I Am Not Anonymous

I had the opportunity to meet Kate Meyer and Tom Goris, co-creators of I Am Not Anonymous. Kate’s photography and the website feature faces and stories of people in recovery. Folks who do not choose to remain anonymous.

Outing myself as a man in recovery has been a journey that started in January. To read that story, click the picture below. Stay there to read the stories and support the others who are crushing the stigma of addiction.




This concerns a controversial topic in modern recovery. I invite you to use the comment section below to start an important discussion. I don’t want to bare all for nothing.

32 Responses to “I Am Not Anonymous

  • Brave of you to bare yourself there, Mark (and I also mean by your shirt too – I am too self-conscious to do it!). I have struggled with the online anonymity thing for quite some time. I like to say I am “half and half”. I am not trumpeting my recovery off rooftops, nor am I hiding. I rarely use my full name in connection with my recovery, although I tell others it’s okay if they use my name. I still feel weird when they do. I have written / spoken about this many times, so I won’t go on here, but in the end it’s definitely up to the person. I haven’t come across any stigma against alcoholism in my bubble life, so I don’t feel like I am “fighting” anything. Everyone I have come across when discussing it all seem to understand it’s an illness. But maybe I’m lucky – I am sure some people still think it’s a weakness, or a choice or whatever. But I am not sure it’s my lot in life to show them otherwise. I just do my thing, and try my hardest to not worry about what others think of me. But regardless if you Recover Out Loud or Recover Quietly, it’s all about being the best person we can be. We can be crusaders or we can be great dads / friends / employees, etc. or we can be both. In the end, we blossom and grow to the place we need to. Great to see you blossom big here, my friend. Thanks for this.

    • I really appreciate this Paul. I haven’t come across misunderstood people either in my outting myself. But, I’m a teacher in high school. I could be of great help to families or students who need counselling. I think it helps to know that common, everday people in the community are doing this thing. It lessens the need for addiction to be such an “all or nothing” or “rock bottom” proposition. Better openness and communication could meet help for people before they fall on their face, or die.

      • True – you are in a unique position where you can impact so many young lives. That’s amazing.

  • Being in the same profession I think what you have done and are standing firm on is one of your greatest achievements to date. Our story and the message in that story is our greatest achievement and the heart and soul of where our purpose lies. Maybe I was naïve but I never hid who had I been or what I was going through. I didn’t offer it up to people but I didn’t shy away from talking about it. As it slowly got around I even added in all my Warriors On Purpose stuff to my school family. I didn’t imagine I would get people I didn’t really know come up to me because in their home there was or had been alcohol or drug problems. I even share my experiences in class, in an appropriate manner because telling them the whole story would be too much for them, but I use it to let them know I relate, I have been there, I understand their hopelessness. I think my greatest weakness has become my most powerful weapon. I appreciate what you have done since January, you will change and touch lives you never see. We connect so well and for someone I have never really met in person seems odd at times but also comforting. Keep doing what you do, go all in…..one heart and one mind, we are a team.
    Awesome bro as always.

    • Thank you Kip so much for this response. You’re so brave to tackle your weaknesses the way you do. Truly, you’re a mentor to me and how you approach it. I’ve been feeling more and more like it’s a responsibility. It used to be a responsibility for me “in The rooms” and now it’s growing into a life responsibility in all phases. And it’s really exciting, and a little terrifying. But people like you give me such strength Kip. Thank you.

  • Love it! And I can see both sides to this. I have friends because of religious, political or business reasons who can’t be open about their recovery. I get it.
    For me, however, lying and keeping secrets was so much a part of my disease that being open about being sober helps me a lot. I’m of the “take your character defects, sprinkle glitter on them, put lights up around them and let ‘er rip” philosophy. Not for everybody, granted but it works for me. As a gay man, whose people mainly open the closet door and walk right into a bar, I feel like opening my mouth and saying I’m sober is a big way I can be of service. I will tell you, (and I’m sure Paul has experienced this and you have too)that blogging about and writing about recovery like I have since 2011 the amount of support I’ve received has been amazing. So many people struggling or going thru the same things have reached out and it’s really enriched my sobriety.
    This being said, I think there’s a huge difference between personal openness and protecting the anonymity of the a group or others in recovery. I’d never want to jeopardize another person’s sobriety because of my big mouth. Whether anyone wants to come out as sober, is totally up to them and I respect the ideology behind anonymity for sure.

