|Founded at||Akron, Ohio|
|Type||Mutual-help addiction recovery twelve-step program|
|Headquarters||New York, New York|
|Bill Wilson, Bob Smith|
Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) is an international fellowship requiring no membership dues or fees, dedicated to helping alcoholics peer to peer in sobriety through its spiritually inclined Twelve Steps program. Structurally guided by its Twelve Traditions, AA is set up as non-professional, non-denominational, as well as self-supporting and apolitical, with an avowed desire to stop drinking being its sole requirement for membership. AA has not endorsed the disease model of alcoholism, to which its program is nonetheless sympathetic, but its wider acceptance is partly due to many members independently promulgating it. As of 2020, having spread to diverse cultures, including geopolitical areas normally resistant to grassroots movements, AA has had an estimated worldwide membership of over two million with 75% of those in the U.S. and Canada. AA results in higher abstinence rates and lower medical costs compared to either no treatment or treatments led by medical professionals.
AA marks 1935 as its starting year when a 6 months sober, stock speculator Bill Wilson (Bill W.), reeling from a failed proxy deal, sought to maintain his new sobriety by meeting another alcoholic, surgeon Bob Smith (Dr. Bob), then detoxing in an Akron, Ohio hospital. Wilson put to Smith that alcoholism was not a failure of will or morals, but a malady from which he had recovered as a member of the Christian revivalist Oxford Group. Having exited the Oxford Group to form a fellowship of alcoholics only, Wilson and Smith, along with other early members, wrote Alcoholics Anonymous: The Story of How More Than One Hundred Men Have Recovered From Alcoholism, from which AA acquired its name. Published in 1939 and commonly called "the Big Book", it contains AA's Twelve Step recovery program. Later editions added the Twelve Traditions, first adopted in 1946, to formalize and unify the fellowship as a "benign anarchy".
The Twelve Steps are presented as a suggested self-improvement program of initially admitting powerlessness over alcohol and acknowledging its damage, the listing of and striving to correct personal failings, the making of amends for past misdeeds, and, in order to stay recovered, the pursuit of continued spiritual development while helping other alcoholics towards sobriety through the Steps. The Steps also suggest the healing aid of an unspecified God—"as we understood Him"—but are accommodating to agnostic, atheist, and non-theist members.
The Twelve Traditions provide guidelines for relationships between members, other groups, the global fellowship, and society at large. The Twelve Traditions stipulate that: AA, by having no opinions on other causes, avoids public controversy; members or groups should not use AA to gain wealth, prestige, or property; dogma and hierarchies are to be avoided; AA groups are autonomous and self-supporting—declining outside contributions—but they are barred from lending the AA name to other entities; and, without threat of retribution or means of enforcement, members should remain anonymous in public media.
With AA's permission, subsequent fellowships such as Narcotics Anonymous and Gamblers Anonymous have adapted the Twelve Steps and the Twelve Traditions to their addiction recovery programs.
Main article: History of Alcoholics Anonymous
AA sprang from the Oxford Group, a non-denominational, altruistic movement modeled after first-century Christianity. Some members founded the group to help in maintaining sobriety. "Grouper" Ebby Thacher was Bill Wilson's former drinking buddy who approached Wilson saying that he had "got religion", was sober, and that Wilson could do the same if he set aside objections to religion and instead formed a personal idea of God, "another power" or "higher power".
Feeling a "kinship of common suffering" and, though drunk, Wilson attended his first group gathering. Within days, Wilson admitted himself to the Charles B. Towns Hospital after drinking four beers on the way—the last alcohol he ever drank. Under the care of William Duncan Silkworth (an early benefactor of AA), Wilson's detox included the deliriant belladonna. At the hospital, a despairing Wilson experienced a bright flash of light, which he felt to be God revealing himself. Following his hospital discharge, Wilson joined the Oxford Group and recruited other alcoholics to the group. Wilson's early efforts to help others become sober were ineffective, prompting Silkworth to suggest that Wilson place less stress on religion and more on the science of treating alcoholism. Wilson's first success came during a business trip to Akron, Ohio, where he was introduced to Robert Smith, a surgeon and Oxford Group member who was unable to stay sober. After thirty days of working with Wilson, Smith drank his last drink on 10 June 1935, the date marked by AA for its anniversaries.
The first female member Florence Rankin joined AA in March 1937, and the first non-Protestant member, a Roman Catholic, joined in 1939. The first Black AA group was established in 1945 in Washington, D.C. by Jim S., an African-American physician from Virginia.
