How Alcoholics Anonymous lies with statistics

The AA faithful are great at taking what they want and leaving the rest when it comes to demonstrating the effectiveness of the program. Every member of AA who successfully quit drinking is held up as an affirmation of the program, while those 95% plus who fail are disregarded as though they don’t exist. Or, if challenged, they will say that those who fail do not fully “give in to the program.” Of course, by this logic, AA is 100% effective.

Most often, their rationalization of why AA works is anecdotal. They will use their own experience as an example, and they will use the examples of the dozens of other people in their home group to show that the program does indeed work for some people. The problem with this logic is that it disregards the five percent of alcoholics who would have quit on their own without AA by taking full credit for their quit. Because AA meetings are where people motivated to quit drinking tend to congregate, it gives the illusion of a successful program to those making anecdotal observations. Let me draw a comparison:

Let’s assume a type of cancer that has a 5% percent remission rate, and a company produces an herbal remedy that offers a cure for a percentage of people. If we were to take ten thousand people with this cancer, and follow their progress over five years, and along the way replace those who either died or dropped out of the study, we would have 2,500 people whose cancer went into remission while taking the herbal remedy. It looks impressive, but it is the same number of people who would fall into remission from a control group who took a placebo. The herbal remedy would be proved ineffective, and if that herbal company took these figures and offered up an infomercial showing testimonials of cancer patients who were cured while using the remedy, it would be beyond unethical. It would be criminal.

This is what AA does with their promotion of anecdotal experiences, and their disregard of actual research data. More than one study shows AA to be ineffective, but the thing most often cited by those who oppose AA is the Triennial survey data that shows they have a 95% failure rate within the first year (aa_triennial_survey1) Showing this data to an AA true believer is like talking to a fence post, and will be met with those pesky anecdotal examples. As anyone who has debated religion rationally will understand, this can be a maddening experience. It gets worse when a person wants to prove their faith by making things up, and showing you once and for all that the world is flat.

This is what happened recently when three AA old-timers took the data from the Triennial Survey and tried to manipulate it to prove to the flock that the 95% failure rate was false. They produced a document called “Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) Recovery Rate Outcomes: Contemporary Myth and Misinterpretation”. One of the tenets of pseudoscience is that it cloaks its jargon in scientific language, and the title of this paper sounds impressive. In reviewing it, however, it shows the three authors of this paper either do not understand basic statistics, or chose to manipulate them, hoping that the average person would not understand this to be a shoddy piece of work. I’m guessing a little of both. Let’s take a look at some of the highlights of this paper:

From the paper (source: triennialreviewaa):

The erroneous 10%, 5% or less success rate myth for contemporary AA has proliferated without as much as a token challenge to its veracity or investigation of its origin. The topic of AA success or failure outcomes suffers from a great deal of anecdotal misinformation, misinterpretation and editorializing.”

The “erroneous interpretation” was not a result of outside commentators. It was AA’s own interpretation. One has to assume it to be true, because AA has zero interest in manipulating data against itself. They also say that nobody has bothered to examine the source data for this interpretation, but that is because AA will not provide it.

They go on to say:

[what the data] “shows is that those who stay beyond three months are active a year later”.

This is true, but so what? This is like saying – “those who finish the first ten miles of a marathon are more likely to make it all 26 miles” or “cancer patients who survive the first six months are more likely to survive for a year”. This is how they drew their conclusion – by eliminating those who failed in the first quarter of the year. You can’t pick a time period that suits you and lop off those who failed in the first three months as though they don’t exist. This is what I mean by “taking what you want and leaving the rest” in order to demonstrate AA’s effectiveness.

They then go on make the stunning admission that Bill Wilson’s claims a 75% success rate is bullshit. On this nobody disagrees. Finally, they pull the old “those who fail really don’t try” routine out their ass again:

“Since AA’s beginning, about 60% to 80% of those who show up at AA meetings observe but do not really try AA. They engage in investigation but not participation. Many are simply uninterested or unaware that AA can help them. That others are not seeking a solution in AA may well be a function of their intrinsic nature of being averse or unable to admit what they are, recognize how their life is unmanageable and being willing to do something about it.”

