My first experience of anonymity was as an embarrassed newcomer carrying my Big Book. I felt so uncomfortable with people seeing it that I wrapped the cover in a brown paper bag. Reading it so often i soon wore out the brown paper bag and had to re-cover it in an old newspaper. This might seem like a strange thing to do but it was before the days of the pocket edition, and after the days of the specially designed reversible dust jacket. On the inside back cover of the second edition you will find the following words: “If you wish to preserve complete anonymity when carrying this book, just turn this jacket inside out. It has been especially designed for your convenience.” So there you have it, others had felt the same way as I many years before, and AA already had the answer.
As I recovered I was more easily able to communicate to my family, friends and employers that I was attending AA. The next real problem was trying to stop myself from telling anybody and everybody. It was suggested that Spiritual principles would solve all my problems and that in this case the Traditions held the key. The twelfth tradition states: "Anonymity is the spiritual foundation of all our traditions, ever reminding us to place principles before personalities." AA has shown me the importance of putting the welfare of others first and to be content being just one amongst many.
This tradition is not saying a personality is not important, it's just saying that we have to place principles first. After all it was the way that my sponsor was, how he behaved and his manner which convinced me to start living a principled life in the first place. He has shown me by his example how to put principles first. An important thing that I have learned is that it I am required to place principles before my personality and not necessarily yours. It's easy to believe that I am being humble when placing principles before somebody else's personality, or do I mean expecting others to do what I want? But it is a lot harder and more beneficial applying them to my own life, especially when I am in a minority.
At my Home Group we have a blue banner with white writing along the front. It sits neatly on the front of the top table where everybody faces to listen to the speakers. It has the name of our group – the "Road to Recovery" – at the top and "Alcoholics Anonymous" along the bottom. When you look at it closely you notice there is something else in very small italics along the bottom edge. It reads: "First meeting 8/4/94 This to the end that our great blessings shall never spoil us; that we shall forever live in thankful contemplation of him who presides over us all. Last meeting __/__/__".
The continuing survival of the group depends on its obedience to spiritual principles. If we fail to remember this, we may one day have to fill in the blank space with the date of the group's last meeting. This poignant reminder can come as a shock to people who think that a large active group could surely never die. My sponsor often says that “a meeting where anything goes eventually becomes a meeting where nobody goes."
By trying to practice the principles of our three legacies through love and service, by putting principles before personalities, and by seeing the immense spiritual value of humility for the group as well as the individual, God willing, we will one day at a time continue to walk this remarkable road.
WP, Road to Recovery , Plymouth