Sunday, January 10, 2010

Does AA Work?

Yes. AA works. It works very well. Most of the successfully sober alcoholics are not writing books or making noise or causing trouble, so we don't hear about them. They are just getting on with living life. They have made amends for the wreckage they caused while they were drinking, and they are very busy making the best of the new life they have.

When I look at the phone list of my home group, it is evident that people come to AA and get and stay sober. I was going to do an analysis of the sobriety dates but decided to just skip that. Suffice it to say, there are a good many people who are sober there. There are a couple who have been sober for over 30 years. There are several of us who have been sober for over 20 years. There are many who have been sober between 10 and 20 years. And then there are those between one and 10 years - probably the majority. There are a few chronic "slippers" and it is my experience that when and if they do get sober, they will usually explain to you exactly why it is that they were not sober during the time that they were not sober. I have never heard anyone explain to me that it is because something about the program didn't work. It is always about something that they were not doing or were not willing to do.

Some do not get sober. Some do not stay sober. That is simply reality. But I have seldom seen someone who is actively a member of Alcoholics Anonymous get drunk. And that would be someone who is living by the principles which is a lot more than going to meetings. Meetings are nice but will not keep you sober. Get a sponsor to find out what it is that you need to be doing in addition to going to meetings... if all you do is go to meetings, likely all you will hear is "keep coming back!"

When I drive across town to my old homegroup, I see folks with grey hair and pot bellies who used to be cool cats and chicks with me in the 80s. They are now serenely happy sober retirees and grandparents.... that is a gross overgeneralization. But the point is, I can walk into that room and see a whole room full of people I have known in AA for well over 20 years. And most of them, including me, have been sober for all of that time. There are new people there too and there are lovingly cared for by the older members. (About a year ago, on a day that my daughter knew that she had to go to AA and didn't know where to go, she happened to arrive at a noon meeting in another group across town with a lot of my old peers and felt instantly like she had come home - that is now her homegroup and she has a sponsor who has taken her through the steps and has been sober ever since.)

I have known of some chicanery occurring in and around AA in my years in the fellowship. But honestly when I read of the stories of egregiously bad behavior that have been published recently, I do not recognize that organization as the AA I have known and loved for two and a half decades. It is my experience that a member will get out of line from time to time and will suffer either their own consequences and will change their behavior or people will confront the behavior if it is hurting others. In any event, it seldom goes very far or is tolerated for long.

And what should have been the preface to this post: I am writing this because recently I have been dismayed by the voluminous misinformation about AA that abounds on the internet. A couple of weeks ago, I did a google search for "Does AA work?" and was dismayed to see the horrible things that came up as a result of the search. I wondered - where is our information? There are approximately 2 million sober alcoholics - you would think that, even though we are an anonymous organization, there would be some general information that people who are alcoholic and ready to quit drinking can go to AA and get help to quit drinking and learn to live happy lives without alcohol. But no, there is all this other stuff. I exchanged e-mails with Ed G. who I have met as a result of this blog and is now one of my favorite people... we talked about writing about this specifically and he wrote about it today. I thought I better do it too.

I do know one thing, and that is that when I got sober I was desperate to quit drinking and I felt I had nowhere else to go. I had no insurance at the time, so the treatment centers were not anxious to help me. I called Alcoholics Anonymous and was greeted by a lovely, intelligent, elegant, soft-spoken, well-dressed woman who told me that an important part of her recovery was to help other alcoholics and she would be happy to talk with me! She had a history like mine and she understood me - and she was now sober! That was extremely good news to me then. I bet there are people who think that is extremely good news today. Alcoholism has not changed in 25 years. Our program has not changed in 25 years - or 75 years. AA worked then, and it works now.

I was desperate not to drink ever again and I found someone to help me to take the steps as written in the big book of Alcoholics Anonymous. As a result of that, I had a spiritual experience and my life changed. In order to keep that, I was told I had to pass it on. And as I sponsor other women, they then pass it on.

We have been entrusted with a life and death mission. That may sound like hyperbole, but if you have been in AA for a while, you know that it isn't. I thank God that I live in a time where there is a solution to my problem because 75 years isn't a long time in the history of the universe and prior to AA there were isolated cases of people having spiritual experiences and recovering from alcoholism, but not anything on the scale of the wholesale recovery that we now take for granted and some even sarcastically deride.

22 comments:

Ed G. said...

Thank you for this. As I understand it (imperfectly at best), our best proof of AA's success are recovered lives and reunited families. I know of many of those so, yes, indeedy, AA works.

Thanx again.

Blessings and aloha...

dAAve said...

The good stuff is out there too. Maybe you're just not looking in the right place. One example is that the Big Book and the 12/12 are both online for anyone who wishes to sit and read them.
It's not all glooom and doom.

just sayin' ...

Mike Golch said...

as DAAve said the big book and the 12/12 are on linke and I have a link up on my blog.I for know A.A. works.I just celebrated 19 years sober on 17 DEC 2009,by the grace of GOD and A.A.Mike G said that!

Scott W said...

I am sober by the grace of my Higher Power. That is mysterious to me, but that is how I comprehend it. AA worked for me and it has worked for millions of others. Every generation of AA members have had the same thoughts that the program is being watered down, not done right, going to disappear, the leading the way in getting people sober, the only way to get sober...whatever people are able to think.

The truth seems to be that AA works through divine providence.

advice for romantic relationships in college said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Pam said...

I'm a little surprised at some of the comments.
It's like the game where you whisper a sentence to a person who whispers to the next person and the original sentence is distorted. If people don't see that happening....you can't make them understand how the message is changing.
The message is still strong in lots of groups..but not all.

Lou said...

