FYI: Discussing An Addict’s Participation In An Anonymous 12-Step Program, Even After They’ve Died, Is Not Okay

I’m not exactly surprised that rag like The New York Post would send a reporter to loiter outside of a 12-step meeting like Narcotics or Alcoholics Anonymous, in hopes of scoring some exclusive “scoop” on the passing of actor Philip Seymour Hoffman. But I am repulsed by it. In an article in yesterday’s paper — which I am not linking to — reporter Reuven Fenton wrote about how, prior to his overdose from heroin on Sunday, Hoffman was known to attend Alcoholics Anonymous meetings at a location in the West Village in an effort to get and stay clean. But the Post also rather extensively quoted a man who met Hoffman in one of those meetings, who provided details about the actor’s participation in what is supposed to be an anonymous support group.

I won’t be quoting him here because everything you hear in an AA meeting is supposed to be kept anonymous and confidential, even after a member has passed. To quote the AA pamphlet Understanding Anonymity [PDF]:

A.A. members generally think it unwise to break the anonymity of the member even after  his or her death, but in each situation, the final  decision must rest with the family.”

Anonymity is the spiritual foundation of the 12-Steps, “ever reminding us to place principles before personalities.” Violating that anonymity, especially on a public level, is a major no-no. For more information on why anonymity is so important, I urge you to read the entirety of Understanding Anonymity

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