Kudos to Dianna Narciso, blogger for the website examiner.com of San Francisco (no relation to the Examiner newspaper) for mentioning LifeRing among “rational alternatives to AA” in her article on the 75th anniversary of AA.  Her article asks the important question, “why … AA works for the few it does help out of addiction,” and answers that it’s probably simply the fact that it’s a group, because group support works for many kinds of afflictions.  She sees AA as basically a religious group (in agreement with court decisions on the issue) that substitutes “religious fervor” for substance addiction, and enjoys “a very low success rate.”  Read her blog post here.

Dianna also links to a recent article on the AA anniversary in Wired magazine, here.  Brendan Koerner, the author there, seems aware of some of the modern research on AA outcomes.  He writes,

One thing is certain, though:  AA doesn’t work for everybody.  In fact, it doesn’t work for the vast majority of people who try it.

Koerner then goes on a dubious path of speculation and rationalization about AA’s effectiveness in the few cases when it works.  He concludes :

The sad fact remains that the program’s failures vastly outnumber its success stories. According to Tonigan [a University of New Mexico professor], upwards of 70 percent of people who pass through AA will never make it to their one-year anniversary, and relapse is common even among regular attendees.

Actually, according to AA’s own membership surveys compiled by Don McIntire in the Alcoholism Treatment Quarterly, the “upwards of 70 per cent” figure should read “upwards of 95 per cent.”  But close enough.  Despite these rather discouraging conclusions, which have been well known in professional circles for a decade or more, the writer can’t find one word to say about the alternative support groups that have been on the scene since the foundation of Women for Sobriety in the 1970s.  Koerner’s tortured article is like the proverbial drunk who knows that his life is a failure but just can’t see any alternative — even when it’s just a few clicks away on the web.

— Marty N.

5 Comments

  1. Dale on July 6, 2010 at 7:22 am

    Peter,
    I agree with your thoughts about the disease concept. White et al say that it is a result of collusion between the liquor providers and the treatment industry. The worst effect of this idea is that the social costs are minimized by blaming the individual rather than the product that causes the addiction. I am not sure that I agree with your remark about a “hallmark.” Alcoholism is so poorly researched and defined that it can only be observed that it is a complicated problem. It defies pigeonholing. Even Bill Wilson rejected the disease label, recognizing that it would be a huge hurdle for the 12Step philosophy if one tried to view it alongside the medical model.
    Stay joyous and free.
    Dale



  2. admin on July 5, 2010 at 4:57 pm

    Peter: I’m unaware of any actual antagonism between AA and LifeRing members, at least not face to face. I’ve been convening and attending LifeRing meetings that run side by side with AA meetings for years, and theres’ never been a cross word exchanged, that I know of. When arguments occur, it’s on the web, and it’s usually not with AA members in general, but with a small subset of AA members who believe — contrary to evidence and common sense — that their way is the only way. Apart from that subgroup, LifeRing folks and AA folks generally get along fine. Granted, we have different paradigms of how it works, different methods and a different vocabulary, but we — like they — are committed to complete abstinence, and that’s a big common ground for friendly and long-lasting relationships.



  3. Peter Hauserman on July 5, 2010 at 2:57 pm

    There probably is no reason for antagonism between AA and Lifering members other than the fact that AA has been hijacked by individuals who have cross-addicted to getting imediate gratification from the God of their choice rather than alcohol while never examining their core beliefs which allow them to seek control in social situations. It is my hard-come-by belief that alcoholism is a deeply held strongly defended personal philosophy. I do not believe it a disease. Left un abated this philosophy will surely result in physical complications as well as spiritual, social, financial, emotional and psychological challenges. But, it is the choice to nurture that philosophy rather than nurture one’s potential which is the hallmark of alcoholism. That choice will not be evaluated unless one’s core beliefs are challenged. Abstinence, if viewed as “going without alcohol” will just be another excuse to fail…if abstinence is embraced as a means to create a PERSONAL SPACE in which a safe caring place is maintained while the principles of rational thought are internalized it will be possible to grow, to experiment and to practice being comfortable in one’s own skin. If the idea of God is required for sober living a lot of well meaning individuals will be shut out of the process even if the caveats of “as you understand him” or “as he expresses himself in our group conscious” are suggested. I could go on and on…but I choose not to.



  4. Dale on July 5, 2010 at 1:34 pm

    What I found interesting is the ongoing debate between supporters of AA and alternative options. Seems some folks have a strong emotional investment in their particular brand of recovery.
    Stay joyous and free!



  5. SocraticGadfly on July 4, 2010 at 10:32 pm

    Marty, I and at least one other Lifering left comments on the comments section of that … inane, no other word for it, Wired article. (It’s no wonder David Brooks liked it.)

    And, out of Wired, a techie, “modernistic” mag with at least somewhat individualistic, even libertarian leanings at times, I don’t get it. The NYT Magazine (or certainly, Parade Magazine) seems a more likely receptacle for an article like that.

    Steve