In 1987, I completed my first (and only) stay in a 30-day treatment center, a Care Unit that utilized addiction-as-disease theory as its diagnostic modality, while preparing its patients for a lifetime of going to 12-step meetings.
During the graduation ceremony, the resident pHd of the center spoke. His job was that of loaning an aura of medical credibility in order to obfuscate the 'primary purpose' of the center. The doctor was somber. He testified to the ruthlessness of the disease of alcoholism and addiction and scanned the group, saying that only one out of 20 of us would make it. This statement brought some to tears while looking at one another.
Twenty years later and back in AA again for around six years, I started doing research and discovered what is now becoming more culturally relevant data, that the success rate of 12-step usage is only 5% at best. Do you know how many people continue going to meetings after one year of attendance?
That's right... around one in 20.
We now have the gift of a paradigm shift, where we can now regard this 5% statistic in the context of a success rate and can accurately determine that this sucks. A person stands a better chance quitting drinking on their own than by attending meetings and working Steps.
Harvard grad and A.A. Trustee Dr. George Vaillant knew this shit back in the 1970's. His studies showed that A.A. not just had this very same abysmal recovery rate, but that there was a much higher mortality rate among A.A. recidivists than those who used other treatment methods.
Having thus discovered this crucial information, Dr. Vaillant proceeded to advocate for safer and more secular, CBT-based methods of recovery.
Just kidding. Actually, he said this: “Sooner or later, and preferably sooner, the alcoholic should be induced to attend meetings of Alcoholics Anonymous.” In essence, Dr. Vaillant was saying that it is not The Program that failed, but the person who didn't work The Program hard enough. He took that damning statistic of 5% recovery and converted it into a motivational paddle.
Looking back in retrospect, the doctor at our treatment center knew all of this as well. And like Dr. Vaillant, this guy was a tool as well. He didn't tell us "You know what? A.A. stinks! Take an assertiveness training course. Do yoga. Take up knitting or walking. You'll stand a better chance than you will by going to meetings and being told every day that you are diseased and powerless."
Nope. Instead, he said that the alcoholism and addiction is soooo deadly... that only one out of 20 of you in here will make it, and this is why it is important for you to keep going to meetings.
This spin kept me in and going back to A.A. for over twenty years. A.A. and its trustees sure did take that lemon of a statistic and make lemonade out of it. Their manufactured paradigm of fear around substance abuse disorder has infected our culture and is what keeps 12-step treatment centers in business.
When it comes to working past substance abuse disorder, we do not need another "doctor's opinion" based in fear or emotional appeal.