Chris is the Director of Media for C4 Recovery Solutions. In his role with C4, he has been tasked with hosting and developing the webcast show, The Afflicted and Affected, interviewing leaders in the addictive illness field and other interesting personalities revolving around the recovery world.
I recently read a post on a Linked-In Group by a treatment professional I found very disturbing. He reported that when you look at the statistics for 12 step fellowships, you will see that the success rates are in the single digits. It stated that 12 step fellowship success is at about the same rate as if you gave someone a placebo. I completely disagree with this statement and here is why: It is impossible to quantify the spiritual experience or personality change that brings about recovery.
One thing that becomes apparent when you actually participate in the 12 step recovery process is that those who “actually” become consistent with meetings, “actually” work/take the steps with a sponsor or spiritual advisor and then “actually” intensively work with others see almost no relapse. This work is the suggested recovery process, not meeting attendance alone.
In my observation of sponsoring individuals for the past 20 years, the permanent success rate for the individuals who practice these three things consistently is very high – over 90% recover and stay sober. Is this something that can be tested? Are there accurate studies or statistics on this? Not really. The difficulty lies within the ability to quantify a spiritual awakening in a scientific way. I have never seen the data measured but the outcome is observable by someone who is experienced with the steps and can see the difference in those who actually participate in their own recovery versus those who do not.
Fellowship attendees are what make up the data on most 12 step studies and show a low probability of success. That is because simply attending a fellowship meeting does not mean the individual is working a 12 step program. Meeting attendance alone is not a defense against relapse if all one does is to go to meetings. The spiritual awakening resulting in taking the 12 steps and then following a service ethic and action is what promises to offer an individual the power to stay abstinent and recover.
There are currently between 2 and 3 million members of AA in North America and many others still sober but no longer going to AA meetings. Despite that, there are people who say it does not work for 90% of the people who try it.
You cannot say someone going to meetings is “trying AA” any more then you can say people who walked into the waiting room at a hospital but walked out before they could get the operation are “trying” the medical treatment or should be part of the hospitals statistical failure rate.
The question we could ask is “is it in the professional’s best economic interest to recommend the 12 step process?” Most treatment professionals do because they are ethical, experienced and compassionate. Since a spiritual awakening is not measurable, its success can not be quantified but it certainly is observable.