To share their method, Wilson and other members wrote the initially-titled book, Alcoholics Anonymous: The Story of How More Than One Hundred Men Have Recovered from Alcoholism, from which AA drew its name. Informally known as "The Big Book" (with its first 164 pages virtually unchanged since the 1939 edition), it suggests a twelve-step program in which members admit that they are powerless over alcohol and need help from a "higher power". They seek guidance and strength through prayer and meditation from God or a Higher Power of their own understanding; take a moral inventory with care to include resentments; list and become ready to remove character defects; list and make amends to those harmed; continue to take a moral inventory, pray, meditate, and try to help other alcoholics recover. The second half of the book, "Personal Stories" (subject to additions, removal, and retitling in subsequent editions), is made of AA members' redemptive autobiographical sketches.
In 1941, interviews on American radio and favorable articles in US magazines, including a piece by Jack Alexander in The Saturday Evening Post, led to increased book sales and membership. By 1946, as the growing fellowship quarreled over structure, purpose, and authority, as well as finances and publicity, Wilson began to form and promote what became known as AA's "Twelve Traditions," which are guidelines for an altruistic, unaffiliated, non-coercive, and non-hierarchical structure that limited AA's purpose to only helping alcoholics on a non-professional level while shunning publicity. Eventually, he gained formal adoption and inclusion of the Twelve Traditions in all future editions of the Big Book. At the 1955 conference in St. Louis, Missouri, Wilson relinquished stewardship of AA to the General Service Conference, as AA grew to millions of members internationally.
Main article: Twelve Traditions
AA says it is "not organized in the formal or political sense", and Bill Wilson, borrowing the phrase from anarchist theorist Peter Kropotkin, called it a "benign anarchy". In Ireland, Shane Butler said that AA "looks like it couldn't survive as there's no leadership or top-level telling local cumanns what to do, but it has worked and proved itself extremely robust". Butler explained that "AA's 'inverted pyramid' style of governance has helped it to avoid many of the pitfalls that political and religious institutions have encountered since it was established here in 1946."
In 2018, AA counted 2,087,840 members and 120,300 AA groups worldwide. The Twelve Traditions informally guide how individual AA groups function, and the Twelve Concepts for World Service guide how the organization is structured globally.
A member who accepts a service position or an organizing role is a "trusted servant" with terms rotating and limited, typically lasting three months to two years and determined by group vote and the nature of the position. Each group is a self-governing entity with AA World Services acting only in an advisory capacity. AA is served entirely by alcoholics, except for seven "nonalcoholic friends of the fellowship" of the 21-member AA Board of Trustees.
AA groups are self-supporting, relying on voluntary donations from members to cover expenses. The AA General Service Office (GSO) limits contributions to US$3,000 a year. Above the group level, AA may hire outside professionals for services that require specialized expertise or full-time responsibilities.
Like individual groups, the GSO is self-supporting. AA receives proceeds from books and literature that constitute more than 50% of the income for its General Service Office. In keeping with AA's Seventh Tradition, the Central Office is fully self-supporting through the sale of literature and related products, and the voluntary donations of AA members and groups. It does not accept donations from people or organizations outside of AA.
In keeping with AA's Eighth Tradition, the Central Office employs special workers who are compensated financially for their services, but their services do not include traditional "12th Step" work of working with alcoholics in need. All 12th Step calls that come to the Central Office are handed to sober AA members who have volunteered to handle these calls. It also maintains service centers, which coordinate activities such as printing literature, responding to public inquiries, and organizing conferences. Other International General Service Offices (Australia, Costa Rica, Russia, etc.) are independent of AA World Services in New York.
See also: Twelve-step program § Twelve Steps
AA's program extends beyond abstaining from alcohol. Its goal is to effect enough change in the alcoholic's thinking "to bring about recovery from alcoholism" through "an entire psychic change," or spiritual awakening. A spiritual awakening is meant to be achieved by taking the Twelve Steps, and sobriety is furthered by volunteering for AA and regular AA meeting attendance or contact with AA members. Members are encouraged to find an experienced fellow alcoholic, called a sponsor, to help them understand and follow the AA program. The sponsor should preferably have experience of all twelve of the steps, be the same sex as the sponsored person, and refrain from imposing personal views on the sponsored person. Following the helper therapy principle, sponsors in AA may benefit from their relationship with their charges, as "helping behaviors" correlate with increased abstinence and lower probabilities of binge drinking.
