Accurate recovery rate statistics are difficult to come by for obvious reasons but there is no doubt that AA today is much less effective than in years past. The most upsetting truth to me is that AA has not grown in overall membership in well over thirty years. There were an estimated two million members worldwide in 1978 and there are still two million members today. As far as past recovery rates, Bill Wilson wrote in the forward to the second edition of Alcoholics Anonymous (1955): “Of alcoholics who came to AA and really tried, 50% got sober AT ONCE and stayed that way.”
From the AA publication “Dr. Bob and The Good Oldtimers”: “Records in Cleveland showed that 93% of those who came (to AA) never drank again”. This is at a time and place when you were taken through the steps in a few hours BEFORE you went to an AA meeting!
From an AA Grapevine article, August 1946 states that The Minneapolis Group showed a 75% average recovery rate for members with 3 months to 5 years of sobriety.
Then as a result from influences both inside and outside of AA the message changed and recovery rates plummeted:
In 1990, AA GSO, the governing organization overseeing all “autonomous” meetings, published an internal memo for the employees of its corporate offices. It was an analysis of a survey period between 1977 and 1989. “After just one month in the Fellowship [meaning AA,] 81% of the new members had already dropped out. After three months, 90% have left, and a full 95% have disappeared inside one year!” (Kolenda, 2003, Golden Text Publishing Company)
Those that want to argue with these numbers are missing the point. The way that the program of recovery is presented today has resulted in an extremely low recovery rate, statistically nil. We would all do well to look at what each of us are doing to present an effective message of recovery and have the clarity and understanding to take responsibility to carry the message of recovery as presented in The Big Book.