Talk:Alcoholics Anonymous

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How do we achieve WP:NPOV?[edit]

There are two trains of thought when looking at Alcoholics Anonymous (AA):

  • There is the train of thought that AA does not work because only x% (usually 5%) of people who ever go to even one AA meeting stay sober. This line of thinking does not appear in recent peer-reviewed literature about AA's effectiveness, but it's a popular figure to quote in anti-AA polemics such as Dodes' "The Sober Truth" (it's not me calling "The Sober Truth" a Polemic -- it's the New York Times which called it that). I think this article has spent too much effort engaging in original research about what this percentage is -- the only sources which give out a percentage are anti-AA polemics.
  • Then there is the train of thinking that AA helps because x% of people who engage in AA/twelve step facilitation/12-step treatment get sober, where x can be as high as 75% (e.g. on page 197 of The Natural History of Alcoholism Revisited there is a chart showing that, of the chronic alcoholics who went to 300 or more AA meetings, 48% of people who had stable remission went to 300 or more meetings, while only 2% of the alcoholics still chronically drinking went to 300 or more meetings; it's easy but probably original research to run the math and find that, on this chart, 74% of the people who went to 300+ meetings had stable remission, 21% of the 300+ meetings attenders had intermittent alcoholism, and only 5% of people who went to 300 or more meetings were still chronic alcoholics -- numbers, that, interestingly enough, agree with the figures in the preface to the second edition of AA's own Big Book [50% got sober right away, 25% got sober after relapsing, and the rest showed improvement])

This article has had, over the years, numerous attempts to make this "The AA article which the Orange Papers wrote", which is not a neutral point of view. For us to be neutral, we need to represent both points of view in this article. For example, as I pointed out above, it may be OK to include Dodes' "The Sober Truth", but, if we do, we will also have to include the articles from reliable sources which disagree with Dodes' conclusions. Ditto with the Glaser article from last year.

Defendingaa (talk) 03:47, 8 March 2016 (UTC)

