Sobriety Statistics, 12 Step Recovery Rates

The Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous, p. xx, 4th Edition, says:

“Of alcoholics who came to A.A. and really tried, 50% got sober at once and remained that way; 25% sobered up after some relapses, and among the remainder, those who stayed on with A.A. showed improvement. Other thousands came to a few A.A. meetings and at first decided they didn’t want the program. But great numbers of these–about two out of three–began to return as time passed.”

Let’s look at the record

Sobriety Statistics for the Pioneers of Alcoholics Anonymous
1934 to 1939
All Below Achieved At Least Some Period of Sobriety. Some who failed may have achieved permanent sobriety later. Bolded Names Achieved Permanent Sobriety.
Total Count Sober Continuous Sobriety Unknown
77 (100%) 40 (52%) 37 (48%)
Date Name Location Comment/Big Book Story
Dec 11 Bill Wilson New York Co-Founder of AA – Bill’s Story
Jun 10 Dr.Bob Smith Akron Co-Founder of AA – Dr. Bob’s Nightmare
June Eddie Reilly Akron Sobered in 1949
June Dr. McK. Akron Failed to gain long term sobriety
June Bill Dotson Akron Alcoholics Anonymous No.3 – 2nd Ed
July Ernie Gailbraith Akron The Seven Month Slip – (An In-and-Outer Slipper)
Aug Wes Wyman Akron Sobered in 1949
Sept Hank Parkhurst New York The Unbeliever – 4 yrs. Sober

Drunk Sept 1939
Sept Phil Smith Akron  
Oct John Henry “Fitz” Mayo New York Our Southern Friend
1935 Freddie B. New York Failed to gain long term sobriety
1935 Brooke B. New York Failed to gain long term sobriety
1935 Bill R. New York Failed to gain long term sobriety
1935 Ernest M. New York Failed to gain long term sobriety
1935 Herb D. New York Failed to gain long term sobriety
1935 Alec New York Failed to gain long term sobriety
1935 Russ R. New York Failed to gain long term sobriety
1935 Bill C. New York Failed to gain long term sobriety
1935 Victor New York Failed to gain long term sobriety
1935 Lil New York Failed to gain long term sobriety
Jan Harold Grisinger Akron  
Feb Walter Bray Akron The Back-Slider
Apr Joe Doeppler Akron The European Drinker
Apr Myron Williams New York Hindsight
July Paul Stanley Akron Truth Freed Me
Sept J. D. Holmes Akron  
Sept Holland Spencer Akron  
Dec Bob Oviatt Akron The Salesman
Feb Dick Stanley Akron The Car Smasher
Feb Don McLean New York  
Feb Bill Rudell New York A Business Man’s Recovery
Feb Lloyd Tate Akron  
Feb Bill Van Horn Akron Ward Of The Probate Court
Mar Harry Zoellers Akron A Close Shave
Mar Florence Rankin New York A Feminine Victory – Returned to drinking & suicide 1939
Apr Earl Treat Akron He Sold Himself Short
Apr Bob Evans Akron  
May Wally Gillam Akron Fired Again
May Charlie Simonson Akron Riding The Rods
July Jim Scott Akron Traveler, Editor, Scholar
July Paul Kellogg New York Failed to gain long term sobriety
Sept Bill Jones Cleveland  
Oct Jack Williams New York  
Nov Tom Lucas Akron My Wife And I
Dec Ned Poynter New York Continued Sobriety Unknown
1937 Jane S. Cleveland Sober a few months, Failed to gain long term sobriety
Jan Jim Burwell New York Slipped, DOS June 15, 1938

