By necessity, it keeps no records of who attends meetings; members come and go and are, of course, anonymous. In 2006, the Cochrane Collaboration, a health-care research group, reviewed studies going back to the 1960s and found that “no experimental studies unequivocally demonstrated the effectiveness of AA or [12-step] approaches for reducing alcohol dependence or problems.”The Big Book includes an assertion first made in the second edition, which was published in 1955: that AA has worked for 75 percent of people who have gone to meetings and “really tried.” It says that 50 percent got sober right away, and another 25 percent struggled for a while but eventually recovered.
“So I’d have one drink,” he says, “and the first thing on my mind was: I feel better now, but I’m screwed. I might as well drink as much as I possibly can for the next three days.”He felt utterly defeated.
And according to AA doctrine, the failure was his alone. G., Alcoholics Anonymous says that person must be deeply flawed.
The 12 steps are so deeply ingrained in the United States that many people, including doctors and therapists, believe attending meetings, earning one’s sobriety chips, and never taking another sip of alcohol is the only way to get better.
Hospitals, outpatient clinics, and rehab centers use the 12 steps as the basis for treatment.
He’s also a worrier—a big one—who for years used alcohol to soothe his anxiety. He favored gin and whiskey but drank whatever he thought his parents would miss the least.
He discovered beer, too, and loved the earthy, bitter taste on his tongue when he took his first cold sip.
But although few people seem to realize it, there are alternatives, including prescription drugs and therapies that aim to help patients learn to drink in moderation.
Unlike Alcoholics Anonymous, these methods are based on modern science and have been proved, in randomized, controlled studies, to work. G., it took years of trying to “work the program,” pulling himself back onto the wagon only to fall off again, before he finally realized that Alcoholics Anonymous was not his only, or even his best, hope for recovery.
He’s a fast talker and has the lean, sinewy build of a distance runner.