Naked and anonymous.



I’ve never been one of those people who feels comfortable parading about my gym’s locker room au naturel. Even back when I looked a bit more buff in the buff (many moons ago) I still wore my workout clothes home from Spa Lady Fitness and showered in the privacy of my own cramped bathroom. If for some reason I had to rinse off at the gym, I made sure to bring a big beach towel for extra coverage.

I just don’t like baring my body, with its oddities (like the 6-inch splenectomy scar that vertically divides my torso) and imperfections, to strangers. I can’t say the same for the women at the Y where I swim.

These ladies are unabashed in their bare-nekkidness. They let it all hang out. ALL of it. Sometimes it’s startling. Often, it’s unsettling. But clearly they feel at ease with who they are, and comfortable in their skins – no matter how stretched or wrinkled or dimpled. So I have to hand it to them.

Likewise, I applaud all the AA’s who share their stories, their troubles, and their victories in meetings. It takes a bit of guts to speak out in a roomful of strangers and tell your deepest, darkest secrets.

The first time I talked in a meeting, I was nervous as could be — and yet, also very eager. Afterward, I felt this immense sense of relief wash over me. And when someone came up to me after that meeting and welcomed me and thanked me for sharing, it felt very comforting. It helped me to realize I wasn’t an awful person. My story and situation weren’t that uncommon. Most of all, I realized I wasn’t alone.

At the end of meetings, the person “chairing” it reminds us all that “everything you hear here, stays here” and the group confirms this with a resounding “Hear, hear!” Thus, the “anonymous” part of “Alcoholics Anonymous.”

Newcomers are encouraged to share often at meetings – I think for the very reasons I mentioned above. I think it also helps the not-so-newcomers and “old-timers” as well.

I’m constantly amazed by what I hear in meetings. Wisdom. Kindness. Humility. Humanity. And – thank heavens – humor. From the least expected sources come pearls that I can treasure and keep and use for my own recovery. The delivery, too, is often quite impressive. Sure, there’s always the inevitable rambling complaint or weepy confession. And then there are some damn fine and inspiring oratories – from the grizzled vet or the bleached blonde in the track suit. I guess if you come here long enough, you get to be a fairly good public speaker.

In my limited experience, I’ve found that it does get easier to reveal yourself. And as far as I can tell, unless you’re abusive or hateful in your speech, you can never say the wrong thing. Everyone accepts what you say, sometimes remarking on it when they themselves share, or acknowledging that it sparked a thought or insight for them. For me, it’s one of the beautiful things about AA; it’s certainly one of the things that keeps me coming back.

Now that I think about it, maybe it’s actually easier to reveal ourselves – literally or figuratively – in anonymity. It could be that the people we don’t know well might not judge us and our flaws as harshly as the people who do.

I’m still pondering this one. In the meantime, I’ll continue to bare my soul in my AA meetings. But I’m not quite ready to let it all hang out at the Y.

2 Responses to “Naked and anonymous.”

  1. Great post. I know what you mean about the Y. It seems the saggiest and the most flawed and the ones who are always the most comfortable. So very strange. Maybe they’ve just lived with the insecurities for so long that they’re tired of them. Finally. I’d love to get there.

  2. It actually interestingly. Good job! I wish successes!

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