Writing Group topic: anonymity & confidentiality

Anonymity. I had never been in the rooms before I found Greysheet – I didn’t go the OA route. So I needed to learn the concept of anonymity. It probably helped, in my case, that I was “inducted” for just 18 days in NYC before I left Greysheet… I mean, I saw how things work in a face-to-face context but I didn’t get into deep relationships in such a short time. So I just saw the “formal” side of things and how anonymity is guarded, through the reading of Tradition 12 and posters and so on.

When I got abstinent for real, I was an outpost, and it was only through phone meetings and Greynet that I had contact with other GS’ers. So nobody could breach my anonymity, nor I theirs: I didn’t form strong relationships (must say I find it difficult to really form friendships with people I have never actually met…). I needed that level of anonymity for myself, because for the first six months (!) nobody ever knew I was doing this. I was way too ashamed to admit to civilian friends that I had a problem, much less that I was on a diet. I had never been on a diet that anybody knew of, although I always dieted. Way too much shame, as if people couldn’t see that I was fat – I had to pretend that I didn’t care.

So it wasn’t until after the first six months, once the weight was actually coming off, that I found the courage to admit I was doing this. Or bring the scale anywhere. I was as anonymous as you could get!

But of course, anonymity in the fellowship is different. I need to know some other people’s info, those that I am close to, such as their last name or where they live: otherwise, what kind of fellowship is this? What will happen if I go into hospital and no GS’er knows or is able to get to me because they know nothing about me? How can we help one another? There has to be a reality.

So anonymity, I think, is more something on the level of press, radio and film – as AA literature says. I wouldn’t go on a talkshow and be the “face” (or body? heh) of Greysheet.

Perhaps the issue most of us have is one of confidentiality. I wouldn’t tell a non-Greysheeter that someone else is in programme. I wouldn’t discuss with them who was in a meeting with me, much less what was said (although I would admit that I was there, which I wouldn’t have done in the first six months of my abstinence). But that is my stance towards civilians, in a way, not necessarily among GS’ers. When it comes to people within Greysheet, I don’t think I would mind telling a GS’er who asks me that another GS’er was in a meeting. For example, at the London meeting, if someone’s not around we’ll sometimes say, was she there the previous time? – I don’t consider that a breach of confidentiality.

Among GS’ers, I would no more gossip than I do among friends. So the issue of confidentiality among Greysheeters is really one of gossip, do I engage in it or not? If I discuss what another GS’er shared when she is not around, then I am gossiping and I don’t do that. I’m very sensitive to gossip, probably because of the way I grew up in my family. I can’t stand it and I don’t want to engage in it. If I’m not part of the problem or part of the solution, then I don’t need to know, and I apply the same to other people: if you’re not part of either the solution or the problem, there’s no need to discuss it.

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