Outed as recovering - for political reasons: How to Handle?

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marymary
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Outed as recovering - for political reasons: How to Handle?

Post by marymary » Sun Jul 25, 2010 5:22 pm

I'm working on alcohol-related issues in our community - that is, helping establish community awareness about the enormous number of DUI's, alcohol-related deaths and injuries and our out of control alcohol sales by far too many stores and bars. Not far too many in my opinion alone but, far more than our state alcohol board or local police normally allow. But, they're all here and we're swimming in alcohol problems.

So, some of the opposition has taken to mention that I am an alcoholic that's just trying to spoil their fun. They're not putting it so nicely though.

I laugh it off and want to ask about their family tree and by perhaps starting digging around in their lives (the ones I know about that is as several are hiding online) but, I'm certain that's not the best approach. I try to ignore it but, it's coming out in questions from all corners (from coast to coast) in the media and in public meetings.

I'd love to say that yes, I'm a recovering alcoholic for 25+ years and that in my day, the only person I cared about when I was abusing - and not that I cared that much about - was myself. So, I can relate to a lot of drunks being upset we're taking their playground away but, now that I'm older and wiser I can see how much the abuse can damage a community.

Or, I could say - hey, I almost died from a medical condition relating to my heart. I'm not against people running, biking or having fun playing basketball now am I? But, the alcohol is maiming, killing and making a lot of people's lives miserable in our area.

In the end I'm speaking out about slowing down and adding enforcement tools to the police's quiver. I'm not about temperance. I am about speaking out about the lack of enforcement and the apparent little regard by all the bars over-serving so many people as to cause so many problems. Our city has zero dollars to handle the myriad of problems and we just want the alcohol-licensees to foot the bill for enforcement - that's it. However that has triggered a tsunami of opposition by the industry - not too keen on being watched over because of the enormous profits.

The point is they are deflecting the message by attacking the messenger. Since the message is so important I don't mind being known in the community as a recovering alcoholic. I'd rather not however as remaining anonymous is important to our heritage (I would never mention I'm in AA by the way). I just hope people don't discount the message.

Any thoughts? Thanks!

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Re: Outed as recovering - for political reasons: How to Handle?

Post by Marc L » Sun Jul 25, 2010 5:51 pm

Hello marymary;
My name is Marc and I am Alcoholic.
Welcome to e-AA.

Perhaps you are misguided about what Alcoholics Anonymous is and what it does.
In an effort to clarify here is the Preamble of Alcoholics Anonymous:

Alcoholics Anonymous is a fellowship of men and women who share their experience, strength and hope with each other that they may solve their common problem and help others to recover from alcoholism.
The only requirement for membership is a desire to stop drinking.
There are no dues or fees for AA membership; we are self-supporting through our own contributions. AA is not allied with any sect, denomination, politics, organization, or institution; does not wish to engage in any controversy, neither endorses nor opposes any other causes.
Our primary purpose is to stay sober and help other alcoholics to achieve sobriety.

Hope this helps
Marc
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Re: Outed as recovering - for political reasons: How to Handle?

Post by marymary » Sun Jul 25, 2010 6:24 pm

And how is this supposed to help?

Are you referring to the line about "AA is not allied with any sect, denomination, politics, organization, or institution; does not wish to engage in any controversy, neither endorses nor opposes any other causes."... because I sometimes have a hard time reading what people mean vs. what they type.

Perhaps you think I am somehow representing AA in a public controversy? No.

The point is - if you really want to help - rather than give me a condescending answer such as reciting the preamble perhaps you could speak to the issue?

If not no worries and thanks.

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Re: Outed as recovering - for political reasons: How to Handle?

Post by jak » Sun Jul 25, 2010 7:38 pm

...The point is - if you really want to help - rather than give me a condescending answer such as reciting the preamble perhaps you could speak to the issue?
I don't believe Marc's intent was to be condescending. He is right to point to the 12 Traditions of AA as expressed in the Preamble as an answer to your concerns about the issues your community has. We are an AA group and AA has no opinion on outside issues. The 12 Traditions must be guarded.

As for your personal issues of anonymity - I don't have enough information. The post heading says you are "outed". Your AA membership? ...at the level of the media? or just at the level of a town hall meeting?

I would have no concerns about my own alcoholism and recovery being known to those in a town hall meeting or amongst fellow town folks and officials. My AA membership is however where AA could be implicated as being involved and I would carefully and clearly make it known that I am involved as a citizen and not as a representative of any AA group.

It is not against the Traditions that people know I am an AA member until it becomes placed in the media. But they must be clear that, that is only personal information that carries no weight politically. I would be careful also to be very civil and calmly assertive when my turn comes to speak in community discussions when there is 'opposition' to the issue. Some of those town folks may yet need to join AA someday and if they know that a member is in their presence, the AA group could be judged by the demeanor of one member.

Just some thoughts,

jimk

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Re: Outed as recovering - for political reasons: How to Handle?

Post by marymary » Sun Jul 25, 2010 9:40 pm

Thanks guys. Didn't mean to jump down on you Marc. It's been a stressful 6 months.

