Any program where almost everybody fails is in need of an effective recruiting strategy in order for it to sustain any sort of growth. Walk into an AA Chapter that has been around awhile, and the room might look like a nice mix of a few old-timers, some people who have been sober for two or four or six years, and a larger percentage of people who are fairly new to the group. This is deceptive, and when an AAer says that they know the program works because they have seen too many people in their meetings, who have been sober for too many years for it not to be effective, then that person is most likely telling you the truth. Or, should I say, the truth as they see it. The problem is, they either have no understanding of basic statistics, or they have not made an effort to run the numbers.
To fully understand this, all one has to do is imagine a chapter that has been newly formed, that consists of 100 brand new members. Within three months, half will disappear; after six months three-quarters are gone; and after one year there is only five left standing. (source:aa_triennial_survey) There are three ways of keeping the rooms full to replace so many dropouts: one way of filling the rooms is with court ordered attendees, but is actually a small percentage of AAs; the other is to feed them in from 12-step rehab clinics; and the other is to use manipulative recruiting and retention tactics. The third way is how AAers utilize step twelve, and they do so with instructions right out of The Big Book that would serve Amway proud. Like Amway, AA instructs their members to be deceptive about the nature of the organization:
When dealing with such a person, you had better use everyday language to describe spiritual principles. There is no use arousing any prejudice he may have against certain theological terms and conceptions about which he may already be confused. Don’t raise such issues, no matter what your own convictions are.” The Big Book, Chapter 7
There is another curious quote from Chapter 7 of The Big Book that demonstrates AA doublespeak – “Let him see that you are not there to instruct him in religion”. Why would this be part of the recruiting instructions if this was not religion? Why not also instruct the AAer to tell the prospect they aren’t there to instruct him on football or weaving or politics? It specifically tells them to deny it is religion, and the reason is because it is religion, and that will be an obvious objection. The instructions continue:
Do not be discouraged if your prospect does not respond at once. Search out another alcoholic and try again. You are sure to find someone desperate enough to accept with eagerness what you offer.” The Big Book, Chapter 7
How do they reconcile the the above with their 11th Tradition that states that AA is a program of attraction, and not promotion? They don’t. It’s just another contradiction with the big contradiction, which is AA.