The Vicious Cycle – 2nd Ed.
Feb Clarence Snyder Cleveland Home Brewmeister
Feb Charlie Jones Akron  
Feb Ray Campbell New York An Artist’s Concept
Feb Van Wagner New York Continued Sobriety Unknown
Feb Jack Darrow New York Continued Sobriety Unknown
Feb Norman Hunt New York Educated Agnostic
Feb Harold Sears New York Smile With Me, At Me
Apr Capt. Coxe New York Continued Sobriety Unknown
May Abby Goldrick Akron He Thought He Could Drink – 2nd Ed.
May Bert Taylor New York Continued Sobriety Unknown
May Bob Taylor New York Continued Sobriety Unknown
June George Williams New York Continued Sobriety Unknown
June Joseph Taylor New York Continued Sobriety Unknown
June Harry Brick New York A Different Slant
June Ralph Furlong New York Another Prodigal Story
July Bud Emerson New York Continued Sobriety Unknown
Sept Archie Trowbridge Akron The Fearful One
Sept Horace Maher New York On His Way
Oct John Dolan Akron  
Dec Vaughn Phelps Akron  
Dec Horace Crystal New York Continued Sobriety Unknown
1938 Bill H. Cleveland failed, later permanent sobriety
Jan Pat Cooper Calif. The Lone Endeavor
Unknown Sobriety Dates
N/A Delmar Tyron Akron Aces Full, Seven-Eleven
N/A Doc Moran Akron Continued Sobriety Unknown
N/A Harold Grissom Akron Continued Sobriety Unknown
N/A Dr. Howard S. Akron Continued Sobriety Unknown

The Grapevine Newsletter, August 1946, Pg.1

The Minneapolis Group, in March, 1943, inaugurated a system for keeping a record of the recovery of members from three months on up. As a result, the following exact percentages have been arrived at:

Recovery Rates For the Year 1945
5 year members 100% successful 0% slipped
4 year members 100% successful 0% slipped
3 year members 100% successful 0% slipped
2 year members 89% successful 11% slipped
18 month members 90% successful 10% slipped
1 year members 80% successful 20% slipped
9 month members 82% successful 18% slipped
6 month members 70% successful 30% slipped
3 month members 48% successful 52% slipped
*Of those who slipped in 1945, only 16.5% have worked back to any degree of recovery!
Overall Recovery Rates From 1943 – 1945 in Minneapolis
1943 78% successful 22% slipped
1944 83% successful 17% slipped
1945 77% successful 23% slipped

What about Human Will Power?

The Harvard Mental Health Letter, from The Harvard Medical School, stated quite plainly:

On their own: There is a high rate of recovery among alcoholics and addicts*, treated and untreated. According to one estimate, heroin addicts break the habit in an average of 11 years. Another estimate is that at least 50% of alcoholics eventually free themselves although only 10% are ever treated. One recent study found that 80% of all alcoholics who recover for a year or more do so on their own, some after being unsuccessfully treated. When a group of these self-treated alcoholics was interviewed: 57% said they simply decided that alcohol was bad for them; 29% said health problems, frightening experiences, accidents, or blackouts persuaded them to quit. Others used such phrases as “Things were building up” or “I was sick and tired of it.” Support from a husband or wife was important in sustaining the resolution.

Treatment of Drug Abuse and Addiction — Part III, The Harvard Mental Health Letter, Volume 12, Number 4, October 1995, page 3.
(See Aug. (Part I), Sept. (Part II), Oct. 1995 (Part III).)

*(Editor’s comment) It would be important to know how many of the alcoholics studied were real alcoholics or just problem drinkers? The Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous, p. 20-21, 4th Edition, separates the real alcoholic from as:

Moderate drinkers have little trouble in giving up liquor entirely if they have good reason for it. They can take it or leave it alone.

Then we have a certain type of hard drinker. He may have the habit badly enough to gradually impair him physically and mentally. It may cause him to die a few years before his time. If a sufficiently strong reason ill health, falling in love, change of environment, or the warning of a doctor becomes operative, this man can also stop or moderate, although he may find it difficult and troublesome and may even need medical attention.

But what about the real alcoholic? He may start off as a moderate drinker; he may or may not become a continuous hard drinker; but at some stage of his drinking career he begins to lose all control of his liquor consumption, once he starts to drink.

