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Alcoholics Anonymous: what's in a name?

A posted sign announcing an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting.
A posted sign announcing an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting.
Jordon/Flickr (cc by-nc-nd)

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Certainly one of the main tenets of A.A. is its first-name-only policy. When it was created in small-town Ohio in the 1930s, alcoholism was a shame-filled label. Problem drinkers, it was reasoned, were more likely to seek help if they could do so discreetly. Now some influential A.A. members -- among the "quitterati" -- are coming out and pushing for openness. They argue that while anonymity protects, it also hides – creating prejudice and confusion. So is the privacy harmful or essential? Should A.A. remove anonymity from its set of traditions? Do you think alcoholism still carries a stigma? How could such a change impact members and people looking for help?


Susan Cheever, a regular columnist at The Fix, is the author of many books including the memoirs Home Before Dark and Note Found in a Bottle and the biography My Name is Bill: Bill Wilson: His Life and the Creation of Alcoholics Anonymous