To begin with, the 60-80% figure is arbitrary. It’s like saying 60-80% of the people were funny or good looking. What they are simply doing is eliminating a group of failed AAers to elevate their success rate. This goes along their attitude that “the program cannot fail, but some fail the program” logic. Secondly, if we were to pluck 100 alcoholics off the street, a lower percentage of that group would be motivated to quit drinking, because people who are motivated to quit drinking go to AA meetings. The same way that you will find a higher percentage of fat people at Jenny Craig wanting to lose weight than you would find if you randomly selected fat people at a mall. Those who are motivated to lose weight go weight loss clinics, just as those motivated to quit drinking show up at AA meetings. So, even though a greater number of AA participants are motivated to quit drinking, they have exactly the same 5% percent quit rate as a randomized selection of alcoholics. This might explain why one study found a negative correlation between AA and quitting drinking.

This paper is just a horrifically bad, manipulative piece of work. No real academic would take it seriously, but still has made its way around the circles of AA meetings and internet AA forums. So, even if it was an accurate review, the very people who say statistics don’t matter are using this as an example of AA’s effectiveness. To hell with the many randomized clinical trials, all showing AA to be ineffective when compared to a control group. They are going to cherry pick a manipulated paper to prove their worth, and disregard every legitimate study that proves otherwise. They are going to put blinders on and believe what they want to believe, and worse, promote their pseudoscientific nonsense to others who really need help.

  • friendthegirl

    Argh, yah, this always makes me headsplode: Rarely have we seen someone fail who really tried. Who decides who really tried? How do they figure that out? "Ted succeeded without really even trying, but Al really tried and succeded…" Hm.

    Conveniently, the test for determining whether or not someone "really tried" is their success.

    I love it when things work out.

  • Could you please fix your site such that the SMART in SMART Recovery is in capital letters as it's an acronym for Self-Management And Recovery Training. Thank you.

    • friendthegirl

      I made it so. Sorry for the lapse. Thank you!

  • H

    AA has to lie. Actually, there are no statistics. AA has no membership list. No names. And, there is no sobreity test. A sobreity date is automatially accepted. There is nothing to measure.

  • Pingback: feh « Stinkin Thinkin()

  • joedrywall

    I dont think that the 95% rate proves that AA fails 95 percent of the time, it just means that 95% leave in that first year. Also of the 5% who stay, doesnt mean that it works for them, it just means that 5% stay.
    I believe later on in Pass it On or some other party line approved literature, Bill W. states that LSD use is 3 times more effective than AA, and he says AA is for about 5% of the population.

  • H

    It demonstrates that 95% leave. Very little is known of those who leave. Bill Wilson was probably correct when he said that AA/12 step fits 5%. People stay in AA because they want to stay.

  • sharron

    as one of those 95% that
    left –
    i left cause I got fed up
    with doing something that wasnt working
    well for me when i worked it
    being abused taken piss out of
    and controlled in it.
    and most of all no one anywhere tells me to turn my back on my own children.
    I am very wary of people who try to isolate me from family friends-and try to place mistrust in me of
    professional health care workers
    and the world outside-
    people who take prisoners.
    and then once they think they got me isolated and fully dependant on them
    start to control -abuse me
    and tell me to keep my mouth shut about it
    i have lived that senario too many times
    in the many lifes i have led-
    im so gald i went against them
    and got outside help-and started to investage AA

    cause thats when i woke up.

  • sharron

    they sayin im not an alkie now
    so maby thats why then it didnt work for me-
    yet in all those years there they kept saying i was but wasnt accpeting it-
    saying i hadnt had enough pain yet-

    yet when sharing step work life stories-
    they would say i was an alkie
    my sponsor while reading step work would
    point out things and say see thats what we do us alkies just what you have done there.
    i fitted the bill of one according to AA books
    leaflets.
    i feel a bit of a drunk alog comming on.

