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  • #30911
    Anonymous
    Inactive

    What Happened? That question is being asked by a lot of alcoholics lately. What happened to our high success rate? 30 & 40 years ago, we were keeping 75% or more of the alcoholics who came to us for help. Today, we aren’t keeping even 5%. What happened?

    What happened to that wonderful A.A. Group that was around for 20, 30 or 40 years? There used to be 50, 75, 100 or more at every meeting. It is now a matter of history, gone! More and more groups are folding every day. What happened? We hear a lot of ideas, opinions and excuses as to what happened but things are not improving. They continue to get worse. What is happening?

    Bill W. wrote, “In the years ahead A.A. will, of course, make mistakes. Experience has taught us that we need have no fear of doing this, providing that we always remain willing to admit our faults and to correct them promptly. Our growth as individuals has depended upon this healthy process of trial and error. So will our growth as a fellowship. Let us always remember that any society of men and women that cannot freely correct its own faults must surely fall into decay if not into collapse. Such is the universal penalty for the failure to go on growing. Just as each A.A. must continue to take his moral inventory and act upon it, so must our whole Society if we are to survive and if we are to serve usefully and well.” (A.A. Comes of Age, PG 231) With so very few finding lasting sob riety and the continued demise of AA groups , it is obvious that we have not remained willing to admit our faults and to correct them promptly. Seems to me that the Delegate of the Northeast Ohio Area, Bob Bacon, identified our mistakes and our faults when he talked to a group of AA’s in 1976. He said, in essence, we are no longer showing the newcomer that we have a solution for alcoholism. We are not telling them about the Big Book and how very important that Book is to our long-term sobriety. We are not telling them about our Traditions and how very important they are to the individual groups and to Alcoholics Anonymous as a whole. Rather, we are using our meeting time for drunkalogs, a discussion of our problems, ideas and opinions or “my day” or “my way”.

    Having been around for a few years, and reflecting on what Bob Bacon had to say, it would appear that we have permitted newcomers to convince the old-timers that they have a better idea. They had just spent 30 or more days in a treatment facility where they had been impressed with the need to talk about their problems in Group Therapy Sessions. ; They had been told that it didn’t make any difference what their real problem was; A.A. had the “best program”. They were told that they should go to an A. A. meeting every day for the 1st 90 days out of treatment. They were told that they shouldn’t make any major decisions for the 1st year of their sobriety. And what they were told goes on and on, most of which are contrary to the Program of Alcoholics Anonymous! Apparently, what they were told sounded pretty good to the A.A. members who were here when the TC clients started showing up at our meetings. And a lot of the A.A. members liked the idea of the treatment centers because the centers provided a place where they could drop off a serious drinker, if he/she had insurance. That eliminated some of the inconveniences we had been plagued with before; having to pour orange juice and honey or a shot of booze down a vibrating alky to help them “detox”. When A.A. was very successful, the folks who did the talking in meetings were recovered alcoholics. The suffering and untreated alcoholics listened. After hearing what it takes to recover, the newcomer was faced with a decision; “Are you going to take the Steps and recover or are you going to get back out there and finish the job?” If they said they “were willing to go to any length”, they were given a sponsor, a Big Book and began the process of recovery by taking the Steps and experie ncing the Promises that result from that course of action. This process kept the newcomer involved in working with others and continued the growth of our Fellowship. Our growth rate was approximately 7% and the number of sober members of Alcoholics Anonymous doubled every 10 years. With the advent of the rapid growth of the Treatment Industry, the acceptance of our success with alcoholics by the judicial system and endorsement of physicians, psychiatrist, psychologist , etc. all kinds of people were pouring into A.A. at a rate greater than we had ever dreamed possible. Almost without realizing what was happening, our meetings began changing from ones that focused on recovery from alcoholism to “discussion or participation” types of meetings that invited everyone to talk about whatever was on their mind. The meetings evolved from a program of spiritual development to the group therapy type of meeting where we heard more and more about “our problems” and less and less about the Program of Recovery by the Big Book and the preservation of our Fellowship by adhering to our Traditions.

    What has been the result of all this? Well, never have we had so many coming to us for help. But never have we had such a slow growth rate which has now started to decline. For the first time in our history, Alcoholics Anonymous is losing members faster than they are coming in and our success rate is unbelievably low. (Statistics from the Inter-Group Office of some major cities indicate less than 5% of those expressing a desire to stop drinking is successful for more than 5 years; a far cry from the 75% reported by Bill W. in the Forward to Second Edition). The change in the content of our meetings is proving to be misery-traps for the newcomer and in turn, misery-traps for the groups that depend on the “discussion or participation” type meetings.

