Realistic success statistics for Alcoholics Anonymous are notoriously difficult to obtain. Contributing to the difficulty in obtaining reliable success rates are the anonymity of the program and the reluctance to allow clinical researchers access to participants of the program. The truth is that nobody actually knows.
An AA study conducted in 2007 showed that 33% of about 8,000 members surveyed had remained sober for 10 years or better. Another 12% had remained sober for 5-10 years, 24% sober from 1-5 years and 31% less than a year. The study failed to disclose how long the participants had been associated with AA and did not attempt to measure those who had attended AA previously and left the program. A report released in 1990 reported that 81% of alcoholics who attended the AA program stopped attending within 1 year and that only 5% of the AA attendees surveyed had attended meetings for more than a year.
I’ve come across other studies that show similar statistics.
In my experience, success rates don’t appear very good on the surface. Over the past six years, I’d estimate that I have met over well over a thousand new people attending AA for the very first time or returning to AA after a prolonged relapse. In the group that I attend currently, my guess is that there are approximately 100 people who attend consistently on a weekly basis.
On the surface, these statistics are very discouraging, but are not significantly different from results from other types of treatment programs. I don’t think these success statistics accurately tell the story.
First of all, many people attend AA meetings who are not yet ready to experience recovery. Those people are simply passersby who are curious about the program or have been nudged into attending a meeting by a colleague or loved one. They may or may not be alcoholics, but for whatever reason, they are either not willing or capable of giving the program a fair shot. These people quickly vanish from the program.
There are also those who clearly have a problem with alcohol who show up to an AA meeting looking for a quick fix to their problems. They seem to only want their unfortunate circumstances to disappear. They attend a meeting or two, fail to connect with other members and don’t find the easy solution they are looking for. These people are quickly discouraged and make the decision that AA is not for them.
There’s a third group of attendees who come in to the rooms of AA under duress from serious consequences from drinking. They may have legal issues, relationship problems or other difficult circumstances that have “forced” them into the program. They seem to have nowhere else to go. They hang on to the fellowship aspect of the program by attending meetings, but fail to do the work to progress through the 12 steps. After a brief period of sobriety, they feel much better and decide they can go it alone. They think they are cured, and go back to their lives of the past.
The last group of AAs are perhaps the most relevant group to view when considering program success rates. Those are the people who have experienced a significant “bottom” and are ready, willing and able to give the program an honest try. They are openminded enough to attend a good number of meetings, they avail themselves to the services of a sponsor and work thoroughly through all 12 steps of the program.
In my opinion, this last group of AAs are the ones to consider when evaluating the effectiveness of AA. In my experience, an overwhelming majority (perhaps 80% or more) are able to accomplish significant periods of sobriety. Their efforts allow them to gain a solid understanding of how the program works, understand its principles, clear away the wreckage of the past and move on to a better way of living.
Like everything important in life, you get out of it what you put into it.
The “blindness” referred to in this blog posting is a real obstacle to the alcoholic. Before I started my recovery journey, I thought a delusion was something that only happened to crazy people who were locked up in asylums. I’ve learned that delusion and insanity are part of the human condition. You can’t fight it, but you can let it go with the help of others.
Click here for a link to the article
One of the truths about alcoholism is that it’s a self-diagnosed condition. Nobody can tell you that you’re an alcoholic; you have to admit it for yourself for it to be useful. There are many self-assessments available online, and if you’re like me, you’ve probably already found some of them.
When I was struggling to find a solution, I completed countless online surveys. The problem for me was that I wasn’t ready to admit defeat. I was looking for a way to solve the problem by myself, without letting anybody else know. Long story short, I was unwilling to be honest with myself.
Below are some of the signs that you might be an alcoholic. If you identify with several items in the list, chances are that you probably have a problem with alcohol.
It’s been my experience that it’s impossible to solve an addiction all by yourself. You might find the willpower to shut the addiction down for a period of time, but eventually the aloneness and self-deception will come back to haunt you.
Whether you choose to pursue recovery via your doctor, a therapist, a rehab center, a 12 step program or a faith-based program, the common element is that you are going to have to ask somebody for help. Keeping your addiction to yourself only serves as a barrier to enter into a program of recovery.
One of the truisms of addiction is that addicts commonly suffer from what is called “Terminal Uniqueness”. We inwardly feel that our troubles are so large or unsightly that nobody else could possibly understand. There may be feelings of shame or guilt (we’ll get into that one more deeply in a later post), or there may be a fear of coming clean with other people. There may be a feeling that your problems are so unique, that nobody can help. This kind of thinking is a self-defeating delusion.
Allowing other people into the recovery equation humanizes the recovery effort. No matter what your story is, there’s someone else out there who shares a similar experience and has found a solution. You need to find that person.
Bottom line, if you’re looking to recover from alcoholism, do yourself a favor and find another person to confide in. You can’t do this alone.