    when i lived in the sally ann (salvation army )
    the head doctors took me to the drying out ward-
    when i walked the streets of york-with just a battered old suitcase i found outside a charity shop
    and put my one set of cloathes in
    and sat drinking on door steps begging with the steet tramps
    who offered me a home in there old railway carrage
    and when i stood drunk in the railway station busking
    with my guitar to get money for the next drink-
    when i raided the bins for food in london-
    when i stole booze out of the supermarkets-
    when the police locked me up for my own safety and said shaz you need help to sort yourself out
    when barred from battered wifes home cause i was drunk and left door open
    when the hospital were stiching me up
    when i gave myself food poisoning from eating 3 day old food left on a plate
    when i got hit by a car
    when i fell in the canal
    when i blacked a bikers eye after 3 days of boozeing up in the locks
    when i polished off a bottle of whiskey and a dozen cans of larger-
    when i was shakeingin the morning
    and tapping for money on street so to get drink
    when i pissed myself
    they said i was an alkie then tho
    i didnt argue with them about that
    they argued that i wasnt accpeting it
    know why-cause i kept telling them that AA wasnt the only way
    cause i kept telling them i had pulled myself up put of it stopped and stayed off in my past pre-AA
    thats what they didnt like-thats why they say i didnt accept powerless-
    thats why they tell me i had to get it into my brain that i was powerless
    and told me to constantly tell myself i was
    constantly pray and ask god to help me accpet that-
    and eventually i did-
    but they kept saying i hadnt
    perhaps they are right perhpas i didnt fully accept that-
    perhaps thats cause it isnt true-
    and deep down i knew that this alkie wasnt so powerless
    that i couldnt stop stay off on my own or by other means other than AA-
    since i had done it in my past-
    i also had no idea at that time i could control booze
    thats something i have found out in past 11 months-
    they just kept telling me
    -that i wasnt accpeting it
    wasnt doing it
    hadnt had enough pain should go back out for more pain
    I was on bended knees doing it
    i had enough pain long fore i even met AA
    they told me when i first went that the tramps
    on the benches are those that didnt get the first step
    i had been very near to the tramp on the bench long fore i went to AA-
    and didnt want go there again-
    i did want to do it cause i thought i would die if i didnt
    i also at first thought they were all good folk
    and wanted this peace of mind and joy thing
    and the promises so i did do it-
    but it didnt work.
    and found out they werent good folk
    cant say that for em all cause i didnt know em all
    http://uk.video.search.yahoo.com/play?p=seasick%2

  • You have it all wrong, get a copy of this paper:
    http://www.informaworld.com/smpp/content~db=all?c

    The conclusions people draw about the 95% "failure" rate have been debunked for nine years now.

    • mikeblamedenial

      The video linked here debunks your debunkers. It is four minutes long, and is much cheaper than than book you think we should buy. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n-IH07-BVxg

    • Littlebuddy

      I'm sure the 'Addictions Review Quarterly' is a real objective source. The editorial board reads like a 'who's who' of 12 step proponents and apologists…

      • Littlebuddy

        Correction; I meant 'Alcoholism Treatment Quarterly'.

  • H

    Stop trying to insult your own intelligence, mister.
    AA has a retention rate. AA does not have a success rate. And, you and I both know it.
    get serious.

  • Cuda

    AA does not succeed. Nor does it fail. AA is there for those desiring sobriety to use as a resource. If any percentage of newcomers stay they stay. If they leave and get drunk, they leave and get drunk.
    Therefore, people succeed of fail.
    Back in the day not anyone could simply walk in the doors of AA. They were escorted into the Fellowship when they were deemed to be a good prospect worthy of the groups efforts. The Wife and Employer were consulted to verify the credentials of the alcoholic. This (membership) was reserved for those who meant business and were serious about getting sober.
    Today anyone can walk in (alcoholic or not) and when they do it's usually because their ass is in the wringer in some way or another. As soon as their ass is out of the wringer they no longer see a need to get sober. They leave and contribute to AAs 95% failure rate. (whatever that means)
    Bottom line is that only 5% of the people that desire to get sober actually do so.
    AA or not.

  • H

    cuda — drivel.
    Bottom line is this: of the people who leave you know nothing. And, your ignorance is willed.
    try to type something intelligent.

  • Cuda

    Sorry H, my contact with people that come to AA is not limited to one meeting a week. I see it up close and personal. I've taken time off work to support some people in court, I've talked with families and friends and I've tried my best to get them to where they say they want to go. As soon as they're off probation, their wives take them back, they get a job, etc….. they're gone. Don't tell me what I know and don't know.
    While we're at it, if you could come up with something other than personal attacks and scripted assaults your viewpoint would have a lot more impact than it does. As it stands right now anyone that reads this would see your stand against AA as nothing more than contempt and resentment.
    In other words meaningless and invalid with no substance to support your position.