Furthermore, on page 34 of the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous it says:

For those who are unable to drink moderately the question is how to stop altogether. We are assuming, of course, that the reader desires to stop. Whether such a person can quit upon a nonspiritual basis depends upon the extent to which he has already lost the power to choose whether he will drink or not. Many of us felt that we had plenty of character. There was a tremendous urge to cease forever. Yet we found it impossible. This is the baffling feature of alcoholism as we know it this utter inability to leave it alone, no matter how great the necessity or the wish.

Do the meeting makers really make it?

What about our advice to the newcomer to “just don’t drink and go to meetings”. Or go to 90 meetings in 90 days, get a sponsor, and join a home group”? Let’s take a look at what appears to be happening as is reported in Southwest (Houston).

Number of chips sold by the Intergroup Office in 1996
Desire 24,246 100%
30 days 8,839 36%
60 days 5,960 25%
90 days 5,019 21%
6 months 3,370 15%
1 year 2,120 9%
2 years 1,170 5%
5 years 707 3%
10 years 560 2%
20 years 143 0.6%
30 years 26 0.1%

For the year 1997, the number of “desire chips” sold was reduced to 22,191. For 1998, the number dropped to 19,504. For 1999, 16, 285 Desire Chips were sold. The other statistics remained the same. A very disturbing observation from the 1998 statistics is that 592 medallions were purchased for AA’s celebrating 10 years of sobriety. The total number of folks taking “desire chips” in 1988 was in excess of 40,000. Did only about 1.5% apply our Program?

Tell us about your results

Are you recovered? If you are working with others, what have you observed? How many are actually staying sober or clean?

10 thoughts on “Sobriety Statistics, 12 Step Recovery Rates

  1. I have personally worked with 73 alcoholics and addicts since June 2005. As of today, my records of working with others show 38 (52%) are sober or clean, 15 (21%) are MIA or missing in action, and 20 (27%) are known to have relapsed.

    There have been many failures but the occasional heartening success. Amazingly, I’m still sober and clean.

    P.S. Here are some interesting early A.A. statistics from the 1940’s:

    Philadelphia A.A. Statistics 1940-1941
    The Philadelphia A.A. group was formed February 20, 1940

    Special Report On AA Work At The Philadelphia General Hospital
    December 13, 1940

    The following is the complete experience of the Philadelphia A.A. Group with patients of the Philadelphia General Hospital since March 15. On this list are included only those men who have attended at least two or three A.A. meetings and have signified their intention of following the A.A. program.

    Brief notes on the various individuals follow:

    Joseph A. – Dry seven months, no trouble.
    Frank B. – Dry five months, one slip after he left group one month ago.
    Herbert C. B. – Dry four months, no trouble.
    Joshua D. B. – Probably psychopathic; continuous slips.
    Charles J. C. – Dry nine months, no trouble.
    John D. – Dry four months through Philadelphia General Hospital and Byberry.
    Joseph D. – Dry four months, no trouble.
    George G. – Dry one month, no trouble.
    John H. H. – Continuous slips before and after hospitalization.
    William K. – Dry four months, no trouble.
    Alfred K. – Dry four months, no trouble.
    Arthur T. McM. – Dry eight months, no trouble.
    William P. – Continuous after two hospitalizations, only attended five meetings, no work.
    Harry McC. – Dry eleven months, one slip two months ago, hospitalization then.
    James S. – Continuous slips before and after hospitalization.
    George K. – Continuous trouble up to two months ago, first hospital May.
    C. M. M. – Dry nine months, no trouble.
    Hugh O’H. – Dry two months, no trouble.
    Edmonds P. – Dry nine months, hospitalization recent, trouble since.
    William J. P. – Dry three months, no trouble.
    James R. – Dry five months, no trouble.
    William R. – Dry six weeks, no trouble.
    Carl R. – Dry eight weeks.
    Biddle S. – Dry four months, hospital trouble now dry one month.
    Thomas S. – Dry four months, one slip.
    David W. – Dry seven months, no trouble.
    William W. – Dry nine months, no trouble.
    Margery W. – Dry three months, no trouble.

