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Addiction Recovery: How to Protect Your Privacy While Getting the Help You Need

The word “anonymous” appears in the names of most respected recovery programs. There is a clear expectation of membership that we not identify others as belonging to or participating in organizations like AA, NA, FA, Al-Anon, and many others. For some of us, being identified in the mainstream as a member would be personally and/or professionally disastrous. For others, being identified would be humiliating or shameful.

Social media has made protecting anonymity increasingly difficult. All it takes is for a photo of an organizational outing or a mention of our name tied to a program and our privacy is violated. Sadly, efforts to protect privacy may result in exclusion from fellowship, advocacy efforts, or even from meetings altogether.

Getting your needs met when the stakes are high requires innovation. Here are some ideas that may help.

Balancing Privacy and Treatment Needs

Engaging Family

Family members can be a great source of confidential support.

Too many of us fail to seek assistance from our relatives and kin. We often feel that we have imposed upon them too much already. If we change our perspective many of us suffer a shocking epiphany: We’ve only allowed them to experience the problem and not consented to their involvement in the solution.

Loving an active alcoholic or addict is a heartbreaking experience. Moving from powerlessness to support of recovery is beneficial to the willing family member.

Professional Support for Recovery

Safeguarding your anonymity.

Individual therapy, group therapy, and Intensive Outpatient Programs (IOP) can all be extremely beneficial.

  • The risk of having your confidentiality violated is smallest in individual therapy, since addiction professionals are bound by law to uphold anonymity.
  • Secondly, group therapy sessions are also reasonably safe  In this setting, your peers are people who have been screened, admitted, and directed to maintain confidentiality by professional facilitators.

Seeking professional support for recovery does carry a small degree of risk. Prominent community leaders and professionals of all kinds have expressed to me their fears of being spotted in my waiting room. Accommodations to ensure anonymity are a reasonable request to make of any addictions professional.

Virtual Recovery

Total privacy.

Online meetings offer the greatest protection of anonymity. Twenty four hours a day, there are meetings addressing the needs of most every form of recovery. One can visit a web site, enter with a made up user name and offer no identifying information whatsoever. Participants most often communicate through text chat.

Getting What You Need at Work

A mutual self-interest for privacy.

Those who have the most to lose usually have the most to offer. Medical professionals are perhaps the best example. Very few folks would be eager to receive treatment from a physician known to be an alcoholic, so in hospitals across the country, there are groups of doctors, nurses, and others meeting to support recovery. Some of these are formal AA or NA groups and some are informal. The fear of having one’s anonymity violated is mitigated by all members having equal risk and reward.

Make a Choice

Even in sobriety we find that there are times we’re more focused on the problem than on the solution. If there are doors that must remain closed to us, than we must find an open window. There are countless paths to recovery. All of them include connection to others seeking growth, healing, and a better life.

Clinical Social Worker/Therapist
My story is I'm forever a work in progress and I love connecting with REAL people who are doing great things. I'm blessed to be making a living doing something I love. I'm a proud dad and the luckiest husband ever. I'm an aspiring author - check out my recovery blog at: Thanks! Jim

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