    • Awesome comment!

    • Sean, I’m so glad to get your feedback. I know much of this is “preaching to the choir” type thing. Like you, this community has meant everything to my personal recovery. I think you raise a great point in the “not keep my secrets” part of open recovery. I’ve felt it but never nailed it down like that. I’m so much more comfotable about all that I’m doing now that I’m out there. It’s a great peace of mind. Thanks for taking e time to share your opinion. I hope people have the chance to read it.

  • Mark, you know I love this. I think walking in the light is the only way to do life. I think each person in recovery must have the freedom to figure this part out in their own timing, when they will reveal their stories to others, but I also think it’s a crucial element to recovery as a whole, because we all need to know we aren’t alone. Thank you for bravely being you out here in the world and making yourself available to so many. I’m so happy that you have found your niche! And I feel weird saying that I’m proud of you, but I AM!!!!!

    • Thanks Annette. I understand that. You’ve been on this journey from the start. It’s all evolved so much since January. And that’s the fun part. It’s a thrill. And if helping people can bring that excitement, I know it’s the right thing. I don’t want to ever claim knowledge of Gods will, but it certainly feels right. I can’t thank you enough for your support. It means so much to me!

  • Mark, when I read things like this I am even more glad that we met in real life (with many more to come)! You are making a profound impact on the recovery community. I also loved another recent post of yours wherein you said, essentially, that there is “Mark” and there is “12 step Mark.” I am sure there are people who would struggle with the potential tension between those two things, but I do not at all. Regarding anonymity, I would say my stance is very similar to Paul’s. The next thing I #amwriting (that’s at least partly tongue in cheek) for one of the blogs will actually address this (and Damien did today on twitter): I am sober, but that is only one thing I am. I am a dad, a husband, a father, an employee, an employer, a runner, a cyclist, a friend, an uncle, a nephew, etc. It is not “me” to wear any of these things on a t-shirt. When “Hearon” became “HD” on twitter, I was literally petrified of being “discovered.” I do not feel that way today, but to the extent possible I do want to control the messaging. That’s just who I am. I appreciate you, what you are doing, and your friendship very much. Hearon

    • I’m so glad you are writing about that Hearon! I get pigeon wholed all the time. My online social media community is based on recovery. Sometimes it’s overkill. That’s why I’m so grateful to hang with you, and be reminded that we’re all just people living our lives man.
      I like he way you put it about the many roles you play. It makes me wonder if someday, they will all merge together. But what your comment makes me realize is that they already have! We’re doing it already! It just takes time to realize it. Hope we can get together again soon. Thanks for your thoughts. I really appreciate this comment.

  • i have a very clear opinion on this.people wanting to stay anon are the ones perpetuating the stigma and do great harm to those been fightened to seeg help.being anonymous is for sad,selfish un helpful people.no wonder the public are happy to stigmatise wit those around.i have to give a big clap to the brave “famous people’ that have came out.walk tall and be proud of your self.only by breaking the stigma,will people not have to fear job loss and other problems.be tall proud and loud to help others in need of help.being anonymous is a mortal sin.

    • I like how bold your stance is Colin. I didn’t “come out” with it for years because of a narrow interpretation of the 12-step traditions that I follow. Those traditions grow needlessly complicated because everything is suggestive. But when you trim away everything those traditions ARE NOT, you understand what they are better. Anonymity certainly doesn’t mean getting clean and sober in secret.

  • Daron Riley
    1 year ago

    I also do not hesitate to talk about my addiction when it comes up. I don’t run around tapping people on the shoulder at Wal-Mart and start up a recovery conversation. But I have found that the majority are intrigued when the topic comes up. I feel this helps spread understanding. People see someone just like themselves that has been tangled in addiction and realize that it is not just in the movies or for the homeless. In my experience people have a better opinion of me after knowing some of the things addiction can do to a life. And besides, I don’t remember ever being worried about being anonymous when I was at the bar getting drunker than a one eyed billy goat. I agree 100% with Colin too.

    • You are fighting hte good fight Daron. It’s brave to be out with the fact that you’re an addict in recovery. I know because for so long I deliberately avoided using those words. You are helping the people you speak with about it, and helping addicts in general by modeling an example of a path on recovery. I think you raise good points about people knowing that addicts can live a clean and normal life. It’s not all gloom and doom and Hollywood over-dose. Thanks for your feedback!