    Nineteen out of twenty-eight who have come through the Philadelphia General Hospital have had no trouble. Of the nine who have had trouble, five have been with the group and had trouble previous to hospitalization.

    This list was made at the request of Jack Alexander, writer for the Saturday Evening Post.

    (Signed) A. W. Hammer M. D. – Surgeon
    (Signed) C. D. Saul, M. D. – Chief resident, Saint Luke’s Hospital
    (Signed) Philadelphia General Hospital, By: John F. Stouffer M. D. – Chief Psychiatrist


    Philadelphia Group
    Post Office Box 332
    William Penn Annex

    Alcoholic Foundation
    30 Vesey Street
    New York, N. Y.

    December 14, 1940


    We believe that the time has arrived when we can give you a preliminary statement of the results of the work of Alcoholics Anonymous in Philadelphia since its inception in this city on February 20, 1940. This in effect is a ten months’ report but for all practical purposes it can be considered only nine months because about a month was occupied in working out methods of prosecuting the activities.

    According to the records of the Group, which have been kept with reasonable accuracy, ninety-nine men and women have during this period attended at least two meetings of the A. A. Group. In other words, they have had a fair opportunity to familiarize themselves with the A. A. program of recovery as given at the Thursday night meetings held at Saint Luke’s and Children’s Hospital.

    Of the ninety-nine, seventy have remained dry without any slip at all; thirteen others are recovering from one or more slips, and sixteen have slipped without recovery up to the present time. It is not impossible that some of these sixteen may yet return to the Group.

    Of the seventy, who have been dry without slips, thirty-nine have been dry from one to three months; seventeen from three to six months; twenty-five from six months to a year, and five from one to three years.

    Obviously these five were not dried up through the activities of the Philadelphia A. A. Group but have recovered from alcoholism in other localities and through other means

    You can see that the Philadelphia A. A. Group has a core of thirty men who, we have every reason to believe, will never drink again. Seventeen more have gotten by the three months’ critical period. It has been our observation that the first three months are the most difficult and that the man who gets by that period has every reason to believe that he is on the road to complete recovery.

    We are even more sanguine of results which shall be achieved since we succeeded in opening our clubhouse about one month ago. It is being used extensively, especially by the unmarried men and is proving helpful not only as a social center but as a base for the spreading of the A. A. message.

    We can testify as physicians to the increasing interest in A. A. work among members of the medical fraternity and are grateful for the opportunity that the A. A. has given us of assisting in the recovery of the unfortunate victims of alcoholism.

    (Signed) A. W. Hammer M. D. – Surgeon
    (Signed) C. Dudley Saul, Chief Resident Saint Luke’s Hospital


    Statistical Record of Philadelphia Alcoholics Anonymous Group

    The Philadelphia A. A. Group was formed February 27, 1940, with seven men as a nucleus. Six of these are definitely recovered cases.

    We consider a man or woman an active member of A. A. when they have been dry in the group two months and have attended at least six general meetings.

    We now have an ACTIVE MEMBERSHIP of one hundred and thirteen alcoholics, eighty-three of whom have not had a drink since their first A. A. meeting. Five of these have been dry from two to four years, twenty-seven dry from one to two years, forty-one dry from six to twelve months and twenty-six dry three to six months.

    Twenty-three of these active members came directly from the Philadelphia General Hospital, thirteen from other hospitals and institutions.

    There have been only twenty-three active members who do not appear to be recovering. These are not included in the above figures. Neither are the fifty other men and women who are now in the process of becoming members.

    This gives us a total general membership of Two Hundred men and women.

    To the best of our knowledge, the foregoing is correct.

    (Signed) Dr. A. Weise Hammer
    (Signed) Dr. C. Dudley Saul
    Medical directors

    The above letters bear out the statistics of early A.A., that 3 out of 4 alcoholics that attend meetings and apply the Steps of the A.A. Program and the Ideals contained in the BigBook to their lives, recover from the scourge of alcoholism and a seemingly hopeless state of mind and body.