I'm afraid that I don't understand the arguments here (in the article, not in defendingaa's points) at all. The arguments against AA seem to suggest that it is no more effective than alternatives. But doesn't that say that it is as effective as alternatives? And if not, could this be explained? And aren't the (presumably institutional) alternatives all very expensive? As a member of this society, I happen to believe that even if x was only 5% and it is free, is that not a significant benefit to society? And finally, why is AA on trial? Rather than seeing the problem to be with AA, my view would be why the professionals, with the vast amount of public funding going into this, are unable (apparently) to produce results significantly higher than AA? --50.68.134.51 (talk) 20:06, 30 October 2016 (UTC)
Thanks for your comments, and I agree with Defendingaa that we need a balanced presentation with more than one point of view. I hope your comment "why is AA on trial", however, is not a suggestion that the Wikipedia article should not include balanced and well sourced comparisons of the effectiveness of AA and professional treatment. The views of us individual editors are irrelevant for the Wikipedia article (though not necessarily unimportant to each of us personally). We follow the sources and report what we find as objectively as we can. Sundayclose (talk) 21:18, 30 October 2016 (UTC)
My thought, for people looking at this in the archives: What the studies are discovering is that AA is a program for people who want it, not for people who need it. Studies show that, for the people who get serious about the program, going to one meeting a week or more, there is a high success rate: about 75% (Vaillant 1995; Fiorentine 1999; Moos and Moos 2006 shows that, of the people who were serious about AA their first year sober, 67% were still sober 16 years later; The 75% number is the one AA's Big Book gives for people serious about the program). However, most alcoholics do not get serious about AA, even when told they will die unless they get sober -- that's where the comparably low success rates (around 15% to 20%, as per Vaillant 1995, not 5% as argued by its critics using bad figures) come from. Since the people who get serious about AA have to be, because of the nature of AA's program, self selecting, there's the possibility that AA's success is merely "self selection bias." However, Humphreys 2014 makes a strong case that it's the actual AA program, and not just self selection, which is helping alcoholics gets better. Point being, doctors, when performing studies, have used the same methodologies used to measure the success of a chemical in treating an illness -- when they use those methods to try and measure AA success, they get inconsistent results, simply because most alcoholics exposed to AA do not do what is suggested: Go to meetings, get a sponsor, work the 12 steps as written in the first 164 pages of the Big Book. But that doesn't mean AA doesn't work. That just means most alcoholics don't work it, even if their life is on the line. Defendingaa (talk) 14:57, 10 December 2016 (UTC)
@Defendingaa: These are good points. I came to similar conclusions over the years of working on various other twelve-step and addiction recovery articles. I would point out, though, that only speaks to problems with the methodology of the studies. It's worth asking, "why didn't these people stay? why didn't they get a sponsor? why didn't they complete the steps?" The lazy answer and sanctimonious answer is "well, they didn't want it enough." This is lazy, because absent some surveys or something like that, you have no data to say why they weren't more engaged, so anything you're saying there is really just speculation. It's sanctimonious because it supports the view that there's nothing AA could do to change it.
Given that, at least two criticisms remain valid. (1) AA could do more to make it's program friendlier to a broader range of people. Of course, AA is under no obligation to do that. But if they were to take a data-driven approach to really understand why people don't get engaged in an authentic and granular way, and make some changes in response, maybe they could make that much more progress towards the primary purpose in helping other alcoholics to achieve sobriety. I'm not saying it would be easy, but it would be worth doing.
(2) AA could do more to encourage people to seek out alternatives if they're lukewarm on, or opposed to, AA. If they don't want AA, then maybe something else will help them. Maybe they would get engaged in some other group. Again, AA's primary purpose is to "stay sober and help other alcoholics to achieve sobriety." The evidence shows that there are groups other than AA that will help alcoholics achieve sobriety. That has to be acknowledged. - Scarpy (talk) 17:46, 10 December 2016 (UTC)
@Scarpy: I'm generally in agreement, although I will add that the well-established traditions of AA prohibit AA as an organization from recommending outside organizations or methods so as not to give the appearance of endorsement. That's not to say that individual AA members can't provide information about alternatives if done outside the official functioning of an AA group. Also, my understanding is that AA has never officially claimed that other methods have no effectiveness or that alcoholics should be discouraged from inquiring about other methods; I'm sure it happens among some individual members of AA, however. One more unrelated point about "research". Any reputable researcher, including social scientists, will quickly tell you that scientific research can never conclude that every condition that could affect results has been examined. Most researchers generally consider their conclusions to be tentative, always subject to modification if subsequent research puts forth alternative explanations based on unexamined or poorly examined conditions that can affect results. I suspect that the conclusions that "AA doesn't work" or "Other methods are better" come from people who don't fully understand the limitations of research. Sundayclose (talk) 19:45, 10 December 2016 (UTC)
To add to what other people said, yes there is a certain arrogance to the old school approach AA had where we flat out told people "If you don't like the program, the bottle is waiting for you" -- but that approach came from a time when AA was the only game in town. I don't know of that much research done on the question of "If AA doesn't work for alcoholic X, maybe they can get sober with program Y", but there is this reference in the LifeRing Secular Recovery article: Zemore, Sarah E.; Kaskutas, Lee Ann; Amy, Mericle; Hemberg, Jordana (2016). "Comparison of 12-Step groups to mutual help alternatives for AUD in a large, national study". Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment. 73: 16–26. doi:10.1016/j.jsat.2016.10.004.  which shows promise to the idea that maybe an alcoholic who won't work AA might get sober via other means. Then again, that study says "LifeRing and SMART members were less likely to endorse the most stringent abstinence goal", even though LifeRing explicitly says complete abstinence is required. I'm not impressed with the track record of alcoholics who try moderate drinking again: Short-term self reporting studies claim success (Sobell, etc.), but long-term follow-ups show that problem drinking happens again (Again, the Sobell study is the most famous example of this, but there are others). AA itself is becoming more open to people who just can't accept the "God thing" which is a stumbling block for many. Defendingaa (talk) 22:41, 11 December 2016 (UTC)
Think the problem with this line of reasoning, simply put is that AA is not an organization as such, it does have a central office, but what it really is is a group of drunks who are getting sober, and you can't expect a group of people to know about all the latest science. That being said, I may or may not be a member, but I have a significant number of friends who are alcoholics, never once heard a single one say, "AA didn't work but I got this great shrink, started CBT/DBT and now voila I can drink like a gentleman, or voila I feel great haven't drunk once in three years." Not a single time have I heard this, and I used to live in LA and hear all sorts of wacky stuff, but never this. I've not even heard rumors of this. Other than the 12 steps, getting hand cuffed to a radiator, or dying I am not aware of any aware of any way to stay sober. But AA members are not doctors, or at least most aren't anyhow, and giving advice on medical issues is strongly discouraged. My understanding is you go to AA, members will help you work the steps, and be a member of the group, that is what AA is there for, it's not there as some sort of medical facility, nor does it ever claim to be. That aside, if you're worried about NPOV, then just take out the POV parts, problem solved. "This is what AA is, this is what AA does, these are the 12 steps." Bam your done, no toes stepped on, none of that; simply the facts and no conjecture. 85.57.175.24 (talk) 14:39, 14 April 2017 (UTC)

