Why Does Alcoholics Anonymous Work (And Not Work) For So Many People?

Addiction treatment and recovery in general has come under a lot of fire for its reliance upon the “12-Step model”. For a simple book, The Big Book Of Alcoholics Anonymous, which has been minimally updated since its first edition was released in 1939, it’s had a lot of impact. Today’s modern gurus and inspirational speakers could only wish for such reach. As of 2013, Alcoholics Anonymous is in over 170 countries and more than two million members worldwide. The Big Book Of Alcoholics Anonymous has sold over 30 million copies and is available in over 60 languages. Scientific or not, what Alcoholics Anonymous has developed through its 12 step program seems to work despite race, culture, language, continent, and ethnicity.

Not By Chance

For those millions of people, Alcoholics Anonymous works. The way the twelve steps were created didn’t happen by chance. The founders worked with the likes of Carl Jung, took influence from famous pragmatists like William James, and used their own practical experience to create a “suggested” program of recovery. There are no rule in AA, only traditions and suggestions. It seems to work for those who do it.

Such people, according to The Big Book, have to be “rigorously honest” with themselves. The only people, in the founders short time with the program, who didn’t succeed long term with the steps were those who were “constitutionally incapable of developing a manner of living” which demanded said rigorous honesty. Honesty, and the simple “spiritual” solution of the twelve steps is enough to keep any alcoholic sober– that is, a spiritual solution and abstinence.

Spirituality and Science

Spirituality and science don’t often coincide which is why many people are skeptical of AA’s effectiveness. Abstinence isn’t agreed upon by many and complicates important conversations like whether or not opioid addicts should use opioid-based medication assistance. Alcoholics Anonymous and the 12 step program does not work for everybody. Problematically, there is an air of criticism “in the rooms” of AA which might encourage that AA doesn’t work for you, you have to work for it. Even so, the spiritual solution of a higher power and a program of spiritual honesty just doesn’t jive with some people. They find better programs in other groups like Smart Recovery, Lifering, or denominational groups rooted in Buddhism, Judaism, or Christianity.

Recovery is most successful when it has meaning. Alcoholics Anonymous is just one way that people are able to make meaning in their newfound sobriety and build a life of recovery. Discovering what is meaningful enough to you to help you break the patterns of toxic behaviors is part of the journey.

Not sure if you should choose a 12-step facility or not? Call Hired Power today. Our recovery services are here to help you make the difficult decisions with ease so you can stay focused on bringing recovery home. For more information, call 1-800-910-9299.