  2. What a great site I just stumbled upon – yours. For many years, a number of us have assembled statistics showing the documented 75% to 93% success rates among seemingly hopeless, medically incurable early AAs in Akron and Cleveland who really went to every length to establish their relationship with God and help others recover. Your work is a valuable addition. See Richard K.’s four titles, including "So You Think Drunks Can’t Be Cured." He has a scrap book from GSO in New York that contains hundreds of articles. My own book "Cured" contains proof after proof of the statement. And the original A.A. draft cover talked of "A pathway to cure".

  3. None of these so-called "statistics" include the number of people that came and then decided they didn’t want the program.

  4. Of the 200 addicts and alcoholics I have worked with, and I keep track of everyone, including those who did not want it, 52% are sober today. I will also add, that this program is 100% successful for me because I am still sober as a result of frequent contact with newcomers. Cameron F.

    Below is an article from Dick B., an A.A. archivist and author. The original article can be found here.

    AA And Its Success Rates: A Contemporary Brief by Dick B. – Copyright 2004

    You can find much more complete and detailed summaries of A.A. success rates in my titles God and Alcoholism, Why Early AA Succeeded, The Oxford Group and Alcoholics Anonymous, The Good Book and The Big Book and When Early AAs Were Cured and Why.

    A.A. Success Rates, A.A. History, Alcoholics Anonymous History

    You can also find some new, surprising, and welcome details in the work of Richard K. on early AA cures. He documents over a decade of comments and news articles reporting the cures in early AA. He documents the first forty pioneers as to geographical area, sobriety dates, and ultimate outcomes. Richard has three titles which should be in your library if you want accurate information on early AA success rates and cures.

    After fourteen years of research and writing, and also building on Richard K.’s recent splendid research and writing, I believe the following facts can be sustained and documented:

    1. The statement that all or most of the 40 AA pioneers got drunk or died drunk is without any foundation whatever. Some of those whose personal stories were included in the multilith and First Edition Big Book may have gotten drunk or even died drunk. But a list of these people is not congruous with the carefully documented list of the pioneers and their successes.

    2. In early Akron AA and then in early Cleveland AA, names, addresses, phone numbers, and data about sobriety, relapses, and ultimate outcomes were commonplace. I personally have copies of Anne Smith’s address book which contains data on many of the pioneers. On the walls at Dr. Bob’s Home in Akron, there are pictures of a number of these pioneers. There are several written rosters of each and every early AA with names, dates of sobriety, dates of death, and ultimate sobriety outcome. There is a written list of the early Cleveland AAs as well as rosters kept by individual Cleveland AA groups. I either have copies of all of these or have sent them on to the Griffith House Library at Bill Wilson’s birthplace in East Dorset, Vermont.

    A.A. Success Rates, A.A. History, Alcoholics Anonymous History

    3. Careful reviews by Richard K. of the early AAs show convincingly that when Bill and Bob counted noses in 1938, there were forty pioneers who had maintained sobriety, some for as long as two years. There was a much higher proportion of successes among the Akron and Ohio people than from those on the New York and East Coast scene.

    4. In counting those who were and those who weren’t successful in early AA, one must eliminate a number of candidates. For one thing, there definitely were those who floated in and out and never really tried the rigorous program that Dr. Bob conducted in Akron and that Frank Amos reported to John D. Rockefeller, Jr. In other words, when you see the rosters, you see the names and data of people who often were personally known to Sue Smith Windows (Dr. Bob s daughter) and confirmed to me personally and to a number of other researchers. You see the names and data of people whose names and addresses and signatures are found in Anne Smith’s address book. You see these same names often mentioned in A.A. literature names of Bill, Dr. Bob, Bill D., Archie T., Bob E., Earl T., Clarence S., Bill Van H., the two Stanley brothers, J.D., Wally G., Ernie G., Walter B., Hank P., Fitz Mayo, and others listed in Richard K.’s First Forty title. And in Cleveland records, you can see name and addresses verified by the Cleveland AA founder, Clarence S.

