When Bill Wilson was once asked how long AA would be around, he replied, “We will be around as long as God finds us useful.” Apparently God is not finding AA all that useful as the world evolves into a global village.
AA’s latest numbers (Box 459, Summer, ’11) continue to show it’s slow but inexorable decline. Very ominously for AA, the number of groups overseas in 2011 from 2010 declined by 9,059 (17.2%), and AA lost 59,768 (8.5%) overseas members in one year. That furthers the argument that without the forced coercion from US courts and treatment centers, AA would be in a freefall globally.
AAWS reports that AA as a whole now has 2,057,652 members globally, down from 2,103,033 in the previous year. By contrast, in 2002 there were 2,215,293 members. In 2002, there were 891,062 members outside North America. This year’s 644,498 members is a decline of 28% over nine years.
The numbers in North America are essentially flat from 2010. Canada actually lost 146 members over the year but claimed it had formed 81 new groups. It’s group count is flat with 2002, but the membership count is down by over 3000 over the nine years.
The US is the sole place in the world where AA is growing by even a smidgen, reflecting the coercion of the culture and courts. The 2011 membership number for the US is 1,279,664. That’s up slightly from 2010′s 1,264,716. The group count grew this year by 1,211, to 57,905. The largest drop in the US over the nine year period was in the number of inmate members. The number of “behind the walls” groups declined by about 1000 over the period while the membership count dropped from 66,036 in 2002 to only 38,938 this year. AAWS offers no explanation, but one can surmise that mandatory sentencing guidelines may have resulted in inmates knowing that the “get out early by attending AA” card is less effective than it used to be.
Meantime, during all this stagnation and decline, AAWS continued to sell another million Big Books every year. So, nine million or more copies of the sacred text were foisted on newcomers over the period and the membership lost 157,621 members. The Grapevine’s circulation is now projected for this year at 88,000, down from 93,000 last year. The “AA Meeting in Print” had a circulation of 138,000 in 1993.
The picture overall is a stagnant organization on the precipice of a future great decline. The combination of more courts declaring AA coercion to be a violation of the Establishment Clause, the growth of alternatives, the widespread internet information on AA’s ineffectiveness, and the growing secularity in both the world and the US, all will combine to be its further undoing. For decades the AA leadership has claimed its growth opporunity was overseas. That strategy has clearly failed, and the only strategy that is working now is one that is clearly a violation of the program’s claimed principles of attraction not promotion. AA is now locked arm in arm with the courts for its survival, making a complete mockery of the claim of cooperation but not affiliation.