If you’re a little bit concerned about running into someone you know at an AA meeting, you’re not alone. Almost all of us have had this thought. Some of our fellows have even gone to such lengths as attending a meeting in a different city or town to avoid this possibility early in their sobriety. After some time though, they realized that running into someone that you know at a meeting isn’t that bad after all. And that’s because we’re all here for the same reason!
Coming to terms with one’s alcoholism is a challenging process and can often lead us to feel isolated and a bit like an outcast. Viewed through this lens, seeing someone that you know from your daily life at a meeting can actually help normalize any unnecessary stigma you might be imposing on yourself. Wait, my doctor is an alcoholic? That other parent from my kid’s school is too? I would have never guessed. Suddenly, we start to realize that the disease of alcoholism is an equal opportunity offender and does not make distinctions with regards to class, gender, or socio-economic standing. This realization can be quite a relief and a helpful step in feeling less alone and that we are a part of the program.
Also, remember that AA is an anonymous program. Members agree to keep what is said in meetings and who they see in meetings to themselves. Just as you don’t want someone at a meeting breaking your anonymity, others feel the same way. While alcoholics aren’t viewed with the same sense of stigma that we were when AA was initially founded, anonymity is still a vital part of the program and something that members take very seriously.
So if you run into someone that you know at a meeting don’t fret. Go up and say hello. They might also be new and seeing a friendly face of someone who is in the same boat can be a great help to their recovery. And if they’ve been around for a while we’re sure that they’ll be glad that you’re there.
We would like to add one additional note regarding the anonymity of celebrities and public figures. Depending on where you live it is not uncommon to see people in meetings who are public figures. These people face an added challenge when attending meetings as it is more difficulty for them to attend “anonymously”. As a newcomer it can be easy to get caught up in seeing someone famous in a meeting and not feeling like the same rules apply to them. Please remember that the rules and traditions regarding anonymity and protecting the identities of members extend to every member. Deep down, they are just a regular person with a problem like you who is trying to get sober.