Alcohol relapse statistics can be misleading and confusing, especially since such a wild range of information gets thrown around out there. In some cases, you will hear some statistic quoted that paints an extremely dismal picture of constant relapse, but later you might here a statistic that seems to offer hope.
In many cases, these statistics are in direct conflict, and both of them can not be right. So who do we believe?
Focus on statistics you can use, ignore the rest
One of the primary statistics you should be concerned about has to do with the outrageous cost of relapsing into full blown alcoholism. The economics of addiction pose staggering costs, with the ultimate price being your life.
You might hear some stats that are encouraging, while others are rather dismal. My advice is to take what works for you and run with it. This is not about becoming self-delusional, it’s about focusing on the positive and using the positive statistics that you hear to back up your worldview.
In other words, if you are experiencing an awesome new life in recovery, then don’t focus on the stats that say only a certain percentage will make it to 5 years clean. Ignore the naysayers and the doomsday projectionists, because that stuff doesn’t apply to you.
Remember that recovery data is very difficult to obtain in a reliable fashion and must always be taken with a grain of salt. It’s hard to get good data in this field….period.
A ray of hope: government studies = larger sample sizes
A major government study done in 2002 with over 4,000 recovering alcoholics showed that 18.2% were still sober after a year.
This is very encouraging, actually. That’s about 1 out of every 5 alcoholics. You hear a number of statistics quoted that are often much worse than this – such as success rates in AA that typically run around 3 to 10 percent. In addition, the fact that this is a large government study with a fairly large sample size does a lot to validate the data. Such numbers are bound to be more accurate than those you hear that are drawn from AA recovery groups, which are difficult data to obtain due to the anonymity issues involved.
There is a tendency to paint a gloom-and-doom picture of horrible relapse statistics
In my experience, there is a tendency in AA and NA meetings to really focus on the horrible odds that are stacked against us, how only a small percentage of alcoholics will find long term sobriety, and so on. People at the tables love to throw these stats around and make it sound all gloom-and-doom. What they are trying to do is convey the urgency and dedication needed to stay sober with the program. But it comes off as being very negative, and the threat of high relapse rates doesn’t seem to make much different in motivating alcoholics to “step up” their recovery programs.
So I say again: ignore the naysayers and the doomsday crowd, and simply work the best recovery program that you can.
I’ll leave you with one of my favorite alcohol statistics: Quitting drinking will net you over a million dollars. How’s that for an incentive?