Betrayed! Losing Anonymity

In a case reminiscent of CSI, a forum member related the sad tale of how he lost his fiancé and his job because the word got out about his heroin habit. It’s a cautionary tale for those for whom anonymity is critical to keeping their world from blowing apart.

Although there is some speculation as to just what happened, his best guess goes like this …

He is in a methadone program in a major city more than a half-hour’s drive from where he lives and works. He also attends meetings away from his hometown. He supplements meetings by talking on an online forum and suspects one of these scenarios: Either someone accessed his health insurance records and found out about the methadone clinic; or, someone spotted his car at a known NA meeting site; or, someone figured out who he was through his online posts.

The result was that the info was passed around and his fiancé let him know she’d read all the archived posts he made in the forum and thought they couldn’t continue the relationship because of some of the things he’d written. At work, they did a drug screen and he tested positive for opiates, which, even though they are medically prescribed by way of the methadone clinic, are prohibited in his particular job by federal law. Basically, his life was trashed.

The main complaint, when it comes to anonymity, is that everything he had posted (for several years) was available with a search on his username. He blamed himself for not switching up on his nickname, but he blamed the forum for archiving so much material. It’s this second point that bears thinking about – when we attend a meeting or have a phone call or discuss things with a sponsor, whatever is communicated disappears into the ether. No records at all.

Not so on a forum. That nasty fight you had with another forum member? Still there. That late night, despondent confession about your personal relationships and how you’ve failed a loved one? Still there. The crazy story about what you did when you were high? Still there.

I think he has a legitimate beef. I’m wondering what’s out in the Internets that might someday come up and mess with my life? There’s really no way to know now. But from here on out, I’ve got it in the back of my mind.

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