AA's program is an inheritor of Counter-Enlightenment philosophy. AA shares the view that acceptance of one's inherent limitations is critical to finding one's proper place among other humans and God. Such ideas are described as "Counter-Enlightenment" because they are contrary to the Enlightenment's ideal that humans have the capacity to make their lives and societies a heaven on Earth using their own power and reason. After evaluating AA's literature and observing AA meetings for sixteen months, sociologists David R. Rudy and Arthur L. Greil found that for an AA member to remain sober a high level of commitment is necessary. This commitment is facilitated by a change in the member's worldview. To help members stay sober AA must, they argue, provide an all-encompassing worldview while creating and sustaining an atmosphere of transcendence in the organization. To be all-encompassing AA's ideology emphasizes tolerance rather than a narrow religious worldview that could make the organization unpalatable to potential members and thereby limit its effectiveness. AA's emphasis on the spiritual nature of its program, however, is necessary to institutionalize a feeling of transcendence. A tension results from the risk that the necessity of transcendence if taken too literally, would compromise AA's efforts to maintain a broad appeal. As this tension is an integral part of AA, Rudy and Greil argue that AA is best described as a quasi-religious organization.
AA meetings are "quasi-ritualized therapeutic sessions run by and for, alcoholics". They are usually informal and often feature discussions with voluntary donations collected during meetings. (AA's 7th tradition encourages groups to be self-supporting, declining outside contributions). Local AA directories list weekly meetings. Those listed as "closed" are available to those with a self-professed "desire to stop drinking," which cannot be challenged by another member on any grounds. "Open" meetings are available to anyone (nonalcoholics can attend as observers). At speaker meetings (also known as gratitude meetings), one or more members who typically come in from a neighboring town's meeting tell their stories. At Big Book meetings, the group in attendance will take turns reading a passage from the AA Big Book and then discuss how they relate to it after. At twelve-step meetings, the group will typically break out into subgroups depending on where they are in their program and start working on the twelve steps outlined in the program. In addition to those three most common types of meetings, there are also other kinds of discussion meetings that tend to allocate the most time for general discussion.
AA meetings do not exclude other alcoholics, though some meetings cater to specific demographics such as gender, profession, age, sexual orientation, or culture. Meetings in the United States are held in a variety of languages including Armenian, English, Farsi, Finnish, French, Japanese, Korean, Russian, and Spanish. While AA has pamphlets that suggest meeting formats, groups have the autonomy to hold and conduct meetings as they wish "except in matters affecting other groups or AA as a whole". Different cultures affect ritual aspects of meetings, but around the world "many particularities of the AA meeting format can be observed at almost any AA gathering".
US courts have not extended the status of privileged communication, such as that enjoyed by clergy and lawyers, to AA related communications between members.
A study found an association between an increase in attendance at AA meetings with increased spirituality and a decrease in the frequency and intensity of alcohol use. The research also found that AA was effective at helping agnostics and atheists become sober. The authors concluded that though spirituality was an important mechanism of behavioral change for some alcoholics, it was not the only effective mechanism. Since the mid-1970s, several 'agnostic' or 'no-prayer' AA groups have begun across the U.S., Canada, and other parts of the world, which hold meetings that adhere to a tradition allowing alcoholics to freely express their doubts or disbelief that spirituality will help their recovery, and these meetings forgo the use of opening or closing prayers. There are online resources listing AA meetings for atheists and agnostics.
Main article: Disease theory of alcoholism
More informally than not, AA's membership has helped popularize the disease concept of alcoholism which had appeared in the eighteenth century. Though AA usually avoids the term "disease", 1973 conference-approved literature said "we had the disease of alcoholism." Regardless of official positions, since AA's inception, most members have believed alcoholism to be a disease.
AA's Big Book calls alcoholism "an illness which only a spiritual experience will conquer." Ernest Kurtz says this is "The closest the book Alcoholics Anonymous comes to a definition of alcoholism." Somewhat divergently in his introduction to The Big Book, non-member and early benefactor William Silkworth said those unable to moderate their drinking suffer from an allergy. In presenting the doctor's postulate, AA said "The doctor's theory that we have an allergy to alcohol interests us. As laymen, our opinion as to its soundness may, of course, mean little. But as ex-problem drinkers, we can say that his explanation makes good sense. It explains many things for which we cannot otherwise account." AA later acknowledged that "alcoholism is not a true allergy, the experts now inform us." Wilson explained in 1960 why AA had refrained from using the term "disease":
We AAs have never called alcoholism a disease because, technically speaking, it is not a disease entity. For example, there is no such thing as heart disease. Instead, there are many separate heart ailments or combinations of them. It is something like that with alcoholism. Therefore, we did not wish to get in wrong with the medical profession by pronouncing alcoholism a disease entity. Hence, we have always called it an illness or a malady—a far safer term for us to use.
