Through the years I've heard various statistics on how many of us stay in AA for the long term. I've heard that only 2-5% of us who walk through the doors to their first AA meeting are still in AA ten years later. I am always surprised when I hear or read these statistics. AA is such an important part of my life, why would anyone want to leave? A number of possible reasons come to light as I look at my own experience.
First is the psychological nature of the disease. My alcoholism is
the only disease that works non-stop to convince me I don't have it.
Cancer, Hep C, and heart disease all scream for treatment. Not
alcoholism. It goes to any lengths to make me believe I am not really
alcoholic, or, if I was at one time, that I'm fine now. If I believe
either of these ideas I am on my way to believing I no longer need AA.
Ego, the main spokesperson of my disease, fights against AA. Ego
wants no part of spirituality. It is scared to death that there could be
any power greater than itself. Ego points out I've got more important
things to do than attend meetings, talk to other members on the
telephone and make coffee. If I know what's good for me, I'd better make
more money, spend more time with the family, and go to the gym every
day. According to Ego AA is for suckers.
I begin to slip out of AA when I begin to forget what it used to be
like. My memories of the pain my alcoholism brought to me and others
are fading away. Sometimes a memory of a pleasant drinking experience
will shows up in my head uninvited. I've noticed only a few people in
our meetings share about their drinking. When I was new an old timer
said, "don't ever forget to share about your drinking. It's the only
thing the newcomer can hold on to." I don't need AA if I forget I have a
drinking problem that was well on its way to killing me.
Finally, how many of us really practice the program as a way of
life? Maybe 2-5% is not too far off. It is so easy for me to slip into a
comfort zone in my recovery. I know I'm in the comfort zone because I
go to the same meetings every week, talk to the same people, and let
someone else take on the service positions. I stop writing inventories,
stop paying attention to my character defects and stop putting my hand
out to newcomers. AA becomes just another social activity. I begin
working MY program, not the AA program. I don't need AA if I lose the
desire to change and grow. AA works for people who want it.
Let's face it. The odds are stacked against us. Staying in AA for
the long term is a long shot. Wow. This makes me even more grateful to
be a sober member today.