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What is the Success Rate of Recovery in AA?

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Opening Insights: Let's Get High, Who Cares?

Addiction is rampant in our communities, businesses, schools and societies. It has become the norm - so much so that many of us just accept that this is the way things are. However, the societal costs are high and if change does not occur soon, the robotic age will be upon us, not due to innovation, but rather due to necessity.

Alcoholism and drug addiction have and are becoming increasingly pandemic - with alcohol becoming "accepted" and the opioid crisis continuing to resemble the black plague.

Traditional inpatient treatment options are not viable to treat the magnitude and prevalence of the problem, not to mention too costly (in terms of price and manpower). At best these programs offer an individual intervention, which does little to impact the addicts toxic environment which contributed to the dis-ease.

Informational Insights: Realities of AA

A blog on the Spiritual River website by Patrick examined the success rate of the most prevalent form of recovery: Alcoholics Anonymous  (AA).

What is the success rate of recovery in AA? That depends entirely on who you ask, and on exactly what you are measuring.

For example, there is documentation that proves “early AA” had a success rate of about 75 percent.

On the other hand, there are some people who claim that AA actually has a negative rate of recovery, and that people actually relapse in AA who might have recovered “spontaneously” through spontaneous remission of the disease.

Finally, there are a large number of estimates out there that put the success rate of recovery at around 3 to 5 percent.

But it is indeed a tricky thing to measure. For one, what exactly are we measuring? Complete abstinence for life? Alcoholics who successfully make it to one year sober? What exactly determines “success” when we are talking about success rates? This is the first half of the measuring problem.

The other half of the problem is that it is very difficult to obtain truly accurate results across a large sample. There are a number of reasons for this, not the least of which is the anonymity that the program is based on. Add that to the shame and guilt associated with relapse, and you have the potential to seriously overestimate the success rate based on an anonymous survey.

What does AA themselves have to say? Here is a piece of an actual memo from the Alcoholics Anonymous GSO (General Services Office), based on an analysis of a survey period that ran for 12 years:

After just one month in the Fellowship, 81% of the new members have already dropped out. After three months, 90% have left, and 95% have discontinued attendance inside one year. (Kolenda, 2003, Golden Text Publishing Company).

Of course, this doesn’t really tell the whole story, as many people will leave after AA after being first introduced to it, and then later return once they have truly been beaten by their alcoholism. Most people who are a success story in AA tell of how they struggled–sometimes for years–going in and out of AA before they finally “got it.”

On both sides of this issue, people are very passionate

If you follow the 2 links at the beginning of this article, you’ll see that one is definitely pro-AA, and the other is vehemently anti-AA. One is claiming up to a 95% success rate, while the other is claiming AA is actually detrimental and has a negative success rate (lower than spontaneous remission). And you’ll also notice that both people are very passionate and firm believers in the stance they are taking. Why such a discrepancy here?

I believe the reason is that AA is effective for some, but it is clearly not for everyone. It is not a one-size-fits-all program. There are plenty of people who have achieved success and meaningful sobriety in AA. There are also those who have honestly gave it there best shot, only to eventually relapse and die. This is unfortunate, and it begs the question: “What are the alternatives?”

Unfortunately, there aren’t a whole lot. Yes, there are a few out there, but they are spread few and far between, and there are many disadvantages with all of them. While many of the alternatives to AA claim to have superior success rates, their method of measurement suffers from the same flaws as AA, and their is very little widespread support in these programs.

If you are on the fence about going to AA, here is what I suggest you do: Ignore the success rates you hear about and give it a chance. Do this knowing that AA is the single biggest support system of recovery in the world. The program may not be perfect, but it’s the best our planet has. The alternatives might talk a big game, but they don’t have meetings in every city in the world. AA does. You can find support just about anywhere. And it’s technically free to boot.

Here’s another suggestion: find someone in AA who has multiple years of sobriety and ask them what the success rate is for AA. They will likely tell you that they don’t care. It works for them.

Action items – What does all this mean for you?

  1. Give AA a chance, because the meetings are everywhere and therefore the level of support is mind-boggling.
  2. Don’t get stuck in thinking there is only one path to recovery – that is NOT TRUE. There are many paths.
  3. Stay open. Regardless of what you choose, implement the spiritual principles into your life. Practice gratitude.

Source: //

AA and 12 Step groups could be the solution given their community orientation, presence and reach. HOWEVER, in their current form 12 Step programs, without the edition of transformational learning and monitoring - will continue to see high recidivism rates.

These programs did work in the past. However, the AA and 12 Step recovery programs of yesterday are very different to the AA approach today.

In his latter years Bill W clearly identified the need for AA to evolve and transcend to The Next Frontier of Addiction Recovery: Emotional Sobriety. Until now AA and 12 Step programs have failed to find the tools and resources to make Bill W's dream and vision a reality.

While AA still remains a viable option for those seeking recovery, the approach needs to be supported by transformational learning (to learn all 5 Dimensions of Sobriety) and monitoring (at work, to provide a true behavioral accountability measure).

Possibilities for Consideration: Let's Get Real

Examining our intention, for the greater good: 

  • If we can expand and actualize the legacy and dream of Bill W, how can we make emotional maturity a part of AA in all 5 Dimensions of Sobriety?
  • If we are to address the addiction problems within our businesses, organizations and schools we need a solution that deals with cultural and individual resolution.
  • If we fail to address the addiction problems today what will be the cost to our businesses, organizations, schools, families and world?

PWI Recovery PLUS is a structure program that supports and augments 12 Step recovery. Working within the AA structure and process, the proven Recovery PLUS program incorporates:

  • Transformational Learning (so that emotional maturity and sobriety can be learned quicker and more effectively), and
  • Monitoring (so that accountability and the principles of emotional sobriety and 12 Step can be practiced and refined within a workplace environment).

This program has been proven and test by numerous studies and showed by one Fedral Aviation Authority (FAA) study to yield a 91% long-term success rate. See our field research.

JOIN The PWI RECOVERY PLUS in echoing in a new era of addiction recovery.

12 Step + PWI Recovery PLUS + Monitoring = Success (91% Success)

Add Your Insight: Take Back Our Lives

The goal of the twelve steps is for us to learn how to emotionally 12th step ourselves.

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