Good points on keeping my cool jak. I had a national newspaper reporter ask if I was recovering and I stressed off the record I was but, on the record - why does it matter?

Locally, it's more on a town hall level and the barbs have been pretty steadily mocking me for the work I'm doing with several others to slow things down a bit around here. One person suggested I need a meeting (which they were implying if I went to one I'd chill out). Personally, I think a mate would do a better job of cooling me down :p

In the end, good points. I don't care if anyone knows I'm recovering and am extremely protective of AA and will keep that subject out of any print or public discussions. Your reminder to keep my cool because people will be watching is crystal clear (now).

Thanks again guys.

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Re: Outed as recovering - for political reasons: How to Handle?

Post by Steven F » Sun Jul 25, 2010 11:57 pm

Hi Mary,

It might help you to take a few hours out and go back to the topic at hand - exactly what you are doing and why you are doing it. Don't be shy to write that down for yourself - it will lay the basis for a communication strategy. If you have that down, you can go to the core. For example (sorry if it doesn't fit) you might in essence not care about people falling off their stools inside the bar, but be very concerned about how they think of getting back home. Maybe bars themselves are not averse to caring about that too (a dead client doesn't spend too much money the day after). It will be easier to focus your message and counter personal attacks if you have a very clear view on that. And it will prevent you from having to react instead of create.

Rule number one in crisis communication (and that also goes for image management): don't tell anything that is not true. Be honest as to what is relevant to the matter. That you have experienced what damage alcohol can do when it is taken to the streets (eg DUI) may be relevant. That you don't drink yourself may be relevant - if you can calmly think of how these messages may offer sufficient explanation when your motives are questioned, you can develop that a bit further. After that, you may be able to point out that you being a boozer or not is a dishonest discussion, obviously meant to ridicule or belittle your real and valid concerns about the safety of your community. And even ask if anyone has further questions that are actually relevant.

That you manage that because a higher power watches over you is personal. And that there are a bunch of others you know off who do the same, might even sound lunatic to the newspaper-reading housewife :-). Oh, please don't presume that people know what they are talking about when they say "recovering", "recovered", or even "alcoholic"....

Wishing you the very best!

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Re: Outed as recovering - for political reasons: How to Handle?

Post by Marc L » Mon Jul 26, 2010 1:56 am

Hi Mary;
Well you wouldn't be the first to come here and blow off some steam. Don't feel bad, I've done it myself.
Please don't let these kinds of things throw you off the path.

All cool and groovy over here. :D

Marc
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Re: Outed as recovering - for political reasons: How to Handle?

Post by marymary » Mon Jul 26, 2010 2:10 am

Awesome feedback too Steven. Glad I came to you guys vs. trying to explain it all in my meetings (very limited discussion time).

Thanks again Marc :)

Mary 8)

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Re: Outed as recovering - for political reasons: How to Handle?

Post by avaneesh912 » Mon Jul 26, 2010 7:04 am

i see a great opportunity for AA and Al-non to Carry THE message of AA to people who are still suffering. If we start interfering with Alcohol sales, it will will only cause friction and we will end up losing our sanity.
Show him, from your own experience, how the peculiar mental condition surrounding that first drink prevents normal functioning of the will power (Alcoholics Anonymous, Page 92)

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Re: Outed as recovering - for political reasons: How to Handle?

Post by Steven F » Mon Jul 26, 2010 8:03 am

avaneesh912 wrote:i see a great opportunity for AA and Al-non to Carry THE message of AA to people who are still suffering. If we start interfering with Alcohol sales, it will will only cause friction and we will end up losing our sanity.
A valid point, Avaneesh. However - unless I get this wrong - what is at the root of the question here is an initiative by a private citizen who also, but unrelated to it, happens to be a member of AA. As far as I understand the issue, it is unrelated to AA except that the person in question wonders how to deal with a possible "unmasking" as an alcoholic or attender of AA meetings.

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Re: Outed as recovering - for political reasons: How to Handle?

Post by avaneesh912 » Mon Jul 26, 2010 8:25 am

What i was trying say is, we can't fight this war. We surrender to the fact that people are going to drink no matter what and the best we can to is help the families and people who want to quit. It does not matter if you are a recovered alcoholic or fight as a non-drinker, there is too much at stake. The business will not heed.
Show him, from your own experience, how the peculiar mental condition surrounding that first drink prevents normal functioning of the will power (Alcoholics Anonymous, Page 92)

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Re: Outed as recovering - for political reasons: How to Handle?

Post by marymary » Mon Jul 26, 2010 12:49 pm

Note: There was a really good post from Hazel just before this one and it disappeared :(. If you could re-post it that would be great as I intended to print it out after I responded. Thanks much.

Here is my response to that post :)


All good thoughts and thanks very much for your sharing. This has been a 20-year struggle in our town and I only joined in the last 4-5. We did get one major law changed - against all odds and after two other very labor-intensive campaigns by others. It was, I might add, that because of those other campaigns we were walking into an area with a slight foundation already built (slight because of all the politician-turnover and subsequent awareness of the issues).

I would never mention the words AA in any public forum as I do hold strongly all our traditions.

