Alcoholics Anonymous & History of AA

 Last updated:
April 11, 2010

Alcoholics Anonymous History
Success Rates. Success Rates. A.A. Statistics Enough Already?

Dick B.
© 2008 by Anonymous. All rights reserved

The hills are alive with the sound of statistics. Statistics on A.A. success rates. Statistics on A.A. relapses. Statistics on recovery rates. Statistics on early A.A. cures. And surveys of A.A. and 12-Step populations, and other groups.

Have we had enough? The search engines and the web sites might suggest a continued interest, but they don’t prove the value or need.

As one who has written his share on successes, failures, and cures, I’m not prepared to discard the work already in place, whether mine or that of someone else. But I do think it’s appropriate to suggest some conditions for evaluation.

The conditions:

·      Do the statistics come from eye witness statements, rosters, or records.

·  Are sample studies based on sound statistical measures, random samples, etc.

·        Is a survey conducted by someone who either uses eye-witness materials or follows sound statistical methods.

·    Is the surveyed population sufficiently broad—covering visitors, rim-runners, “be-backs,” the disenchanted, and those who went elsewhere and succeeded.

·        Does the survey distinguish between alcoholics and addicts, dual-addicted and poly-addicted, religious and non-religious, atheists and believers, professionals and participants, attendees and observers, “approved” and non-approved literature sources.

·        Are the same people questioned or surveyed more than once in alternative meetings, groups, and populations—thus counting the same person’s replies in several different arenas

·       Is the surveyor promoting treatment, therapy, religious preferences, A.A. hostility.

·        Is the measure of “participation” based on subjective value judgments such as “meetings attended,” “sponsorship,” “service,” “taking the steps,” “membership.”

·      Has any effort been made to distinguish between those who subscribe to some “higher power” theory, those who believe in the Creator, those who believe that A.A. is “spiritual, but not religious.”


There many factors that could be sifted and explained, but the real question is why any survey is published at all. Does the survey help a newcomer to achieve permanent sobriety today. Does the survey help improve a fellowship. Is the survey used to justify treatment, rehabs, therapy, drug courts, research, grants, and new endeavors in the pharmaceutical, nutritional, psychological, science, and medical activity. Is it conducted by someone with a conflict of interest.

 The Early Program

 Over and over, I have published the following statement: “Early A.A. had a documented 75% to 93% success rate among seemingly hopeless, medically incurable, real alcoholics who went to any lengths to establish a relationship with God.”  A.A. literature so states. The Big Book provides one of the 75% reports. DR. BOB and the Good Oldtimers provides the 93% report on Cleveland. Rosters naming names and dates of sobriety and terminal dates of the early pioneers so state. I have personally seen several and checked out one for accuracy with Dr. Bob’s daughter before she died. These rosters have been sent to the Griffith Library in East Dorset, Vermont, where they are available for inspection. Bill Wilson frequently reported on the “counting of noses” that he, Dr. Bob, and Anne Smith conducted in late 1937 in which they identified 40 men who had maintained continuing sobriety (20), those who had relapsed but returned (10), and those who had “shown improvement.” Examples of Bill’s statements can be found in the DR. BOB book and elsewhere. Wilson and his wife frankly conceded that Bill himself had achieved no success whatever with the drunks he tried to help in New York in his first six months, nor with those whom the Wilsons had taken into their homes in the early years. This information can be found in Alcoholics Anonymous Comes of Age and in Lois Remembers. Richard K. of Massachusetts has published four land-mark, detailed studies of the early pioneers and confirmed the foregoing facts. These were published by the Golden Text Publishing Company. There is a large scrap book of newspaper articles from across the nation in the first decade extending from 1935 to 1945 that contains the statements of early AAs that they had been cured by the power of God. A complete copy of the scrap book contents has now been lodged at the new Dr. Bob Core Library at North Congregational Church in St. Johnsbury, Vermont.

Though true, what is the value of such statistical material in helping newcomers today.

The answer I have given is that a newcomer: (1) has to want to hear the history and the statistics: (2) then needs to hear accurate historical information (including statistics), if he or she wants to hear it; (3) then needs to decide whether he or she wants to believe accurate historical information and statistics; (4) has to want to apply the early A.A. program ideas today; and (5) at the very least, has to be willing to abstain permanently, believe in the Creator, obey His will, grow in fellowship with Him, and provide love and service to others still suffering. My belief, based on my own experience and comparing it with the early program, is that this historical foundation can and does provide the basis for achieving a permanent cure, a new life, and a worthy future for those previously deemed hopeless failures and where willing to place their trust in the Creator.

Gloria Deo


Dick B.'s son Ken
P.O. Box 837
Kihei, Hawaii
Tel.: (808) 276-4945
Fax: (808) 874-4876

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