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.