    • mikeblamedenial

      Gotta go with H on this one. With bigbook sales of about a million/year, and a 5% retention rate, that leaves about 950,000 annual departees we are talking about. How many of them do you reckon you know personally? As for your assertions of AA's early credentialing, that is fluff, as well. Some individual groups may have tried to be selective, but by and large, it has always been come one, come all. Wilson himself referenced running all around Akron with Smith that first summer, and "only bagging two who made the grade". One of them, Ernie G., wound up married to Doc Smith's daughter, and frequently relapsed. In fact, 38 of the original 49 alcoholic contributors to the BB drank subsequently, according to a reliable, contemporary source. By '38, when Wilson began the BB, there were a whopping four followers with him in NY who had any time. One of them Hank P., who wrote the chapter, "To Employers" got so PO'ed at Wilson that he got drunk and left AA for good.

  • H

    drivel

  • Primrose

    I don't think we can help the true believer fundamentalists, which is fine; it is their cult, their life.  But the people I know who have left (after 19 years, one of them) reckon that in our local area there are only a very few true believers.  The rest are either using it as a social club in which they enjoy high status due to their years of sobriety, or are desperate to get out but daredn't because they have been brainwashed into powerlessness and believe that they will die if they leave.  The ones we/he identified as true believers are either in aa from a prison background (nothing wrong with that, we are just trying to idenfify trends, on a very small sized sample) and (more significantly to me) those who have been in aa for most of their adult life. 

    The longer you have been in, the harder to leave?  To have spent most of one's adult life in a cult must be extremely limiting in terms of self-development.

    If it worked the rheums would need to be arenas.  I am thinking of the majority who feel freaked by the cult aspects but are too afraid to leave.  And I suspect that is a large proportion.

    I don't know about the rest of you but I appreciate aaers coming on here, but i would be nice if a well-educated (or at least numerate) member came on to break down the stats.

  • Ben Franklin

    Most if not all AAers are deficient in logic and educational skills. You have to be less than intelligent to get that program.

  • Ben, a lot of people here used to "get" the program… and I think we're all a bunch of smartypantses.

    Desperate people will do whatever they think they have to do, including become willfully delusional. There are so many smart people who believe with their whole hearts that AA saved their lives, because they have to believe that, because… well, I think it's kind of like pascal's wager: what if it really did? Are they willing to bet their lives?

    So, I do get the complete meltdown that AAs have when their belief system is challenged. It's excruciating — almost physically painful — to have your foundation rocked. And I also think that's why not many AAs engage us here, on Stinkin' Thinkin', but will pack around all over the internet getting all up in everyone's grill on comments threads. We get the occasional drive-by (verbatim) Serenity Bomb, but you know they will never be back to check on the fallout.

    There's nothing they can say here that we haven't addressed and exploded. There's no rebuke that we haven't beaten them to. And they can't engage here without addressing things they absolutely cannot explore without questioning the ground under their feet.

     

     

  • tintop

    ftg,  you described it very well.  People do have to figure it out in their own way, and in their own time.   Some will have difficulty when doing that.

      The people that we know nothing of, and AA knows nothing of, are those who , simply, walk away.  That is, I think, is the logical thing to do.  AA performed the task that people assigned it to do.  Further participation is AA was no longer useful and desirable; so, they left and went about their business.

    As you say,ftg, people firmly believe that AA 'saved their lives'.  It is hard to let go of that.

  • Ben Franklin

    FTG,

    Yeah I guess I should provide caveats when I post. Many people are also forced by are various law enforcement agencies to "get" the program. I also agree with your post too. Desperate people do things that they think might save their lives, especially if that is the predominate way of how things are done. Mea Culpa.Therein lies the tragedy.

    I have been particularly snarky lately, especially after Tony J basically called me gay on Dombeck's blog. I also put some serious PWNAGE on some stepper on Jonah Lehrer's blog. Sober PJ speculated that Bill's white light experience was the result of the Belladonna he was taking. The stepper replied that this could not be true, since belladonna doesn't cause hallucinations and therefore Sober PJ's whole post was false. Little does the stepper know that some of us do not spend all day going to meetings and might study pharmacology.Belladonna does indeed cause hallucinations (to follow go the link you provide and see posts#58,60,61 and63-65)  I asked for a retraction in a slightly snarky way-oh actually really snarky way. I mentioned that when he is wrong he should promptly admit it. I have not heard a peep. This is what gets me about these hardcore steppers. They will never admit they are wrong especially to an AA critic.