I also do want to say that it takes all kinds of people to make change in the alcohol-related industry. 33% of adult American's don't drink (I was told long ago) so I'm no different in that respect. However, my experience and insight has motivated me to trudge on because I know first-hand how little I cared about myself and others. We've had a number of drunk-driving deaths (murders) in our area, have enormous numbers of drunk drivers and are literally brimming with alcohol problems. Our state ABC stopped enforcing and our police are so understaffed it's criminal (sic). The alternative is wait around for the straighties to get it and work towards change (they are methodical but, deadly bureaucraticly-slow imho). Or, some of us with some thick-skin can get out there and put our name on the line - that is we'll put ourselves up there for people to throw darts at. Of course we're not the issue and by directing their scorn my way they are ultimately not talking about statistics, about avoidable tragedies, about needless deaths, about real community-based solutions.

No, the problem with this industry is they are just as greedy, selfish, careless, pathetic and dangerous as I was (and am still working against being) towards myself as an alcoholic. Not to mention the complete lack of care and understanding I had towards others who I could've cared less about hence my years of drunk driving, car accidents, near-death experiences, fires, injuries, relationship-harms - you name it. In a fantasy world, if the alcohol industry had to look at the destruction they are causing with fresh eyes they would see how harmful their product is. We all know that's about as likely as the cigarette and tobacco industry calling it quits because they have a 'questionably' harmful product. That is an impossibility in my mind.

In contrast, changing local laws - ultimately affecting our whole state - is doable and will best happen when people from all persuasions get involved (active and recovering alcoholics included). So, I'm not in a temperance movement and actually love it when people don't worry about drinking in front of me - no, I encourage it LOL (as long as they don't drive :). I'm just in a slow-it-down-tiger movement where the state and local authorities have abandoned their responsibilities. And I do work hand in hand with them as well when possible.

Hazel, your saying "For me, attack is the best defense, therefore that part of my character must never be associated with AA." is me dead-on. I'm bold when it comes to developing and stating my opinion however unpopular it might be. That being said, I won't associate my name with AA at all and am not offensive (unless one calls repeating facts and sources consistently offensive) to anyone. I also have tried many mediation gestures to get sides to talk to each other and have been presenting a solid end-game program we would like to see installed as a requirement of the alcohol licensees. This program is being used successfully in other areas of our state so, I intend to plod on - arrows-in-my-butt included. (Pioneers are the ones with arrows in their butts right? Well, that analogy works as long as one isn't dead from all the arrows LOL)

The resistance of the 'industry' is that there are so many tens and tens of millions of dollars being made - and I mean just in my small town of 40,000. I wonder if they feel myself and our local group (I'm the only recovering member) are threatening their economic security? How one could feel threatened when one owns 5 bars and makes millions in profits is beyond me.

I should say I've been praying before going into meetings and I have been able to articulate my message much more clearly, respond to criticism not in anger but, with confident retorts and have interrupted others far less :) I also try to talk with all sides regardless of what barbs have been thrown to show that I truly am trying to work together. The industry as a whole around here has a policy of straight, cold stonewalling. My guess is they must fear if any of them begin talking with any of us it's a slippery slope (such power have we) so they are collectively dead silent.

In the end, I'm evolving a conscience, really care about the people I'm working against and in support of (you included if you ever visit here) and as long as I'm not thinking about drugging or drinking as a remedy and give my will and life to my higher power. If I believed my higher power didn't want me to be doing this work I'd bow out as there's first things first. I do offer our team valuable skills (not irreplaceable either) and they honor that often. We're a pretty core group, each autonomous and all very self-motivated - all working toward cleaning our area up. If we lost any of our team, myself included, the others would pick up any slack and the drive forward may or may not take a little longer but, will still be accomplished.

Finally, back to work (something my higher power does want me to do). I'll keep you posted.

Thanks!

M. :wink:

hazel4

Re: Outed as recovering - for political reasons: How to Handle?

Post by hazel4 » Mon Jul 26, 2010 1:41 pm

Marymary

Thank you for the compliment, but I deleted my post because I felt it might have been controversial and did border on "outside issues" as far as AA ruling went.

Once deleted a post cannot be recovered, but you may 'vent' in p.m. and I will certainly empathise and respond with long experience.

Peace
Hazel

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Re: Outed as recovering - for political reasons: How to Handle?

Post by marymary » Mon Jul 26, 2010 1:50 pm

Your choice. Seed already planted muhahahhah :wink:

hazel4

Re: Outed as recovering - for political reasons: How to Handle?

Post by hazel4 » Mon Jul 26, 2010 2:39 pm

Mary
Private message and some statistics on English problem if interested. Nothing to do with AA, only with alcoholism.

Having come back in and read that last sentence, I realise how much distance I am beginning to discover between the ugly reality of alcoholism that I see in the streets, and the interpretation of the Traditions that enables that entity we call AA to be something apart.

I deleted my posting, as I have so often before, in my personal understanding of a set of unwritten rules that, at the end of the day, are only the opinions of certain members with longer sobriety than I. I wonder whether everyone is joyous and free on the AA Mount Olympus? If so....how boring! just a sober thought1
Take care.
Hazel

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