The Legendary Early Days of Alcoholics Anonymous

The Legendary Early Days of Alcoholics Anonymous

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Chill lake

A reader named Dick B. writes in and says:

“Just note, there is a marked difference between present-day A.A. and its frequent lack of focus on the power of God in seeking recovery, and the early A.A. Christian fellowship and its documented 75% to 93% success rate among those who really tried.”

Ah yes….the good old days. Typically summarized as: “AA used to be different, because it focused on a Christian God, and now success rates are lousy because we have deviated from that.”

If a solution doesn’t scale, then it’s not a viable solution. In other words, it’s not really fair to talk about “the first 100” in early AA and say that those were the good old days and we should go back to that formula. This is not a realistic approach, nor is it something that could really be implemented on a wide scale.

The big book of AA was written and the fellowship grew and scaled as best it could while trying to maintain the core principles of the program. The higher power concept was supposedly necessary to replace the God approach because early efforts (the Oxford group) were not able to reach mass adoption due to the religious element. If AA was Christian based and utilized the Christian God instead of a higher power, then it probably would not be widespread today. In fact it might not exist at all anymore if they had retained a stronger religious component.

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So if you are considering the lousy success rates of 12 step programs, it is not viable to say “we should revert to a Christian based program, and all of these folks who keep relapsing would show improved outcomes.” You can’t force something like that on people and expect to get results. You can’t force religion on people, period. It just doesn’t work.

A possible solution

Instead, if this is how you feel, then feel free to follow a religious path yourself, or to start your own Christian-based recovery group. Nothing is stopping anyone from forming such a group. All you need to get started is just one other person who believes in your message. There are, in fact, several groups that have deviated from 12 step programs to start their own exclusive meetings. However, most of these eventually die out because they do not have a steady inflow of new people in recovery like AA does.

If Christian-based AA is what keeps you sober, and you think it might help others more so than “regular AA,” then go start your own sub-group. There is nothing wrong with this, and I would even encourage it as a bold step in the direction of creation. Customize the program to work for you. This can empower you and also liberate you from an AA program that doesn’t live up to your standards.

If you are wishing for the good old days when things were different, then recreate those differences in your own niche group. Take action. Simply whining about how AA used to be better doesn’t accomplish a thing. Take positive action and form a sub-group that addresses these shortcomings that you see in present day AA.

The good old days are gone, and probably never were

One thing is for certain: you can’t go back. There is no way you’re going to somehow change the face of AA and it’s millions of worldwide members back into a Christian fellowship. But even if you somehow could, the legendary success rates where nearly everyone stayed sober are just that: legendary. They’re not necessarily real and they don’t apply to today’s world.

Remember that it’s all about the individual and their conviction to stay sober. The actual program that they choose to follow is but a minor detail. There is no magic in one recovery program over the others. It’s more about the level of surrender and the conviction to stay sober. The internal process and conviction is much more important than an external program.

And as for the legendary 93 percent success rate in early AA? Don’t buy it. Alcoholics Anonymous states that their success rate in the early days was 25% right here.

Nothing against 12 step programs in general but it doesn’t make sense to fall into this type of thinking….”if only we could go back to the good old days.”

It just doesn’t really solve much.

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