If you're ever sitting in an AA meeting and can't bear the monotonous drone of victimization and problem sharing, bring up AA's statistical success rates. Yes, the topic is not really the purpose of a meeting either, but it's certainly better than suffering through the latest update on Janet's sick hamster or how Carl nearly drank over his broken weed-whacker. And it's guaranteed to get an animated discussion going.
AA's effectiveness is a polarizing topic. Take a deep breath and watch this
Here's the truth: AA is failing. I agree with the statistics-- I believe that less than 1 in 20 of people who ever attend an AA meeting experience any sustained sobriety. But Bigfoot and the Mime tell only half the story, because the whole truth does not fit their AA-bashing agenda.
What's the whole truth? The AA program works. The problem? Finding it.
What people encounter when they first wander into an AA meeting today is rarely AA. It's a self-help, group therapy session masquerading as the program of Alcoholics Anonymous. It's a pep rally for abstinence through willpower, where the "tools" are all about staying away from a drink, one day at a time, world without end, amen.
It's got zero to do with our program. In fact, much of what you hear runs completely counter to our program. It is not a treatment for alcoholism, it's a celebration of untreated alcoholism.
So the newcomer sits and listens, desperately looking for the solution. And hears none. They are told to keep coming back and they think, "uh, thanks, but why?"
I was part of this problem for years. Instead of the critical message of depth and weight that we are told the alcoholic requires, I offered slogans, gimmicks and parlor tricks. I would shake my head disdainfully when someone admitted a relapse, and take comfort in the fact that I was not them. Somewhere, I'm pretty sure, I was an unwitting contributor to someone's alcoholic death. In summary: I sucked.
Insanity is joining a 12-step program and not working the 12 steps. Yet for the most part, that's what AA is today.
There's an effort under way to take it back. I am joining it late. But better late than never, right?
Cross-posted at my blog,