A good friend sent me an interesting read from Cliff B., who talks about modern day AA and the changes that are going on in the the AA program. It is a pretty good read and I would urge everyone here to check it out (even if that means skipping the rest of this post).
Cliff seems to be arguing that the treatment industry has had a detrimental effect on modern day AA, and that because so many people go to rehab and then come to AA, the overall message has been diluted and “muddied.” He also argues that this is not to be blamed on the treatment industry (as they are doing the best they can, he says), but instead it should be blamed on early AA and the fact that they did not respond to this “threat” when the treatment industry started filtering into AA meetings.
I think there is a lot of good that can come from thoroughly exploring this topic. To some extent, the question boils down to “Does AA need to change?” And of course the follow up question to that is always going to be “How?”
But before we even try to tackle those questions, let’s take a look at some of the key discussion points surrounding this:
* Some argue that the influx of court mandated people who are “sentenced” to AA are diluting the message and skewing the success rates of AA. Interestingly, however, there is some data out there that supports the fact that the same percentage of people stay sober in the short run, at least, regardless of whether they were self motivated or court ordered to AA. This would seem to indicate that the influx of mandated people should not really change the overall success rate of AA as a whole. But, maybe it does.
* Some argue that the success rate of AA is irrelevant, and should not even be considered. Well, thanks for being so selfish! I think AA was founded with the idea of helping more than just one person. If the solution does not scale well then it this does not live up to the vision that Bill Wilson intended. He wanted to help lots of alcoholics, not just one. Success rates are certainly not everything, but neither are they completely irrelevant.
* So, should AA change, or does the treatment industry need to change? You could argue either way I think, depending on your viewpoint:
Treatment centers need to change – You could argue that we need treatment centers to take the initiative and start making huge changes in order to produce different (and better) rates of success. Easy to say but hard to implement. Want a suggestion? How about reverse engineering success: look at those recovering alcoholics who are doing well in recovery, and then build that lifestyle into your daily treatment activities. Instead of lecturing and showing boring videos in rehab, try a radically different approach that is more community based and “hands-on.” Take clients out to real meetings in the real world, have them start working with a sponsor right away, and so on. Move away from the theoretical stuff and get clients involved in real recovery right from the start. And, focus on real recovery actions at the expense of traditional recovery lectures. Just an idea that no doubt would need to be fleshed out quite a bit.
AA needs to change – Cliff B. seems to be arguing that AA needs to change, and that they need to get more strict about how their message is carried in daily AA meetings. Silence the “treatment talk” and maybe even restrict newcomers from speaking at all in order to help purify the message. Letting newcomers dribble on about how their day went or spewing useless recovery cliches is hardly useful. The idea here is to take AA back to a time when their message was more pure and not diluted by side issues.
What do you think? I know some readers here attend AA and I would like to hear what you think about where AA is headed. Also, what do you think AA or the treatment centers should do in order to produce better results for everyone?
Please share your thoughts about this in the comments….