    5. There never were the 100 men and women that Bill mentioned at the time of writing of the Big Book. There were 40 in 1938, and slightly over 70 when the Big Book went to print. The Cleveland growth did not begin until May, 1939 after the Big Book was published.

    A.A. Success Rates, A.A. History, Alcoholics Anonymous History

    6. What were the success rates? Success was measured among the pioneers as 50 percent who never drank again, and 25 per cent who drank but returned to succeed. This group is critical because it is the group as to which specific names, records, and outcomes were kept. In Cleveland, there was a ninety-three success rate based on a specific survey conducted by Clarence S. and reported in A.A. literature.

    7. What about today? There are several factors which make accurate calculations virtually impossible. First, the triennial surveys by AA itself are anything but accurate, and A.A. says so. This because only groups are surveyed, and many in one group go to several other groups and meetings each week and are surveyed more than once. Most are simply never the subject of a survey and certainly not a survey conducted by statistical standards. A.A. service workers and surveys do confirm that one-third of those who come into A.A. are out of the door in ninety days; and fifty percent are out of the door in a year. Second, there are no rosters in almost any group or meeting in A.A. Third, the Tradition of anonymity makes an accounting much more difficult than when early AAs knew each other, all belonged to one group (in Akron), kept rosters with names and addresses and sobriety data, and used full names in their references. Finally, today s AA is supposedly a pure alcoholic one who is in A.A. for an alcohol problem, not a drug problem. But I personally don t think one in five hundred meet that test. Both young and old today those who come to AA have tried and often become addicted to every kind of drug imaginable: alcohol, prescription drugs, cocaine, LSD, the sex-enhancers, marijuana, heroin, after-shave, and a dozen other concoctions. These are the facts also among the men I have sponsored and also have met in thousands of meetings.

    8. Professionals have conducted surveys among veterans, patients, and selected groups of AAs. The accuracy is not the subject of my knowledge. But the facts about present-day A.A. are these in their studies: (a) A definite 75% fail to maintain sobriety. (b) Probably no more than one to five percent maintain permanent sobriety. (c) As often as not, those who aligned with AA have a lower success rate than those who got sober without AA. (d) To date there has been no adequate survey of success or failure among those AAs who like the pioneers were born again Christians, reliant upon the Creator for help, and joined together in some Christian church or Bible fellowship, or prayer group.

    9. Within A.A. itself, among those of us who are in the trenches, going to meetings, helping newcomers, sponsoring people, and fellowshipping with AAs in outings, dances, retreats, movies, and the like, there is no mystery about success or failure. If you are active in A.A., you go to conferences and meetings where sobriety count-downs are conducted No matter how large or small the number of people attending, the count-downs invariably produce the same results: A large number will identify themselves as having 30 days or less; a fairly large number, 90 days or less; a fairly limited number with one year of sobriety; and then the staggering diminution in the number of people who have 5, 10, 15, 20 years with only a rare member claiming 25 or more years. Yes. Old-timers exist. But you won t find them in A.A. meetings not today.

    10. There is a caveat about success rates. I took great heart in the portion of the Big Book that is read at most meetings: Rarely have we seen a person fail who has thoroughly followed our path. Even when I couldn’t identify the path, I believed and counted on the veracity of the statement. For me, it is true. I thoroughly followed every step of the A.A. path. Furthermore, I put my trust in Almighty God; sought Him through His son, just as early AAs did; continued to grow in my understanding and fellowship with God and other believers through Bible study, prayer, fellowship, and witness. And I have not had a drinking or drug problem since two days before I entered A.A. in the Spring of 1986. Nor have a small handful of the men I have sponsored and who followed the same route.