    • Ben, yeah, well, I have been known to throw down some pretty stompy petulant lines, myself… like the time I said that I don't think anyone should get romantically involved with an AAer. (I haven't retracted that statement, either, so… nyah!) I have my moments.

      So, yeah, I have been following you and Mona Lisa on Frontal Cortex, but since I've been a little busy lately, I've had to pick my battles.

  • Primrose

    I am thinking of an analogy here and I would like you to correct me.  If AA, as a treatment were a drug, called say, Serenspin, and it was in clinical trials, and the sample size was 100 people, suffering diagnosed as having a chronic, progressive disease, would it be fair to say that if 5% of them didn't die (I didn't mention recovery, I said they just didn't die of that disease), would that drug be licensed?

    If 3% of the 100 sample committed suicide, would that drug be licensed?

    If an unkknown but substantial number of the 100 sample claimed that Serenspin had had a negative to devastating effect on their lives, would that drug be licensed.

    (I may be guilty of double counting here so that is why I want to be corrected.  Were any of the 3% who kill themselves included in the 5% who stayed?  More importantly, I don't think 1 year is an adequate amount of time to claim the 'treatment' was successful.  If we ask how many of the original 100 were on the miracle drug Sernspin and 'well' five years later, what does the 5% drop to?  Please correct my statistical understanding but I do feel 5 years is far more telling than one year)

  • Primrose

    And if the drug Serenspin were licensed, would it be allowed to market itself as the only cure (or not cure) for this disease?  Would it be able to prescribe life long treatment as the only alternative to death, or 'jails, institutions or death.'

    Would this drug be licensed and would it be allowed to market itself in this way?

    Would the makers of the drug be expected to be above criticism?

  • Ben Franklin

    Primrose,

    Most drugs have way better than 5% efficacy and this 5% would have to be above the natural rate of remission. if you can't beat the placebo then what's the point. If your hypothethical drug serenspin went through all 3 phases of testing and still came up with5% it would not get FDA approval. If it did somehow get approval and had 3% fatality rate it would be pulled pronto and most probably by the drug company itself to avoid further damage from lawsuits.I can also assure you for a "disease" that prevalent in society there would be many different drugs developed and used to treat it.

  • Primrose

    Apparently stage 2 testing is for efficacy (5% in this case) and efficacy does not have to beat the placebo by much of a margin (by 10% I have been told).  But my drug would fail stage 2 testing.  Stage 3 testing is for side effects, and this is the tricky phase, because my drug does have lasting negative side affects for an unknown but significant proportion of the sample.

    But what if there is no other drug available for the disease?  Would people be allowed to try my drug in spite of the side effects and low success rate?  Or should they be warned of the dangers and made to sign non-disclaimers?

  • eddy

    the don mcintyre study reported above
    http://liferingconvenor.blogspot.com/2007/12/once

    McIntire found that an average of 81 per cent of AA first-time attendees dropped out during the first 30 days.

    At the end of 90 days, 90 per cent of newcomers have dropped out; only ten per cent are left. (This gives a new dimension altogether to the "90 in 90" slogan, doesn't it?)

    The attrition curve from 90 days to a full year is, by comparison, rather gentle: from ten per cent to five percent, a relative loss of "only" fifty per cent.

    anything contrary to this I would say in my opinion the person is manipulating the statistics

  • eddy

    Stanton peele has taken to task those who manipulate statistcis
    http://www.peele.net/blog/100106.html

  • bek30

    I've recently begun group therapy and in part it has integrated the steps. I think in most part it falls into two categories; one is that they don't have another path. two is faith. Faith is the foundation of AA. My background is in economics and I've done my best to argue against them. I'm also an atheist. But, it's like having an argument with a priest about the existence of evolution. It's faith that allows the 5%ers to succeed. Hell, even if the probabilities suck they're making some headway.

  • SoberPJ

    bek … I feel for ya. That has to be hard. Be careful, or you'll end up seeing the light 🙂

  • hulahoop

    Figures don't lie, but liars can figure.

    I see this question being asked a lot, "What about the people who attended AA, became sober, and left but remained sober? Aren't they AA success stories too? "

    I am one of those people who was helped to get sober by AA. I could not stop drinking on my own. For the first thirty days I would go to three or four meetings a day. Then I was placed in a situation where I could not attend meetings. I discovered I didn't need them to stay sober. Also my thinking was a lot clearer by then because I wasn't soaking my brain in alcohol everyday. It took a lot of willpower on my part. But I did it and have managed to stay sober since without AA.