Much of what I was taught in school, in church, by my parents is "watered down" today. I imagine AA is no exception--as a society we want things fast..and easy. I'm guilty of this also.

On the other side, there are people who will always take the harder, but right, road. I think you have to continue to follow your own conscience, even if it is swimming against the popular tide.

Willa said...

I find I hear a lot of recovery words all over television in a variety of fields - comedy, politics, news.

The "primary purpose." The "next indicated step" are just some of the few words that constantly seem to pop out of nowhere in the weirdest places (are words from the Big Book entering mainstream popular culture?). That troubles me.

I need my higher power, my Big Book, my sponsor or another person in the fellowship. I don't even require coffee, though it would be nice.

Syd said...

I take heart that not a word of the first 164 pages of the Big Book has been changed. There are going to be those who don't understand the message and who don't really care about the program. But then there are many like you MC who practice the program because your life depends on it. I go to a speaker meeting on those Saturday nights when I'm not on the boat. This past Saturday a fellow spoke who truly carried the message IMO--you could have heard a pin drop in the room. It was truly evidence of God working in a life that no human power could have saved.

Kim A. said...

Those who carry the message that A.A. works blessed me with a sober mother who will pick up an 11 year chip in February. A.A. will be there for my son when and if he decides he is ready because of those who carry the message. Alanon is there for the families and friends who love the alcoholics. Alateen is there for the youngsters who are affected. No insurance or referrals needed, ever, amen.

namaste

Kathy M. said...

Thanks for this post. It's a shame there's so much misinformation out there. AA and Al-Anon have saved so many lives. I've always thought the program works if you work it.

Scott said...

AA is serious business to be sure and I am so grateful for all that AA has given me (my entire life). I was lucky enough to handle the "token duty" yesterday at the noon meeting as a friend of mine celebrated his 37th AA anniversary. I am 41, he is 37 years sober, wow!

Spenncer said...

I doubt AA works for someone who is forced to go - like by the courts for a DUI. I think it probably helps a lot of people as a support group.
I would be a lot more apt to believe recovered addicts if they would admit that it worked for some; not others, and if they used a little more normal english and a little less bs like "it works if you work it", "keep comin' back", "step by step".
Is it the other side of the looking glass or a support group for alchoholics?

Anonymous said...

The key to staying sober is the words "thoroughly followed our path", and "half measures availed us nothing." The program requires commitment, then action. Bill Wilson was asked if he would change anything in the book. He said the word "rarely" would have been changed to "never" have we seen a person fail who has thoroughly followed our path.

Anonymous said...

There is no majic whammy stick for sobriety. The judges send people to AA with the hope that they may hear something that rings a bell of sanity in their heads and like me see the truth and decide to do something about it. I've been sober for 20 yrs and had no intention to sober up till I experienced Gods grace,listening to a sober drunk who I never met tell my story. I made a decision to go to a meeting instead of the bar I worked at after leaving an alcohol awareness weekend. My and my families lives have never been the same

Anonymous said...

As a 39 year old former daily cocaine and alcohol user I can attest that AA really does work if you follow the 12 steps. Surely I would be dead right now if my sponsor, (a complete stranger, I never met) did not share with me his experience with alcoholism and what he did to get and stay sober. Thank you AA for my wonderful productive life!! just over 5 yrs sober

Jerry Miller said...

On Friday I celebrated 31 years of continuous sobriety from alcohol and drugs. Without AA I would be dead. Alcoholism is a fatal illness. Someone wrote a pamphlet called A Member's Eye View. He said that AA was not all he needed. It is appropriate for a person to say AA is all I need. But to say AA is all you need would be inappropriate. The man said I need my church, my analysis, and AA. But if someone came to me and told me that they had a drinking problem I would not send them to my church, or my analyst but to AA. It works for me.

Sheldon C. said...

I found also a book by Hans Durrer with the title "Dose AA work?" Do you know this?
Durrer explains why its so difficult, to make studies about the effectiveness of AA. He quotes Ludwig 'Understanding the Alcoholic's Mind,' who says: its difficult because there is "no general agreement about the nature, cause, or treatment of alcoholism". Whatever the scientists may find - the aim is to get rid of the alcolhol. Most AA members succeed over it.
For those who want to know - here is the source: http://www.grin.com/en/e-book/176302/12-step-addiction-treatment

Anonymous said...

i just love the life of Sobriety. Alcoholics Anonymous help me find myself. I was always so afraid to talk about ME....Now I can live with myself and enjoy getting to know everyone around me with a healthy mind. NO SANITY!!

Anonymous said...

Hello Mary. I am a freshman in high school doing a 40 weeks research paper and presentation on how AA works. I'm on your side. I was going to ask if I can use your name as an example because my teacher makes us write more then "supporters" or critics we have to use examples. Thanks for reading this.

Mary Christine said...

You may use whatever you can find here on the blog and quote me as "Blogger Mary Christine." I don't know if you realize that I wrote on this blog every day for nearly 7 years. Good luck with your research.

Anonymous said...

Confessions of a chronic slipper. I never thought it would be my fate. It is for now. I am always glad to go back to the rooms when I can't stand to be away any longer. Then the clock starts and eventually the claustrophobic ego has to escape. Too many people who think somebody gives a damn what they think. They speak of open mindedness and humility but I see very little evidence. It feels like a lobotomy in slow motion hearing the same "do as I do..go where I go... be what I am! I would have lost it in a sea of substance and pity were it not for an inner yearning to understand Zen and Eastern methods of dealing with ego and self. These are words of comfort not the lost mysticism of AA which used to tell us that we will intuitively know how to deal with life's problems. AA is Zen-like but it can be anything but in the wrong hands. I, me and mine are deadly as blow,rum and beer. In or out of the rooms.