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'WE COULDN'T WORK IF WE WERE KNOWN'
1953, More and More 'People With Problems'
Together Under The Title: The Anonymous
stood on the platform and with a bang of the gavel opened
the meeting. “If there are reporters here,”
he said, “you can write anything you want. But don’t
use names. You must respect us on this because some people
are funny; they usen’t to mind being seen in the Hotel
Metropolis so drunk they couldn’t stand up, but they’re
a little bit sensitive about being seen sitting down here
So began a recent meeting of Alcoholics Anonymous, an association
of men and women who share their experience, hopes and strength
with each other in order to solve a common problem-alcoholism.
Conceived by a drunk as he lay in bed in a drunk’s
hospital in New York in 1934, this organization of nameless
men and women was the first to bear the title ANONYMOUS.
In the years that followed, and particularly in 1953, other
individuals bearing their own peculiar sorrow have banded
together for comfort and strength. They too are ANONYMOUS.
It was after twenty-five years of stealing, forgery and
near-death that an ex-addict conceived of an organization
for those who knew the hell of drug enslavement. Like the
founders of AA, this man found his “way out”
through association with those who knew the nightmare of
drug addiction and who wanted, as much as he, to live normal
lives. He first tried attending AA meetings, hoping they
would provide him with the encouragement and strength to
stay off drugs. But AA didn’t work. “I felt
lonely,” he says, “because all they talked about
was alcoholism and I was a drug addict.” He drifted
away; It was only after another bout with the “white
death” that he began his own organization. He called
it Narcotics Anonymous, and to it men and women who had
experienced the humiliation and despair of drug enslavement
Under the guidance of a leading New York psychologist, another
group of people have been brought together. Their problem:
homosexuality. Meeting in the office of Dr. Albert Ellis,
these men discuss their problems in an effort to understand
them, perhaps to overcome them. Their feelings are best
summed up in the words of one of Dr. Ellis’ patients:
“First my problem was a sense of guilt and shame.
Now it’s having to live most of my life pretending
to be what I’m not. We homosexuals live in constant
fear. We are a persecuted minority.
Their Search for Happiness, They Wish to Remain Nameless
The Anonymous are peculiar to our time. They are cropping
up here and there across the country-narcotics, alcoholics,
homosexuals and less well known groups: Fatties Anonymous
and Neurotics Anonymous-in unending succession.
Psychiatrists and sociologists explain that these groups
have their origin in minority feelings. An individual feels
himself different from the rest of the world; he conceives
of the world as a hostile place, himself alone without defender
or companion. Personal guilt and shame increase the sense
of separation. The organization, on the other hand, provides
a home, a refuge from the “hostile world.” Within
it, they can tell of the experiences which have separated
them from their friends, and equally important, find new
friends with whom they can be honest.
At the base of each new organization is the recognition
of the need of one human being for another. Preaching does
no good, as the founders of AA learned; it is help mutually
offered and accepted between, as was the case in AA, two
desperate and suffering drunks who sought to help themselves
by helping the other, that did the trick, and continues
to do it for vast numbers of drunks and addicts.
In recognition of the still-existing prejudices within society,
these men and women are anonymous.
Carnival, February 1954)