Alderman Ricardo Munoz and the Traditions of AA

Chicago, they say is called “The Windy City” not because of a weather condition but because of the legendary dirty politics; a reference to the “wind bag” politicians. Alderman Ricardo Munoz is no stranger to controversy and questionable ethics.  Recently, Munoz disclosed he is an alcoholic and he sought treatment at an outpatient clinic.

Some would say this is a premature announcement, others would claim its inappropriate.  We all love the stories of redemption, those stories of people who were destroying their life, learned their lesson, and then moved on with their life to share their story and save others. The problem with this paradigm is that it is rare and can serve as a source of shame for people who don’t fit into this mold. Additionally, many people try to force their square peg into this round hole, abandoning honesty in lieu of fitting in.

This brings up the whole issue of anonymity in the recovery world.  There are a few ideas about this. The 12 step guard, fiercely defending the traditions of AA would say we must “always maintain anonymity at the level of press, radio, and film” .   The AA traditions seem to be solid, they have worked for a long time but there is an arrogance associated with this idea. It assumes that everyone who is in need of an arresting alcoholism is a 12 step zealot. Not True. It also assumes that advocacy is self-disclosure, also not true. There are many roads to Damascus and while, I believe that 12 step is what works the best for the most, who really knows. Alcoholism, the forgotten step child of public health, isn’t researched all that well so largely what we are doing is throwing pasta at the wall and seeing what sticks. Can you imagine if this is what we did with other diseases that impacted every American?

I think we need to re-think and update the very fabric of how we approach this issue and its long reaching tentacles. I am all for people sharing their struggles with alcoholism. I also don’t think we need to hide the imperfect struggle most people experience. I have no idea how effective Munoz is as a city official but I certainly support his decision to come forward and share his story. The HIV community clued in right away that silence=Death. Will we make that same discovery?

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