    11. AAs can and should be the first to acknowledge that they have no monopoly on God; that just about any person alive can quit drinking if he or she wants to; that A.A. today has no special record of success that cannot be found in many other groups and therapies; and that as with so many other organizations and disciplines you probably get out of A.A. exactly what you put into it. If you throw yourself wholeheartedly into a life without the necessity for drinking, remember what excessive drinking does to you, and count on God for help in resisting temptation, you can be and have the same success as member of the A.A. Society that the early A.A. was when he thoroughly followed their path.

  5. (snip)There never were the 100 men and women that Bill mentioned at the time of writing of the Big Book. There were 40 in 1938, and slightly over 70 when the Big Book went to print. The Cleveland growth did not begin until May, 1939 after the Big Book was published – Dick B (snip)

    See? This is the problem. Which are we to believe? The book says 100 but there were not 100. The book says 50% right away and then 25% later, but, if we don’t believe one, why would we believe the other? To say nothing of the alleged statistics not including those that didn’t want the program were somehow omitted from the count. If 40 turned into 100, who knows what the reality of the alleged 50% rate was. I know this, for myself, I’ve never seen anybody that was a REAL (LOL) alcoholic/addict show improvement if they didnt stop altogether.

    So why go on and on about success rates? Heck, Bill was 100% success rate, but it went down from there with every person he carried the message to!

    Quoting faulty or questionable statistics doesn’t seem to me to be the way to attract anybody to any particular experience of the program. Showing people our own sobriety does.

  6. Richard K. of Mass. has done the most thorough study of anyone I know, and he has published four books with the results. Fortunately, he reviewed the rosters from Akron, the statements of Nancy O., and a host of others. He names the people, specifies the sobriety dates, and traces the recovery record. He documents the statements by Bill that there were forty when Bill and Bob counted noses in the fall of 1937. Clarence Snyder also named the names. My own titles, When Early AAs Were Cured and Why and Cured: Proven Help for Alcoholics and Addicts flesh out the facts. This website has aroused a healthy exchange of materials. And we are all learning more and more as the efforts are expended. For some reason I cannot fathom, people seem inclined to reject the statements of Bill Wilson, Bob Smith, Bill Dotson and the dozens of others who stated they were cured in the early years. Recently I published the article reported in the Tidings in 1948 about the remarks of Bill and Bob on the stage together at the Shrine Auditorium which illustrates they were still agreed on the fundamentals of the earliest days–conversion, Divine Aid, prayer, Bible study, reading religious literature, resumption of church attendance, confession, and amends. This material didn’t become available until this March of 2008. As I have written through the years, I still favor the expression "Rarely have we seen a person fail who has thoroughly followed our path." That path, though the language was changed from time to time, was the path to "finding" and establishing a relationship with God. Are there other paths? Yep. Can you get sober on your own? Yep. Can you get sober with the help of God and without A.A. Yep. It’s a matter of choice, and I’m very very thankful to the Creator that I chose the A.A. path in 1986, learned the Big Book and how to take and take others through the 12 Steps, learned our accurate early history and how they did it in the 1930’s, and then dived into reliance on God, prayer, seeking God’s guidance, studying the Bible, and helping others. It’s sure not the only way. But it sure did work for the 40 Akron pioneers who gave it their best shot in the earliest days. Save us, please, from the days when the only thing we share is our own sobriety and fail to give credit to the Creator when He has been the main instrument in our sobriety. God Bless.

  7. Congratulations again on this early comprehensive effort to gather statistics together on the early program. It is important also to remember the very substantial differences between the original Akron program as reported by Frank Amos, published in DR. BOB and the Good Oldtimers, and confirmed by the rosters, comments of Bill Wilson and Clarence, and offering facts of value to those willing to learn them. Then came the Big Book four years later which did a substantial turn and embodied primarily Sam Shoemaker’s Oxford Group principles and language adding also thoughts from Jung, James, New Thought, Peabody, and others mentioned in my recent Sixteen Wellsprings article. This was immediately followed by the widely varying "programs" that emerged in the 1940’s during the period of Wilson’s severe depression–ideas from Clarence Snyder, Sister Ignatia, Father Ed Dowling, Richmond Walker, Father Ralph Pfau, Ed Webster, and eventually Father John C. Ford as well. The caveat again is to look at all the history, notice the trends and twists and alterations, and see names and dates in terms of length of sobriety, period of occurrences, source of the information, items omitted, and so forth. Keep up the good work. I’d agree with the dude who stresses it’s not about the meetings we make. I’d add that, for me, it is about the Creator upon whom some AAs rely. God Bless.