    No. I am not an AA success story or statistic. AA would consider me a dry drunk. They would say my sobriety does not count because I didn't do it the AA way. It can't go both ways. I cannot be both because it makes no sense. It is yet another example of the AA double standard. And if I go back to drinking it will be because I failed the program.

  • Johnny Crash NYC

    All you needed was a break and AA supplied it sometimes a good vaca6tion can supply it as well a Gym Membership a Hobby a love intrest etc etc … Alcoholism in my opnion is a mythological disease it doesnt exist behavior is behavior …. after being in it as long as I was embarressingly enough I will say most dont go anywhere in Love or family (relationship) aspects of life a few get ahead professionally but most meander along to a miserable old age …very sad

  • hulahoop

    @Johnny – All you needed was a break and AA supplied it

    I needed to stop drinking. I am an alcoholic. I was getting worse by the day. Literally. AA did supply me with something to occupy my time and people who could relate with me. As bad as this sounds, it did me a lot of good to see how bad it could get. I saw a lot of people who had been or were in worse shape than me. I felt so badly for some of them. Happy for others.

  • Mikki

    Wow! I missed some interesting and apparently heated debates! Enjoying the new comments and sites suggested to visit. Happy New Year! You guys rock!

  • john harcus

    aa is the worst forum for any so called alcoholic to shed any dysfunction they have in life. it is an environment that lends itself to self deception.. the root cause of why the individual behaved addictively in the past…truth hurts those who are dillusional ..do not mention at truth in an aa room and expect not to be condemned… investigate the so called disease and investigate the so called only place for recovery… all the very best to all..

  • Z

    “it is an environment that lends itself to self deception”

    SO true.

  • RF

    I was court order to do AA after my DUI arrest. I was a binge drinker. At that time I could only last for a few weeks until I would have gotten drunk for a few days straight. After going to AA nothing has changes I would drink every week and I would drink after an AA meeting. It was depression (but I was a depress person at the time) when I was in the meeting. I only enjoy a hand full of them and the rest I just didn’t like it one bit. The head person that was in charge of the place got upset because I would not pray or anything that would religious because I was an Atheist. I finally quit the program that I was force to do and fake what I wrote to my probation officer that I was going. I still drank after quitting AA. A year later I got arrested again for my second DUI and had to change my view of alcohol. Since then I only drank 3 times in a 7 month period which I think it’s a good job on my part. The only thing I got out of AA was the stories that people talk about which was enjoying but beside that AA really does nothing when it comes to quit drinking. Just that you can’t drink in a meeting.

    My goal is to be happy in life and enjoy it. My view of alcohol is that I don’t want to drink every week or every month but a few times a year and if I get drunk it does not leads to a binge that last 3 days at a time. It’s over 2 weeks now and I’m not completely happy of were I’m at but I’m better then were I was over a year ago because most likely I would be drunk at this point.

  • Tim

    If anyone can get sober without AA, that’s great! Anything that works is fine.
    Nothing worked for me. I tried it on my own for many years and never got sober
    until I started going to AA meetings and working the 12-Steps.
    So AA can and does work for some people. If AA doesn’t work for other people,
    then hopefully they’ll find something else that does work.

    As someone says above, there is no membership list in AA, no names, we are anonymous. We only know someone is no longer with the program if we stop seeing them at meetings. There are no statistics in AA. No one keeps track of the number
    of people at a meeting.

    AA may not be for everyone. But I think it’s a good resource for someone who wants
    to be sober but can’t stop drinking on their own. (Like me!)

  • Tim

    Also, note to RF who said that:
    “The head person that was in charge of the place got upset
    because I would not pray or anything that would religious
    because I was an Atheist. ”
    Sorry that you had that experience. But forget that person and that meeting and
    go to a different AA meeting. And if you don’t like that one either, try another. There
    are plenty around and can all of them can be a bit different. (There are even AA meetings
    specifically for Atheists and Agnostics, although these are harder to find.)

    I’m an Atheist. I don’t pray. And yet I’ve been in AA for many, many years, clean
    and sober.

  • MA

    Tim- While you are doing your steps, what/who are you giving your will and your life over to; and to whom/what do you pray?