Since then medical and scientific communities have defined alcoholism as an "addictive disease" (aka Alcohol Use Disorder, Severe, Moderate, or Mild). The ten criteria are: alcoholism is a Primary Illness not caused by other illnesses nor by personality or character defects; second, an addiction gene is part of its etiology; third, alcoholism has predictable symptoms; fourth, it is progressive, becoming more severe even after long periods of abstinence; fifth, it is chronic and incurable; sixth, alcoholic drinking or other drug use persists in spite of negative consequences and efforts to quit; seventh, brain chemistry and neural functions change so alcohol is perceived as necessary for survival; eighth, it produces physical dependence and life-threatening withdrawal; ninth, it is a terminal illness; tenth, alcoholism can be treated and can be kept in remission.
AA's New York General Service Office regularly surveys AA members in North America. Its 2014 survey of over 6,000 members in Canada and the United States concluded that, in North America, AA members who responded to the survey were 62% male and 38% female. The survey found that 89% of AA members were white.
Average member sobriety is slightly under 10 years with 36% sober more than ten years, 13% sober from five to ten years, 24% sober from one to five years, and 27% sober less than one year. Before coming to AA, 63% of members received some type of treatment or counseling, such as medical, psychological, or spiritual. After coming to AA, 59% received outside treatment or counseling. Of those members, 84% said that outside help played an important part in their recovery.
The same survey showed that AA received 32% of its membership from other members, another 32% from treatment facilities, 30% were self-motivated to attend AA, 12% of its membership from court-ordered attendance, and only 1% of AA members decided to join based on information obtained from the Internet. People taking the survey were allowed to select multiple answers for what motivated them to join AA.
Many AA meetings take place in treatment facilities. Carrying the message of AA into hospitals was how the co-founders of AA first remained sober. They discovered great value in working with alcoholics who are still suffering, and that even if the alcoholic they were working with did not stay sober, they did. Bill Wilson wrote, "Practical experience shows that nothing will so much insure immunity from drinking as intensive work with other alcoholics". Bill Wilson visited Towns Hospital in New York City in an attempt to help the alcoholics who were patients there in 1934. At St. Thomas Hospital in Akron, Ohio, Smith worked with still more alcoholics. In 1939, a New York mental institution, Rockland State Hospital, was one of the first institutions to allow AA hospital groups. Service to corrections and treatment facilities used to be combined until the General Service Conference, in 1977, voted to dissolve its Institutions Committee and form two separate committees, one for treatment facilities, and one for correctional facilities.
In the United States and Canada, AA meetings are held in hundreds of correctional facilities. The AA General Service Office has published a workbook with detailed recommendations for methods of approaching correctional-facility officials with the intent of developing an in-prison AA program. In addition, AA publishes a variety of pamphlets specifically for the incarcerated alcoholic. Additionally, the AA General Service Office provides a pamphlet with guidelines for members working with incarcerated alcoholics.
United States courts have ruled that inmates, parolees, and probationers cannot be ordered to attend AA. Though AA itself was not deemed a religion, it was ruled that it contained enough religious components (variously described in Griffin v. Coughlin below as, inter alia, "religion", "religious activity", "religious exercise") to make coerced attendance at AA meetings a violation of the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment of the constitution. In 2007, the Ninth Circuit of the U.S. Court of Appeals stated that a parolee who was ordered to attend AA had standing to sue his parole office.
In 1939, High Watch Recovery Center in Kent, Connecticut, was founded by Bill Wilson and Marty Mann. Sister Francis who owned the farm tried to gift the spiritual retreat for alcoholics to Alcoholics Anonymous, however citing the sixth tradition Bill W. turned down the gift but agreed to have a separate non-profit board run the facility composed of AA members. Bill Wilson and Marty Mann served on the High Watch board of directors for many years. High Watch was the first and therefore the oldest 12-step-based treatment center in the world still operating today.
