Half measures availed us nothing. —AA Slogan
Alcoholics Anonymous is by nature quite secretive. Ensuring each attendee’s privacy is something people in the program take very seriously, as they should. Consequently, there have been no clinical studies allowed to demonstrate the long-term success rate of the program. Nevertheless, some things are apparent, and the news isn’t good.
The effectiveness of AA for helping people sustain prolonged sobriety is appalling. For those who love an alcoholic, often that person’s hope is that the alcoholic will start attending meetings, get sober, and remain sober. The assumption is that AA will work and their loved one will become responsible once again, but such an outcome is rare.
The truth is only 5 percent of those who pick up a white chip make it to ninety days of continuous sobriety. Even worse, only 5 percent of those who make it to ninety days make it to two years. This means that only a few who begin the journey to sobriety actually achieve it.
Obviously, if you have a drinking problem, or think you may have a drinking problem, you want to be among the few who actually become sober. The key to success is making the commitment to change. Most come into AA, hoping it will work, but they lack the determination to make it work. Being tentative, their chances for success are virtually non-existent. In a 1990 survey—one of the few sanctioned by AA—only 5 percent of those who picked up a white chip continued to attend AA meetings one year later.
When I first went to AA, it was because my girlfriend insisted that I go. Like most, my commitment was marginal. Although we broke up soon thereafter, I continued to attend the meetings. Honestly, it was refreshing to no longer have hangovers, but my commitment was marginal at best.
About six months into sobriety, I was in the Virgin Islands with a different young lady—not my proudest moment. We had been out in the ocean all morning in a boat I rented to explore the islands. Being hot, we moored at a dock to get something to drink, but we were not allowed to leave the boat unattended. So, she went to get us some water, while I waited on the boat.
When she returned, she had two cans of Budweiser in her hands but no water—not a drop. Because we had already exceeded our allotted time to moor, I had to head back out to sea, and I was very thirsty.
So, she held out the can of beer and said, “Go ahead, drink it. I won’t tell anybody.”
This was my moment of truth. For me, it might as well have been Satan’s temptation in the wilderness, and I knew it. Although I was bone dry, I didn’t drink the beer. This was the exact moment that achieving sober assumed the importance it needed to have in my life. I resisted temptation, when everything inside of me was saying, “Go ahead, nobody will ever know.”
If I hadn’t been strong, I doubt I would still be alive to relate the story, knowing how lethal alcoholism can be.
When we arrived back to the States, I parted ways with the girl but not with AA. It became more important to me than ever.
The key for me, as it is with every other problem drinker, was my determination to turn my mind and my will over to God, allowing Him to change me from the inside out. That was my defining moment, but this can be yours. If you want sobriety, if you want it badly, join me in the following prayer.
Having said yes to alcohol for so long,
It has become an integral part of my life.
I can’t imagine what my existence would be without it,
But I also know that it is destroying me—
Just as surely as if I was drinking poison.
I know I must make some fundamental changes,
But I’ve become so engrained in my ways
That I’m not sure I can make them. In fact,
Without Your active involvement,
I’m certain that I can’t. I will fail.
I need Your help right now, Father—
Not tomorrow or the next day—right this minute.
Give me the strength to say “No” to alcohol.
Provide me with the intestinal fortitude
To “gut things out” until I am no longer
Consumed by the desire to pick up a drink.
Strengthen me with power in the inner man.
Without Your help, I fear my sobriety
Will be disjointed and short-lived,
But with Your help, my life can be filled
With joy, meaning and purpose once again.
Thank You for being there and for me,
Trust in the Lord with all your heart,
And do not lean on your own understanding.
In all your ways acknowledge Him,
And He will make your paths straight, (Proverbs 3:5-6, NAS.)