In fairness, though, there is a more fundamental aspect of anonymity than whether you tell your story or claim your recovery publicly. I interviewed someone who's very open about his recovery, and also a great storyteller. I sent back the edited interview and he said, "I can't do this. Reading the words on the page, I realized that my story is really just for the guys in my recovery group, not for anyone else."
Saying you're an alcoholic or a drug addict, claiming your disease in public, is one thing. Telling any part of your story to the public is another. There's something very powerful about the telling and sharing of stories from one addict to another. It's powerful enough to change lives. The guy who decided not to participate because he didn't want to dilute that power has a point, and I can't say he's wrong. The question of anonymity is important, not solely in the sense of whether one is publicly known as an addict or alcoholic but because sometimes it's difficult to reconcile the spiritual remedy to this illness with a public profile—difficult but not impossible, as those in the pages that follow have demonstrated.
Finally, I did what I've learned to do in my recovery: I turned the problem over to what ever higher power is out there. If the book was meant to happen, it would happen. And so it has, and for that I am very grateful.
I made the decision to be public about my recovery when I recounted my story and my moment of clarity as part of my memoir. My intention then was to begin a career as a writer, not to make a statement about recovery. The forty three individuals in this book and the tens of thousands who stand up every day to claim their recovery publicly have no other motive than to share their experience, strength, and hope with others in the hope that it may be of some help. I am humbled by their willingness, awed by their courage, and grateful beyond mea sure for their participation.
It seemed as though whenever I doubted the wisdom of doing this book, a lightning bolt of inspiration would be delivered in the form of one of those I interviewed. I cried with Jamie Lee Curtis in gratitude and solidarity over our common path. My faith in my humanness was bolstered by the unwavering courage and integrity of Martin Sheen. I sat in wonder at the energy and unquenchable desire for betterment of Elaine Stritch. I was amazed and inspired by a Native American woman named Marie Morning-Glory, who endured unspeakable tragedy only to transcend it brilliantly in a life of love and service. And Jim Vance, who after reading the transcript of the interview we did together sent me an e-mail saying, "Damn, it is rough seeing that stuff in print, but it's true. I sure do hope the guy was right, whoever it was who said the truth will set you free."