    Why is this? The answer is very simple. When meetings were opened so that untreated alcoholics & non-alcoholics were given the opportunity to express their ideas, their opinions, air their problems and tell how they were told to do it where they came from, the confused newcomer became more confused with the diversity of information that was being presented. More and more they were encouraged to “just go to meetings and don’t drink” or worse yet, “go to 90 meetings in 90 days”. The newcomer no longer was told to take the Steps or get back out there and finish the job. In fact, they are often told, “Don’t rush into taking the Steps. Take your time.” The alcoholics who participated in the writing of the Big Book didn’t wait. They took the Steps in the first few days following their last drink. Thank God, there are those in our Fellowship, like Joe & Charlie, Wally, etc., who have recognized the problem and have started doing something about it. They are placing the focus back on the Big Book.

    There have always been a few groups that would not yield to the group therapy trend. They stayed firm to their commitment to try to carry a single message to the suffering alcoholic. That is to tell the newcomer “we have had a spiritual awakening as the result of these Steps and if you want to recover, we will see that you have a sponsor who has recovered and will lead you along the path the 1st 100 laid down for us”.

    Recovered alcoholics have begun founding groups that have a single purpose and inform the newcomer that until they have taken the steps and recovered, they will not be permitted to say anything in meetings. They will listen to recovered alcoholics, they will take the Steps, they will recover and then they will try to pass their experience and knowledge on to the ones who are seeking the kind of help we provide in Alcoholics Anonymous. As this movement spreads, as it is beginning to, Alcoholics Anonymous will again be very successful in doing the one thing God intended for us to do and that is to help the suffering alcoholic recover, if he has decided he wants what we have and is willing to go to any length to recover, to take and apply our Twelve Steps to our lives and protect our Fellowship by honoring our Twelve Traditions.

    There is a tendency to want to place the blame for our predicament on the treatment industry and professionals. They do what they do and it has nothing to do with what we in Alcoholics Anonymous do. That is their business. That is not where to place the blame and also is in violation of our Tenth Tradition.

    The real problem is that the members of Alcoholics Anonymous, who were here when the “clients” began coming to our Fellowship did not help the “clients” understand that our Program had been firmly established since April 1939, and that the guidelines for the preservation and growth of our Fellowship were adopted in 1950. That they must get rid of their new “old ideas” and start practicing the Twelve Step Program of Alcoholics Anonymous as it was given to us. That until they had taken the Steps and recovered, they had nothing to say that needed to be heard except by their sponsor. But that didn’t happen. To the contrary, the old timers failed in their responsibility to the newcomer to remind them of a vital truth, “Rarely have we seen a person fail who has thoroughly followed our path. Those who do not recover are people who cannot or will not completely give themselves to this simple program.” We have permitted untreated alcoholics and non-alcoholics to sit in our meetings and lay out their problems, ideas and opinions. We have gone from, “Rarely have we seen a person fail” to “Seldom do we see a person recover”.

    So there we are. We have had 30 years of unbelievable success by following the directions in the Big Book. We have had 30 years of disappointing failure by wanting to hear from everyone. We now have something to compare. We now know what the problem is and we know what the solution is. Unfortunately, we have not been prompt to correct the faults and mistakes, which have been created by what would appear to be large doses of apathy and complacency. The problem we are trying to live with is needlessly killing alcoholics.

    The Solution? The Power, greater than ourselves, that we find through our Twelve Steps promises recovery for those who are willing to follow the clear-cut directions in the Big Book.

    Do you want to be a part of the problem or a part of the solution? Simple, but not easy, a price has to be paid.

    #159756
    Anonymous
    Inactive

    @Fluttering 1475461 wrote:

    What Happened? That question is being asked by a lot of alcoholics lately. What happened to our high success rate? 30 & 40 years ago, we were keeping 75% or more of the alcoholics who came to us for help. Today, we aren’t keeping even 5%. What happened?

    There is no proof that there ever was this kind of success rate to begin with, except for an assertion made by Bill W, who by all accounts tended to exaggerate. I think we all have a tendency to want to hold on to an idealized past, whether it be in the realm of politics, religion, or new age spirituality. If you’re sober today be grateful. Don’t worry about anyone else.