  • Tiffany Swedeen
    1 year ago

    I think about this all the time. I’m only 31 days sober, very early, but have been trying out recovery for 2 years. I’m a nurse. I have a story to tell and a profession to help heal from an addiction epidemic. I know nurses out there will need me. My concern is not the anonymity of AA, because I’m not involved in that. My worry is that when I’m ready to share, I will need to confess to all the lying, stealing and debauchery that I created in my life. I’m working at this point to say yes; I’m an addict. I’m in recovery. But when it’s time to get up and help by telling my story, can I be fully honest? Or will there be repercussions that are detrimental to me? And if there are, is that part of it? Taking the consequences? I’ve also not “outed” myself yet on my private fb page. Come to think of it, my mom doesn’t know ? so I guess I’m anonymous where I want to be, and open when I feel like it.
    Part of the issue, for me, is that when we are in the midst of shame and healing, we want to hide. We think no one wants to or should hear our story. Only when we have “fully recovered” and have a story with a happy ending (like all the awesome interviewees on SHAIR… The accomplishments in their lives, the 180 turn around from despair to celebration) only then can we tell on ourselves and feel safe. What if i relapse? What if they realize I was stealing their pills? I feel as though I need to put years between the “sick” me and the sober/healthy me before becoming fully “out” and proud.
    Thanks… Those are my thoughts… Thank you for this conversation

    • Hi Tiffany – Thank you so much for expressing your thoughts. You bring up a great distinction. I’ve found in my recovery, that my secrets are safe with others. Particularily my sponsor, who knows everything there is to know about me. You’re absolutely right, that relationship should be sacred and secret. I fully protect and respect the anonymity of others. Who I see “in the rooms” what is said in the rooms, stays in the rooms. And I would never air the dirty laundry of the sponsees I work with.
      This is what makes 12-step programs so strong. You can trust in the anonymity of it. I choose not to stay quiet about my recovery. That is where I am finding new strength in my life. I am open about how I recover. Although, I do not name the program I work to respect the people who help me stay sober. I hope you found this thread helpful in your journey. Let’s stay in touch!

  • What a beautiful post, Mark!
    You are a light for me, too!
    You must be an awesome teacher!!

  • john spence
    1 year ago

    Awesome Mk, real stoked, great big smile all over my stupid grinning face!!!
    The big reveal, the photo is lush mate, you absolutely glow and grow stronger as a member of the Recovery movement. Very proud to know you, ive been struggling with this, but people such as you and Aaron inspire me and thousands of others
    I lefr a paragraph or 2 with Sean’s comments bur unsure if it was submitted so again…. For some in or facing Recovery its not a choice as such, the alternative to dispensing with our secert Shame and. Guilt out loud so it can no longer have the deadly hold over us, is that we can succumb to a terrifying ‘Self Fullfilling Prophecy’ which could lead a vulnerable person fighting addiction, isolated thinking that all they deserve is the death or suicide that seems inevitable. That is something ive lived with. There are many many people coming into Recovery everyday and its examples like yours Mark that WILL help change societys’ current social representations, change t paradigm. Ive experienced what its like to have people and friends even behave ‘differently’ because your having trouble with your perception of life weather down to unnessarly prescribed drugs or substance abuse disorder. You rock Mk, your going to go very far!! Best john 2flags

    • John – real good to hear from you you, always great when I do. Miss you in the twitterverse! I haven’t been on as much which could explain it. Sorry you had to leave comments 2x. The “guilt too loud” part I get. Thanks for your vote of confidence on this thing. Kate’s an awesome photographer.

  • You are such a thoughtful writer, Mark. This topic is so good. I was raised with the understanding that if I want to “out” myself, that’s my business, but your outing is for you to do.
    I believe most of the original reasoning for the anonymity was so that if I relapse after telling everyone about the fellowship, it won’t give folks an excuse to say “it must not work”
    That school of thought is also why I am hesitant to talk about my Savior. I’m not always a Shining example.
    If I choose to relapse it’s entirely because of me. The 12-steps work IF we WORK them.

