AA’s Success Rate

AA Success RateI was having a conversation with a co-worker. He graduated last year with a degree in psychology and is currently making steps to return to school to get his doctoral degree. I went to him because I had a question regarding an article I was reading. The article labeled AA as a failure because it is undirected group therapy.

Here is what he replied: “AA just doesn’t work. It has like a 98 percent failure rate.”

So I asked… “Which AAs are included in the studies of failure? I mean, who’s counted? Court appointed, once a week meeting goers, does that qualify someone as AA? Or is it based on a people who already have a foothold in the program? Over what period of time was the study? Cause over the course of a lifetime, people who come and go, sometimes come back and stay.”

Now, I have to cut my co-worker some slack. He really is an intelligent and charming individual. He just doesn’t know what he is talking about. And here’s the thing; I don’t think most doctors or psychologists or normies do. The people who tend to know the most about our disease of alcoholism and addiction seem to be us, the ones who have it (or at least the ones who know they have it). Doctors and psychologists seem to have no more insight into alcoholism than they had eighty years ago.

So, here is my totally unprofessional opinion regarding recidivism. I started out in AA totally wasted with a zero chance of not drinking for the rest of the day. I mean every day I wanted not to drink, but every night I ended up drunk. By myself, I had zero chance. Then one day, a miracle happened, and I had just a smidgen more willpower or disgust or stubbornness or something than I had just a few moments before. I don’t know how long this miracle lasts. For some people, I suspect it only lasts a few minutes. So, in those few moments, I needed to do something.

I think if I started at 0% and went to a meeting, I go up to about 5%. I start praying or else tapping into some kind of faith that maybe, just maybe, I can be sober for the rest of the day. I help someone. I am at 20%. I read the Big Book. 25%. Changing people, places, and things adds a few more percentage points. Sober living gives me lot more percentage points. Now, I’m up to 50%. I get a boyfriend, and I fall back down to 40%. I get sober friends who themselves are dedicated to being sober, and then I tell them everything that makes me cry at night. Back up to 50%. I get a sponsor. And I work the steps. And then I work them again. And then I work them again. And now I am 8 years sober.

I told my sweetie about what my co-worker said about AA not working. My love said, “I don’t care what he says. AA has a 100% success rate for me. And that’s all I really care about.” And he’s right.

I went that night to chair my usual meeting. It’s a small group, intimate. I’ve been sitting in a that room with some of these people a couple days a week for years now. I know them. I know their weaknesses and failures, their successes and growth.

About halfway through the hour, I looked out upon the group and started counting up years. B has 30-some years. S has another 20. B and A have 5. C has 4. J is closing in on a year. And R has come back and now has 5 months. And over there, in the corner, my sweetie has eight years.

Psychologists all over the world can tell me AA doesn’t work. What I know, is in that moment, in that meeting at 10:30 on a Wednesday night, ten people who normally would have been drunk weren’t. And to me, that’s 100% success rate.