they don’t want to, and the use of last names are completely frowned upon. “Outing” someone as an alcoholic in the outside world is a major “no-no”.

I worked with a man who I knew to be a recovering alcoholic. I can’t remember the exact circumstance where it became evident that I didn’t drink, but he asked me if I was a “friend of Bill W”. Being “a friend of Bill W” means that you are a recovering alcoholic or member of AA. I told him I was vaguely acquainted with him and visit him from time to time, though not as often as most people. He got the message.

He then went on to tell me the names of people we jointly knew who were also friends of Bill W. Obviously I was astounded by his severe lack of respect for the anonymity of these people, but I was seriously stunned by the number of names, and the diverse occupations, of the people he mentioned. There was a judge, a cop, a renowned triathlete, someone high in our organization, and a few people we worked with. None of these people would I ever expect had an issue with alcohol. To me, they looked like everyday people with normal lives.

I guess that is the point. Alcoholics are everywhere among us – we just don’t know it. You may think you are alone or a rare being, but you are surrounded by people just like you, who have experienced the same issues you have.

I found out later that my little friend at work at “outed” me to other co-workers with malicious intent. I didn’t care, of course, since I am comfortable in my sobriety. I did care, however, that he broke our confidentiality and the basic tenet of Alcoholics Anonymous – anonymity. We are no longer friends.