  • mikeblamedenial

    Tim, are there AA meetings for people wishing to moderate, but not totally eliminate their alcohol consumption? I ask because you insist upon recommending AA to RF, who clearly stated he has no desire to abstain completely. Why would you urge someone to attend who CLEARLY DOES NOT MEET AA’s only stated requirement for membership?

  • mikeblamedenial

    RF, you sound like a prime candidate for Moderation Management. Check them out here.
    http://www.moderation.org/

  • causeandeffect

    Tim, AA does keep statistics. It’s called the triennial survey which for 15 years running found a 5% retention rate. It’s no longer keeps statistics on retention, I suppose because it was embarrassing, but it does keep statistics on other parameters such as occupation, how one was referred to AA etc.

  • mikeblamedenial

    C&E, the triennials continue, the last one having been completed last year. The statistics remain essentially remain unchanged.

  • causeandeffect

    mbd, if that’s the case the link I have is a cleaned up version which doesn’t show this 5%. I would even venture to say that its more lying with it’s own statistics. I would like to see it it you have a link.

  • flannigan

    @Tim
    EVERYONE stops drinking (just as they started drinking) on their own. Most stop without any “treatment” at all. But in the end, it is the individual who makes the choice; it can’t be any other way. If you enjoy AA, congrats, you should do what you feel is best for youself.
    But do you recommend other “treatment modalities” in AA for those members that 12 step
    “therapy” does not help?

  • mikeblamedenial

    C&E, this is the most recent year for which AA has published its results:
    http://www.aa.org/pdf/products/p-48_07survey.pdf
    Here is a vid we did awhile ago regarding retention rates:

  • Tim

    TO MA:
    Q: ” While you are doing your steps, what/who are you giving your will and your life over to”
    A: My Higher Power in AA is the AA program itself. (I know, it’s kind of circular, but it works! LOL)
    Your Higher Power in AA can be anything … God, Buddha, Yoda … we joke that you can
    even have a doorknob as your Higher Power! Whatever works!!!!
    Q:and to whom/what do you pray?
    A: I don’t pray. I don’t have to if I don’t want to. (Although I sometimes have to put up with others who pray, even at meetings. But that’s a small price to pay to stay sober.)

    TO mikeblamedenial:
    Q: “are there AA meetings for people wishing to moderate, but not totally eliminate their alcohol consumption?”
    A: Some people come to meetings wishing only to moderate but not stop totally.
    But we’ve found out from experience that it’s very difficult to do that. If someone like
    RF is able to do that, great! More power to him. But I certainly can’t drink moderately.
    Q: “I ask because you insist upon recommending AA to R”
    A: Sorry, I didn’t think I was being insistent. But yes, I was suggesting he give it another
    try if he wants. Going to a few AA meetings may be enough for him to drink moderately.
    If so, great! Or he may change his mind with time and eventually want to stop completely.

    TO causeandeffect:
    Q: “AA does keep statistics. It’s called the triennial survey”
    A: Oh, okay, well I’ve never heard of that. It goes against the AA traditions if someone
    is doing that. Certainly I’ve never seen someone with a clipboard surveying people
    at the meetings I’ve been to. (And if there ever was, I’d immediately walk out.)

    TO flannigan:
    Q: “But do you recommend other “treatment modalities” in AA for those members that 12
    step “therapy” does not help?”
    A: Definitely! If AA doesn’t work for someone, then they should try something else.
    And if that something else works and keeps them sober, then that’s great news.
    And if that something else doesn’t work, well then they can always give AA another try.
    They are always welcome.

  • MA

    I understand the higher power can be anything. My question is, how can a toaster or Buddha fix your drinking problem?

    Also, you might want to read some of this blog before you keep going. But I do welcome you here.

  • causeandeffect

    Tim, what other treatment modalities would you recommend for someone for whom AA doesn’t help?

    FYI, the triennial survey is conducted by AA itself. It’s anonymous, it doesn’t collect names, just the numbers.

  • mikeblamedenial

    Tim says, to which I (((reply)))
    “TO mikeblamedenial:
    “ Some people come to meetings wishing only to moderate but not stop totally.
    But we’ve found out from experience that it’s very difficult to do that. If someone like
    RF is able to do that, great! More power to him. But I certainly can’t drink moderately.