    • Thanks Abbie. What a great summation on the topic. As a Christian, I get the savior talk too. It’s amazing how simple our solutions to these ‘complex’ problems can be. Thank you for that great example…

  • Mark, thanks.

    Not being open about recovery is, for me, parallel to not being open about my drinking. If I can’t admit that I have a problem, if I choose to hide it away and pretend that everything is ok I lead a double life. I am employee X by day and a user by night. This is the conflict that causes so much disparity, anxiety and pain.

    We learn through recovery to be real, whole and honest with everyone including ourselves.

  • Mark, this is a thought provoking and brave post. Although the 12 steps wouldn’t be for me, I can see how powerful they are for many. I think it has to be an individual choice on whether to remain anonymous in recovery. I applaud what you’ve done here, when the time was right for you. I think photography is a very useful tool; at the beginning of a longer period of sobriety earlier this year, I took a photo “the morning after” to remind me of the sheer misery I was in. I continued to take a photo once a week, and saw an absolute transformation in my face. I did the same thing again yesterday morning, with a feeling of determination to see it through this time. For now I’ll be keeping them to myself as an aide-memoir, but one day I’d like to be brave enough to share them to show others what recovery looks like. Thankyou for your blog – you’re helping me to get there.
    Red xx

    • Thank you Red.

      It certainly wasn’t easy, and I really appreciate your words of encouragement. I have tried to find my in-take photo at the insane aslyum where I was committed. I remember them taking the Poloroid. That picture would say it all. Keep speaking up, reaching out, and writing! When the time is right for you to share those pictures and more, I hope to be there to read and support you.

  • Thanks Mark. I’ve neglected my blog of late, but I’ll be posting soon I think. The support, and safe space to work out all of the feels is vital! And yes, if you ever find that polaroid, you’ve got to put it up here. Love a good transformation.
    Red xx

  • So, I disagree!

    I’m not anonymous due to any stigma or shame. I’m not anonymous in my daily life. I’m only anonymous at the level of “press, radio and film” and internet because early AAs could not have imagined the internet. They sold me on the dangers of being specifically known by a public audience.

    Dangers like I become a spokesperson, and those we cannot have. Dangers like I do something big and bad and do damage to the reputation of AA. I believe that AA has survived for me to recover because people have upheld the traditions. I would not think I know better than the traditions, which is after all the collective wisdom of many recovered alcoholics.

    It’s interesting to me that Dr. Bob (I think, don’t quote me) thought it absurd that we don’t say our last names in meetings. He felt that we could not be anonymous to each other, otherwise how could someone find us when they needed help? Well these days people needing help can find a meeting, a phone number, a publication or a blog.

    I think it’s a form of “advanced humility” to stay anonymous when we think we have reason not to, a public level that is, not in our day-to-day lives. Of course I cannot claim this humility for myself since if I think I have it I obviously don’t.

    PS – My wife teaches college and she tells people about her recovery status when she thinks it will be helpful to do so.

    • I’m so happy to read a dissenting opinion! I was worried that I put this out there sort of “preaching to the choir” with no one to stand up for tradition.

      How I respect the traditions of my 12-step community is by not announcing who my 12-step community is. There are more anonymous communities out there than there are AA steps, traditions, and concepts combined. I don’t name the one I work. I mention I go to meetings, have a sponsor, and do other things common amongst all 12-step recovery groups.

      It’s a small snafu, or hiccup in what people commonly think of as anonymity. I looked and searched and prayed long and hard to find it. And now that I did find it, in typical addict fashion, I’m running with it! I’m just glad my sponsor didn’t drop me. That would have been hard.

      Thanks for your feedback! About time someone stood up for AA tradition!

  • Late to the board here, but I naively assumed anonymity was to protect its members, not the other way around. Paid spokespeople sound like a terrible idea, but I fail to see the catastrophe if someone proudly talks about their recovery because they might later relapse and set a bad example. Some people do relapse. I don’t see any of us so powerful as to turn people away from recovery by being honest and human. There are, however, a lot of people with no interest making it “into the rooms” but who can benefit from your experience. Who knows who you might reach by baring all and sharing the joy that is recovery. I can’t see a damn thing wrong with it, but plenty good and right. I’m proud of you and inspired.

    • Thanks Kristen. That’s a real intuitive response. I appreciate hearing your thoughts on the subject. Thank you for your support! I know this helps keep me clean and sober.

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