According the latest AA Triennial Survey, the average length of sobriety is 8 years. This sounds about right, but it includes only current members, and not those who drop out in disgust. Count those, and the average length of sobriety is closer to the one year mark. Walk into a decent sized meeting, and the majority in attendance have been there for less than a year, or are on their umpteenth kick at the sobriety can. There are a number of reasons for AA’s revolving door of new attendees, but nothing higher on the list than the old-timers.
AA’s only membership requirement is a desire to quit drinking, or being forced into attendance by a judge. There is no screening or background checks of members. Bank robbers, pedophiles, sociopaths, narcissists, wife beaters, peeping toms, child abusers and any other person is welcome – and all will thrive within the culture of AA if they simply adhere to the program. In fact, many of those who were failures at everything else in their life will be looked on with reverence in AA, simply by meeting the two prerequisites of becoming an old timer – don’t drink, and don’t die.
It takes a certain type of person to be able to stomach the dogma of AA for any length of time, and those who have been in the program for ten plus years are a special breed. They are the high priests of AA who set the tone of a specific chapter, become the sponsors, and help to create such a mind fuck for newcomers. One of the more special moments in a share meeting, for example, is when an old-timer uses the platform to lecture, typically using terms such as “some people”, as though they are speaking in general, really they are making reference to some poor sap who may have had the nerve to question something. Such as – “Some people think they can just show up, continue to bullshit themselves, and everything is going to change”. This is a tacit way of saying the poor schmuck who spoke earlier was not “being honest with himself”. The other old-timers will nod in agreement, and poor bastard who had the nerve to have an individual thought, is left sitting in shame.
It isn’t uncommon for an AA members to revolve their lives around the fellowship. Everything in their lives, from their belief systems, to the way they talk, to their circle of friends, is Alcoholics Anonymous. Old-timers thrive in this atmosphere, and after a few years of living in the insular world of AA, they become insufferable. Add to that touch of sociopathy and narcissism, and they become your worst nightmare.