In 1953, More and More ‘People With Problems’
Banded Together Under The Title: The Anonymous
He 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 cold sober…”
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 were drawn.
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.
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.
(Source: Carnival, February 1954)