The long-term recovery success rate has dropped throughout the years, from 75% in certain groups (Minneapolis 1946) all the way to a mere 5-30% in todays self-reported figures. Yes, roughly 90% of people leave the rooms of recovery within their first year, and of those remaining 10% only about 30% of those reach 5 years of sobriety or more. Anyone with knowledge of basic math can see how barely 2% of the people that stumble into the rooms of recovery reach five years of sobriety or more. The question is this, is it the program that’s at fault? Or the individuals?
Perhaps it’s both. The 75% success rate reported by the Minneapolis group in 1946 had an intense involvement in the lives of people that came in the rooms. They persisted on these individuals getting medical help, and pressed them to do the work quickly and effectively. You might be asking, perhaps the group dynamic was responsible for their success rate? Well I believe the involvement of the members had a role, but oddly enough, the group itself reported their basic findings and understandings of the failures and struggles of those individuals who didn’t “get it” in their 1946 publication of The Little Red Book.
This group lists out nine reasons as to why 25% of their members did not sustain their recovery, which may be helpful for us to assess. (This does not mean that there are not / cannot be more than nine reasons) I will provide a synopsis of their nine reasons, but I encourage individuals to read, and study, this publication. The nine reasons why their 25% didn’t recover are:
- Some people sought recovery to appease others, and their problem was temporary
- Some had developed brain damage that was too severe
- Some were addicts, and refused to associate with alcoholism
- Some lacked sincerity because they were forced into the program
- Some were heavy drinkers, and did not in fact have substance abuse disorder
- Some were atheists who were unwilling to accept spiritual help
- “The alcoholic who is constitutionally dishonest has no chance. He cannot be honest with himself”
- The ones who did not view recovery as a matter of life or death*
- * They later note that this group could find recovery but their road is more difficult.
- The ones who only accept part of the Twelve Step program and do not live it in its entirety
There is major emphasis on the ninth point throughout their analysis. Time and time again these individuals point out the importance of living the program as A WAY OF LIFE. It’s apparent that the individuals who don’t make it, resist living a lifestyle that revolves around the spiritual principles of recovery. But why? I can’t answer for them unfortunately, but I can lament the importance of taking on a lifestyle while getting sober. The 75% of the individuals who obtained long term recovery allowed themselves to live a lifestyle that radiates the spiritual program of action throughout all aspects of their life. In this respect, recovery becomes a way of life, not just a detour. The other reasons these individuals didn’t find recovery seem to be self-explanatory, and it’s essential to stress the importance of spiritual principles fueled by the honest desire to quit abusing substances.
Despite these nine reasons, I still believe the people in the rooms have a direct impact in the assertion of this fact through at least two means: making the lifestyle attractive, and a persistence in the spread of the message of recovery. Yes, this lifestyle is supposed to be attractive, hence the “program of attraction not promotion” mantra said around the rooms. This doesn’t mean you’re obligated to wear a fancy watch or drive a fancy car, but it instead means that you play a crucial role in spreading the joy you’ve worked for in your recovery. The other point is that there is an obligation to spread the message, in the rooms, with a level of persistence. Get involved in the recovery of the people who are seeking help! Don’t expect other people to do it for you, and I’d encourage all who have recovered to help as many people as they can in the rooms. If you don’t spread the message with persistence, then who will?
A lot of this internal resistance can be addressed effectively when a strong support system is in place – but that support system has to be attractive to the new entrants. Having a community around you that “has what you want” is key when it comes to getting sober. This is especially true when it comes to young people.
In conclusion, there are many reasons as to why the recovery rate has significantly dropped throughout the years, but regardless of the impact the group may have on the individual, it is the individual’s responsibility to accept, and follow through with the outlined program, ultimately making it their way of life. This is where people go wrong in their recovery, they resist making it their way of life; they refuse a lifestyle revolving around spiritual principles and continue to pursue that which pulls them away from the thing they need most in order to save their lives.
 “The Little Red Book” Minneapolis, 1946. P. 12
 “The Little Red Book” Minneapolis, 1946. P. 12