In 1949, the Hazelden treatment center was founded and staffed by AA members, and since then many alcoholic rehabilitation clinics have incorporated AA's precepts into their treatment programs. 32% of AA's membership was introduced to it through a treatment facility.
There are a number of ways one can determine whether AA works and numerous ways of measuring if AA is successful, such as looking at abstinence, reduced drinking intensity, reduced alcohol-related consequences, alcohol addiction severity, and healthcare cost.
The effectiveness of AA (compared to other methods and treatments) has been challenged throughout the years, but recent high quality clinical meta-studies using randomized trials show that AA costs less and results in increased abstinence.
Because of the anonymous and voluntary nature of Alcoholics Anonymous ("AA") meetings, it has been difficult to perform random trials with them; the research suggests that AA can help alcoholics make positive changes.
Alcoholics Anonymous appears to be about as effective as other abstinence-based support groups.
The 2020 Cochrane review of Alcoholics Anonymous shows that AA results in more alcoholics being abstinent and for longer periods of time than some other treatments, but only as well in drinks-per-day and other measures. When comparing Alcoholics Anonymous and/or Twelve Step Facilitation to other alcohol use disorder interventions, at the 12-month follow up, randomized controlled trials show a 42% abstinent rate for AA/TSF treatments, compared to 35% abstinent using non-AA interventions.
The study concludes that "Manualized AA/TSF interventions usually produced higher rates of continuous abstinence than the other established treatments investigated. Non-manualized AA/TSF performed as well as other established treatments [...] clinically-delivered TSF interventions designed to increase AA participation usually lead to better outcomes over the subsequent months to years in terms of producing higher rates of continuous abstinence." Here, a "manualized" treatment is one where a standard procedure was used. A TSF treatment is a "twelve-step facilitation" treatment: A treatment which encourages a patient to attend Alcoholics Anonymous.
While Nick Heather speculated that subjects receiving Alcoholics Anonymous-centered interventions who were not abstinent did worse than other subjects, John Kelley and Alexandra Abry clarified that not only did the subjects undergoing AA-based interventions have a higher abstinent rate, those who did not achieve abstinence did not have worse drinking outcomes.
A 2006 study by Rudolf H. Moos and Bernice S. Moos saw a 67% success rate 16 years later for the 24.9% of alcoholics who ended up, on their own, undergoing a lot of AA treatment. The study's results may be skewed by self-selection bias.
Project MATCH was a 1990s 8-year, multi site, $27-million investigation that studied which types of alcoholics respond best to which forms of treatment.
Brandsma 1980 showed that Alcoholics Anonymous is more effective than no treatment whatsoever.
In 2001–2002, the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) conducted the National Epidemiological Survey on Alcoholism and Related Conditions (NESARC). Similarly structured to the NLAES, the survey conducted in-person interviews with 43,093 individuals. Respondents were asked if they had ever attended a twelve-step meeting for an alcohol problem in their lifetime (the question was not AA-specific). 1441 (3.4%) of respondents answered the question affirmatively. Answers were further broken down into three categories: disengaged, those who started attending at some point in the past but had ceased attending at some point in the past year (988); continued engagement, those who started attending at some point in the past and continued to attend during the past year (348); and newcomers, those who started attending during the past year (105). In their discussion of the findings, Kaskautas et al. (2008) state that to study disengagement, only the disengaged and continued engagement should be utilized (pg. 270).
American psychiatrist Lance Dodes, in The Sober Truth, says that research indicates that only five to eight percent of the people who go to one or more AA meetings achieve sobriety. Gabrielle Glaser used Dodes' figures to state that AA has a low success rate in a 2015 article for The Atlantic.
The 5–8% figure put forward by Dodes is controversial; Other doctors say that the book uses "three separate, questionable, calculations that arrive at the 5–8% figure." Addiction specialists state that the book's conclusion that "[12-step] approaches are almost completely ineffective and even harmful in treating substance use disorders" is wrong. One review called Dodes' reasoning against AA success a "pseudostatistical polemic."
Lance Dodes has not, as of March 2020, read the 2020 Cochrane Review showing AA efficacy.
See also: Twelve-step program
"Thirteenth-stepping" is a pejorative term for AA members approaching new members for dates. A study in the Journal of Addiction Nursing sampled 55 women in AA and found that 35% of these women had experienced a "pass" and 29% had felt seduced at least once in AA settings. This has also happened with new male members who received guidance from older female AA members, in pursuit of sexual company. The authors suggest that both men and women need to be prepared for this behavior or find male-only or female-only groups. Women-only meetings are a very prevalent part of AA culture, and AA has become more welcoming for women. AA's pamphlet on sponsorship suggests that men be sponsored by men and women be sponsored by women.
