Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) Recovery Outcome Rates: Contemporary Myth and Misinterpretation

A very interesting (and overdue) paper on AA’s current and historical success rates:

This paper addresses an erroneous myth that AA is experiencing a 5% (or less) “success rate” today as opposed to either a 50%, 70%, 75%, 80% or 93% (take your pick) “success rate” it once reputedly enjoyed in the 1940s and 1950s. The term “myth” is used to emphasize that the low “success rates” promulgated are a product of imagination, invention and inattention to detail rather than fact-based research. Also noteworthy in the derivation of the mythical percentages, is the absence of fundamental academic disciplines of methodical research, corroborating verification and factual citation of sources. Regrettably, some of the advocates who are propagating the myth are AA members who purport to be “AA Historians” and appear to be advocating agendas that portray fiction as fact and hearsay as history.

5 thoughts on “Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) Recovery Outcome Rates: Contemporary Myth and Misinterpretation

  1. At last the rosters of early members–their sobriety dates, names and addresses and even phone numbers, and their relapses and deaths are all in one place. That place is the Griffith Library at the birthplace of Bill Wilson in East Dorset, Vermont. Another complete set will soon be in the Dr. Bob Core Library at the North Congregational Church in St. Johnsbury, Vermont. The problem with the original writing is that neither its author nor the other two or three writers he quotes make any claim that they have seen,examined, or evaluated the evidence in the rosters. And before people question the truthfulness of Bill Wilson’s statement that he and Dr. Bob counted noses in 1937 and came up with the specific names of 20 who had maintained sobriety, 10 who had relapsed and returned, and 10 others who “showed improvement.” These men were no rim-runners, or visitors, or “be-backs” or court ordered attendees. They were men who “thoroughly followed the path to a relationship with God,” who “really tried,” and who were serious enough to go to any lengths. I followed that suggestion and found it works today just as it worked in the original group of forty pioneers.

  2. I know a lot of devoted Christians who see no need to discuss the bible or refer to their god by name.Some might consider people who believe there is a correct way to work the AA program and insist on emphasizing their Christianity and AA’s Christian roots as bleeding deacons. For the record, I’d be just as troubled by someone who chose to emphasize their atheism, Buddhism or other faith. It’s not what an AA meeting is for. If explicitly integrating one’s Christianity in one’s sharing is important, that person should consider Alcoholics Victorious, Alcoholics for Christ, or Celebrate Recovery.AA clearly has Christian roots and AA clearly chose to distance itself from its Christian identity.Meetings are a place for us to share our COMMON solution to our COMMON problem. Not to evangelize for our personal path, whatever that path may be.

  3. The way I understand it, although limitedly of course is that if you are sober for even a day – then you are succesful. I am the wife of an alcoholic who has been sober for 14 months now and I think celebrating the success of the program and all it offeres is what should be done – the program is only as strong as the people who attend. Cat

  4. AA is no more than a religious cult always has been always

  5. The point could be made that people who are ready and willing to put blind faith in Jesus, something that is intellectually difficult for many of us, also have a mind that is ripe for complete surrender to sobriety. I only wish I could be blind to the rational problems of Christianity and all it's highly questionable and often contradictory assertions.Step

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