  8. Clearly it’s about thoroughness. Not whether we’re a so-called "REAL" alcoholic, not the meetings, not even the steps themselves… it’s about thoroughness and practice. I know people who have been taken through the book, had a spiritual experience and then when out and scored an 8-ball. I know many people who have sat on their butts instead of getting into the steps and then when out and used. What do they have in common?

    My experience has been that people fail because they are unable to be honest with themselves, open-minded, willing, or are unable to find a Higher Power. We can digress all day long on aspects of the book or program, or meetings or God or any of that, but if a person cannot be honest, open-minded, willing or have a HP, they cannot get or keep this program.

    On the other hand, if they have those things, it doesn’t seem to matter much which "method" they use, what kind of meeting they go to, or whether it’s even in a 12-step program. If they have those things, they can find sobriety.

  9. You’ve done a great service in posting this success rate material. So often the commentators simply express their opinion on who did or didn’t get sober, who was or wasn’t a mere rim-runner or be-backer, and what number is or isn’t important. Frankly, I much prefer to look at the rosters that I have seen and personally compared with Dr. Bob’s daughters. You can see them in the Griffith Library if you wish. I prefer to turn to the actual Cleveland records that were kept and that Clarence Snyder surveyed to find the 93% rate. What seems to be missing from the speculation is a knowledge that early A.A. was small in numbers of people. The serious ones wrote down the names and addresses of the fellowship. When Dr. Bob and Bill counted noses in 1937 and came up with their figures, they knew the people-the specific people-they were counting. Even a meager knowledge of early A.A. will make it clear that Bill and Bob and Clarence pointed out how many people came and went and weren’t at all significantly involved. And when some of your commentators talk about numbers or their own present-day experiences, I would always insist that they produce the source of their facts. If they don’t and can’t, then the remarks merely contribute to the unending myths about the real early A.A. program and its highly successful real alcoholics who went to any lengths to establish their relationship with God and grow spiritually. It was Almighty God to whom they looked for guidance, strength, and healing. They never claimed other people couldn’t get sober. They just thoroughly followed the path to a relationship with God that the pioneers laid out. See Real 12 Step Fellowship History for an overview. God Bless, Dick B.

  10. The question becomes – for those who said they got sober at AA – what was the reason? I believe it is the same reason that others outside AA get sober – they made a decision that the angst of using was not worth it! They connected to a bigger part in them and yes you might consider that a higher power or God Within. We have the power to create our lives the way we want and on a lower level we are all pleasure seekers. To me using is false passion – when we have something we care about more than pleaure we moderate or stop all together. My experience with 12 step was that it became a more positive addiction for those attending programs. I actually got worse during my 12 step expereince – the idea that I was ill or had a disease made it easy to "slip"

    AA and other 12 step programs – in my belief – take people out of life and creates a belief "we are different" – that is sad! We all have to power to create the life we want and to be honest that is a hard path for many with many disempowering beliefs. I am not expert and I am sure it is possible that "genes" cause alcoholism but recent advances in biology are showing that genes are not the determiner of behavior – environmental issues are more determiners – and that includes the inner environment of a person – their thoughts in beliefs!

    Should we get rid of AA and other 12 step programs? It won’t happen any time soon – too big of a buesiness… that feeds "recovery programs." And maybe being part of a 12 step community is a good thing for some but in my experience there was far less than 10% that had any period of sobriety over 90 days… it took me a year to get over the damage 12 step programs did to my pysche but i am sober and not looking back. It was my decision to make and up to me to be responsible for my actions.

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