See also: Alcoholism § Management
Stanton Peele argued that some AA groups apply the disease model to all problem drinkers, whether or not they are "full-blown" alcoholics. Along with Nancy Shute, Peele has advocated that besides AA, other options should be readily available to those problem drinkers who can manage their drinking with the right treatment. The Big Book says "moderate drinkers" and "a certain type of hard drinker" can stop or moderate their drinking. The Big Book suggests no program for these drinkers, but instead seeks to help drinkers without "power of choice in drink."
In 1983, a review stated that the AA program's focus on admission of having a problem increases deviant stigma and strips members of their previous cultural identity, replacing it with the deviant identity. A 1985 study based on observations of AA meetings warned of detrimental iatrogenic effects of twelve-step philosophy and concluded that AA uses many methods that are also used by cults. A later review disagreed, stating that AA's program bore little resemblance to religious cult practices. In 2014, Vaillant published a paper making the case that Alcoholics Anonymous is not a cult.
Alcoholics Anonymous publishes several books, reports, pamphlets, and other media, including a periodical known as the AA Grapevine. Two books are used primarily: Alcoholics Anonymous (the "Big Book") and Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions, the latter explaining AA's fundamental principles in depth. The full text of each of these two books is available on the AA website at no charge.
Gross Profit from Literature ≈8,6M (57%), Contributions ~$6.5M (43%)
by helping another alcoholic, he could save himself
Bill went back to Towns constantly to work on alcoholics there, simply trying to help others had kept him from even thinking of drinking
simply trying to help other had kept him from even thinking of drinking
The titles include: Carrying the Message into Correctional Facilities, Where Do I Go From Here?, A.A. in Prison: Inmate to Inmate, A.A. in Correctional Facilities, It Sure Beats Sitting in a Cell, Memo to an Inmate Who May be an Alcoholic, A Message to Corrections Administrators
no experimental studies unequivocally demonstrated the effectiveness of AA or [12-step] approaches for reducing alcohol dependence or problems
the free and flexible support provided by mutual help groups can help people make and sustain beneficial changes and thus promote recovery
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those more strongly committed to total abstinence after receiving AA/TSF were likely to experience more protracted 'slips' if they did for any reason drink
while more individuals in AA/TSF achieved continuous abstinence, those who were not completely abstinent did not drink more heavily, drink more frequently or experience more alcohol-related consequences
the research that does show AA to be effective is overwhelmingly flawed by what is known as selection bias.
AA skeptics were confident that by putting AA up against the best professional psychotherapies in a highly rigorous study, Project MATCH would prove beyond doubt that the 12-steps were mumbo jumbo. The skeptics were humbled: Twelve-step facilitation was as effective as the best psychotherapies professionals had developed.
University of California professor Herbert Fingarette cited two [...] statistics: at eighteen months, 25 percent of people still attended AA, and of those who did attend, 22 percent consistently maintained sobriety. [Reference: H. Fingarette, Heavy Drinking: The Myth of Alcoholism as a Disease (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1988)] Taken together, these numbers show that about 5.5 percent of all those who started with AA became sober members.
[Lance Dodes] has estimated, as Glaser puts it, that "AA's actual success rate [is] somewhere between 5 and 8 percent," but this is a very controversial figure among addiction researchers.
[Herbert Fingarette used] two publications from the Rand Corporation [...] At 4-year follow-up the Rand group identified patients with at least one year abstinence who had been regular members of AA 18 months after the start of treatment: 42% of the regular AA members were abstinent, not the "calculated" 5.5% figure.
12-step patients had higher rates of abstinence at follow-up (45.7% versus 36.2% for patients from CB [cognitive-behavioral] programs, p < 0.001)
AA has evolved in a dialectical fashion to become more accommodating to women
What differentiates AA from universities, religions, and, of course, cults, is that AA, by experimentation during its first few years and perhaps guided by the outcomes of the alcoholics whom it was trying to heal, evolved along the lines of biological spirituality, not superstitious religion or institutional greed.
Laudatory but never simplistic, "Bill W." is a thoroughly engrossing portrait of Wilson, his times and the visionary fellowship that is his legacy.