    (((Whose experience? I was in AA for the better part of thirty years, and never met anyone, ever, who openly admitted that they did not want to quit drinking, and only came to AA to learn to moderate. I have, however heard many make such a claim in anecdotal hindsight to get the expected chortles and guffaws when they were giving their drunkalogues.)))

    Q: “I ask because you insist upon recommending AA to R”
    A: Sorry, I didn’t think I was being insistent. But yes, I was suggesting he give it another
    try if he wants. Going to a few AA meetings may be enough for him to drink moderately.
    If so, great! Or he may change his mind with time and eventually want to stop completely.

    (((Sorry, you seem to have misunderstood my question. Again, why would you recommend AA attendance to one who CLEARLY does not meet the requirement for membership stated in the third tradition? Nowhere in AA doctrine, text or dogma has it been indicated that one of the goals of AA is to help people moderate after attending a few meetings, nor have I ever heard anyone claim that AA did so.)))

  • SoberPJ

    Riigghht, a moderate drinker will be all warm and fuzzy welcome in AA meetings. Timmy, you are trying to twist non-reality into some sort of accepting reality. Your version of AA, is Tim’s version, not the one in the AA Corporate self-help book of Alocholics Anonymous.

  • Disclosure

    “I’m an Atheist. I don’t pray. And yet I’ve been in AA for many, many years, clean
    and sober.”
    Tim,
    What is the difference between clean and sober? Why would the distinction be important? Is this another word game like spiritual not religious? How many of your friends in AA have died? Do you make suggestions based on your experience instead of giving advice? How many women have you sponsored?

  • Tim

    FROM MA: “Also, you might want to read some of this blog before you keep going.”

    Thanks, I have now. I should have paid more attention to what this site was about
    before just posting my thoughts. I just stumbled upon this thread and didn’t pay
    close enough attention… I apologize for that.

    I feel really bad about all the horror stories people have been sharing on this site
    about their bad experiences with the AA program (and sponsors in the program).

    I don’t really know what to say. My experiences in AA have been very different.
    Before AA I was a miserable drunk who could never go more than a couple of weeks
    without a drink. Now with AA I’m happy, healthy, enjoying life, laughing all the time, and
    have been able to go without a drink for many years.

    Yes, there have been random people in the rooms over the years that had some
    pretty bad advice (and sometimes destructive advice) but these people were the minority
    and for the most part I’ve gotten some great support in AA.

    I’d like to say if you have bad experiences in AA, try other meetings, other sponsors.
    But in some cases people on this site have done that and still had horrible
    experiences. I live in the Northeast USA and there are tons of different meetings
    available, but I know this is not always the case in other parts of the country.

    I don’t know what else to say, other than if AA is not for you, then don’t go.
    As long as you are able to stay sober or drink moderately, then you’d don’t even
    need AA.

    It worked for me. It doesn’t work for everyone.

  • flannigan

    @Tim
    Congrats on your sobriety. You did it yourself. Please name the other “treatment modalities’ that you recommend to members of AA who are not being helped by AA. Why do you recommend these and not others? Have you ever in an open meeting stated that AA does not work for everyone and named other “treatment modalities” that these people should try? If you could change some things about AA, what would they be? Thanks in advance.

  • Disclosure

    Tim,
    What about those who have died in AA due to a modified belief system that incorporated Jails, institutions, and death into their leaving the group? What about those groups that don’t offer alternatives and hold the person hostage who is relapsing from an imaginary disease? This is why I am here; AA is a deadly cult and needs to be changed.

  • Lucy

    Tim, Many of us have been without a drink for many years, and many of us spent many of those years in AA.

    I didn’t leave because of “random” people giving “bad advice.” I left because I saw the systematic and deliberate trampling of new ideas and good medicine put aside so that the cult could flourish. I saw it so much that I gave up being a circuit speaker, well known oldtimer, to become a pariah who is talked about behind her back.

    But I now have integrity which was not consistent with my life in AA.

  • Disclosure

    Lucy,
    Did you ever hear the one who shared about the super glue and her husband’s privates?
    Ouch!

  • Disclosure

    I am still waiting for a link in the resources section called “Just Stop”. I think ignoring this as a modality of behavior change promotes false dilemma, limited choices, and entrepreneurial non-competitiveness. Perhaps this proposed resource button could link to a ST thread called Just Stop where people discuss how just stopping is branded as impossible in AA by those with the self proclaimed disease alcoholism.