    #159762
    Anonymous
    Inactive

    Are you implying by posting this hard hitting speech by Bob Bacon that we are responsible as recovering alcoholics to set an example? What if those coming after me don’t like me because I am rigid in my feelings about what it takes to get sober?

    This kind of philosophy might take all the FUN out of getting sober and the meetings may become less “social” and harder work! Who knows, if I start behaving like the “old timers” behaved in the early days then I might not be the most popular fellow at the meeting and all the newcomers may not hang on my every word, and I won’t be able to bask in their admiration. After all isn’t being in AA all about how I feel because I am the guru of all the lost souls who haven’t got a clue about how to get sober?

    Thanks for posting this well written reminder. I was lucky to have a sponsor that was very unpopular, but saved my behind.

    Jon

    #159750
    Anonymous
    Inactive

    My sponsor is affectionantly known as a BB Nazi, I have become one as well! AA does hold the solution for those willing to work the solution.

    I do see in some rooms what Bacon talks about, but we have a good size core group of Old timers in my area that got sober when the solution came straight out of the BB, that is where my solution came from, that is what I bring to my sponsee, he went through three treatment centers in less then a year and he stayed sober 2 days after the 1st, 2 weeks after the second, and now has 4 months.

    Do I take credit for this? Heck no, all I am doing is passing on what was passed to me that was passed to him by his first sponsor and every bit of that is found in the BB!!!!

    There are things that we in my area need to bring out more in the rooms, one of the main ones in my opinion is letting newcomers know who is willing to be thier temporary sponsor in meetings.

    I am now seeing a move in the rooms in my area to get back to the AA from the BB and not from the rehabs and treatment centers. Rehabs and treatment centers have a very important place, basically they give a newcomer enough sobriety to where they can kind of grasp what is going on and what they need to do, but with rare exception do I see them come out of rehabs and treatment centers with any more of a grasp of AA other then they need to go!

    #159740
    Anonymous
    Inactive

    Perhaps when fewer, more desperate drunks came into the rooms, the “success” or retention rate was high.

    With more coming into the rooms earlier in recovery, the success or “retention” rate (all self-reported and subjective) might change.

    Some might consider the previous numbers “creaming”.

    I think every alcoholic who finds relief… in any way…. is a success. I got sober without a program – the same way as my sister and my mother and my dad.

    After over 20 years sober, I got into a 12-step program for other reasons, and I am a big fan of the program for what it has done for me. But I also know, from my own experience, that there is more than one way to skin a cat.

    #159755
    Anonymous
    Inactive
    Quote:
    Perhaps when fewer, more desperate drunks came into the rooms, the “success” or retention rate was high.

    This.

    The wife cards, the court cards, those who aren’t convinced that they are alcoholic, all bring the percentages down. Do I care ? No. I’m, happy to help anyone who wants it , or thinks they might want it.

    Bottom line is, those that are there and stay there are very fortunate. The odds are against us, and we should consider ourselves blessed to have our recovery. We are all walking, talking miracles.

    #159763
    Anonymous
    Inactive

    I don’t see the message of this speech as a call for higher percentages or even a comparison between then and now. I read the comments to be a call for those of us who have been blessed with today’s sobriety as a gift from AA and it’s fellowship to remember that we have to actively pass on that gift by participation and not just observation.

    I salute anyone who has made the decision to attempt sobriety. If we get to AA by walking in off the street as I did, or we enter the doors by way of a treatment center it is of little matter. I think what matters is what we do when we get in the rooms and MOST importantly, who is there for us.

    It is the WHO part that I think Bacon’s article speaks to. At least in my opinion I felt that I need to remember that as a newcomer in AA I really did want direction, even though sometimes I wasn’t so good at taking it. I feel that this article is a call to the folks with time in sobriety to be of service by example and remembering that participation in meetings is as important as being there.

    Just my observations.

    Jon

    #159751
    Anonymous
    Inactive

    I have always wanted to know how they compile these stats?

    Do they only count folks that go to at least 90 meetings in 90 days?

    Do they count every single person that walks in the door one time?

    Do they count the court ordered who do not want to be there?

    Do they count the person who came in and went back out and came back in as one or two people?

    In reality no matter how it is counted there are still more recovered alcoholics who recovered thru AA then all other programs combined in history and I thank God I am amount them.

    #159748
    Anonymous
    Inactive

    I am not an alcoholic but my husband is. In 1989 he went to an AA based residential rehab for one month. Then came out and did his 90 in 90. He remained sober for over 14 years. He relapsed 4 or 5 years ago (I lost count), he wasn’t going to meetings. Felt he was tired of hearing same stuff over and over again. Three months ago, went back to the same rehab, told me some things had changed. They had group sessions, AA meetings were diner meetings, discussion, speaker, etc. Back in 1989, he worked the steps (moral inventory, made amends, etc.) Each day there was a new step and they talked about the steps. I know this cause he used to write me letters all the time about the steps. This time was different. He knew of the steps but they didn’t go into detail of working the steps. Now he goes to meetings that are open, speaker, celebration, etc. And now, after 3 months, he has relapsed BIG TIME (drinking since Sunday). 8 out of 10 people he met up in rehab and goes to meetings with have already fallen off the wagon. That must say something. JMHO.

    #159764
    Anonymous
    Inactive

    The author of the Orange-Papers is not only diligent, but with some of his assertions that HE extrapolates into facts, quite as misleading as the very figures he is challenging. I am curious where the ax came from that he seems determined to grind towards AA?

    “Thus, an alcoholism treatment program that seems to have a 5% success rate probably really has a zero percent success rate.” Taken from the orange papers.

    That is a rather bold assertion and unsupported unless I can assume that the many friends of mine with several years each of sobriety who proclaim their sobriety to be the result of AA are either liars or fools. ZERO IS A RATHER DIFINITIVE NUMBER. If one is to subscribe to the premise that we alcoholics would just go “into remission” spontaneously as suggested by the author then in my mind this takes predestination to a whole new level.

    Oh well, I have now vented and will pick up my SHORT HANDLED BROOM AND JUST SWEEP THE PART OF THE STREET THAT IT WILL REACH. (Mine)

    Jon

    #159749
    Anonymous
    Inactive

    i wish i knew the answer to this.

    aa is a wonderful fellowship.

    alanon has been a lifesaver for me.

    recovery is for the folks who want to do the work.

    blessings, k

    #159757
    Anonymous
    Inactive

    @Jfanagle 1475580 wrote:

    “Thus, an alcoholism treatment program that seems to have a 5% success rate probably really has a zero percent success rate.” Taken from the orange papers.

    That is a rather bold assertion and unsupported unless I can assume that the many friends of mine with several years each of sobriety who proclaim their sobriety to be the result of AA are either liars or fools. ZERO IS A RATHER DIFINITIVE NUMBER. If one is to subscribe to the premise that we alcoholics would just go “into remission” spontaneously as suggested by the author then in my mind this takes predestination to a whole new level.

    I think the 0% claim is his attributing any success rate within AA to “spontaneous remission”, which is roughly 5% also. In his mind, this discounts the AA success rate because a person who wants to stay sober will anyway, inside or outside the halls.

    #159776
    Anonymous
    Inactive

    I think the change in percentage has more to do with individuals being sentanced to AA meetings via the courts or sent to AA meetings while in treatment. Unfortunately, a percentage of these people are not ready to quit drinking. Some are just going to get the court or their family off their back, knowing that they are going to go right back to drinking as soon as things calm down.

    I think prior to these being imposed the percentages were higher because when someone came into AA they were there because they had a sincere desire to stop drinking.

    I do not discount the usefulness of either of these things though as there have been people who have stayed and found recovery via these vehicles.

    My belief in part stems from my experience as well as observation. I was sentanced to AA meetings at the age of 21 after a DUI. I went to one (did not have to turn the slips in at the time) and it took me 15 more years of drinking to find my way back. By then I was beat and ready to go to any lengths to stop drinking and still be able to tolerate life.

    #159765
    Anonymous
    Inactive

    Mike,
    I understand the premise as to “spontaneous remission”; the question raised by this assertion was that it requires a rather bold leap of faith to make the argument that a program which devotes itself to sobriety is no more effective than nature left to its own devices. This then begs the question are medically supervised detox and rehab programs equally ineffective? It is my understanding that these programs routinely suggest to their “graduates” that AA is an effective follow up to the initial treatments. Given the assertions by the Orange-Papers author, sugar pills would be equally effective.

    Please accept my response in the spirit it is intended. Thanks for offering a challenging view of alternative thoughts on this tangled ball of string we call sobriety and how to unwind it.

    Jon

    #159758
    Anonymous
    Inactive

    Jon,

    Personally I disagree with agent orange on many points, however I refer to him when someone claims that AA once had a very high success rate, there’s just no proof to that assertion. I think we stay humble when we stay honest.

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