Removing 1990 Triennial survery; Adding Lande Dodes[edit]

I have removed the following:

Internal AA surveys suggest that about 40% of the members sober for less than a year will remain another year. About 80% of those sober more than one year, but less than five years will remain sober and active in the fellowship another year. About 90% of the members sober five years or more will remain sober and active in the fellowship another year. Those who remained sober outside the fellowship could not be calculated using the survey results.

This paragraph used the following reference: "Comments On A.A. Triennial Surveys". Alcoholics Anonymous World Services. December 1990.  But I can not find the "40%", "80%" and "90%" numbers claimed in the paragraph; this appears to be original research.

I have replaced it with a paragraph about The Sober Truth by Lance Dodes; it describes both Dodes' figures and the counterarguments to those figures, as well as mentioning Glaser's 2015 article about AA. Since the Dodes book and the Glaser article got so much attention, it's probably a good idea to mention them in this article, as long as, in the interest of WP:NPOV, we have other reliable sources with different points of view. Defendingaa (talk) 12:49, 15 April 2016 (UTC)

"tangentially related" for See also section[edit]

"Whether a link belongs in the "See also" section is ultimately a matter of editorial judgment and common sense." I'm not sure what value it has to the article. What is the argument for listing unrelated organizations? - Scarpy (talk) 06:16, 9 August 2016 (UTC)

Hello User:Scarpy and thank you for your comments. I am unsure why you are having trouble seeing the connection between the temperance movement and Alcoholics Anonymous. AA themselves discuss how they were influenced by the temperance movement (see article). I would encourage you to read that article, published by Alcoholics Anonymous, to gain a better understanding of the history of AA. As for you adding a "dubious" template to the article--those two texts published by academic presses hardly fit that classification. I would encourage you to self-revert. I hope this helps. With regards, AnupamTalk 06:40, 9 August 2016 (UTC)
AA has no relation to temperance movements as stated in their literature. You will find on page 19 in the section titled "Is A.A. a temperance movement?" "No. A.A. has no relation to temperance movements. A.A. 'neither endorses nor opposes any causes.' This phrase, from the widely accepted outline of the purpose of the Society, naturally applies to the question of so-called temperance movements. The alcoholic who has become sober and is attempting to follow the A.A. recovery program has an attitude toward alcohol that might be likened to the attitude of a hayfever sufferer toward goldenrod."
As far as "influence" goes, this would be similar to saying that AA is a psychoanalytic movement because of some of the early and well-known correspondence with Carl Jung. The only difference being that AA has never explicitly stated that it has no relation to psychoanalysis in it's literature, which only makes the claims that it is, or is related to, temperance movement more dubious.
I would encourage you as well to take the time read the article you linked, published by Alcoholics Anonymous. It's titled "What A.A. Owes to Its Antecedents" and a good exercise for the reader would be to go through each of the sources discussed and actually try to pin point what parts of, if any, are currently incorporated in AA (e.g. is any part of it in AA's program now, or are they only related in the sense that they also dealt with alcohol or alcoholics). What you'll find is that much of what is discussed there is not practiced by AA or in some cases the the opposite of what AA advocates now. In the cases that they are not, the source was not a temperance movement.
As far as the other two citations go, it looks like you went to Google Books or Google Scholar and searched for like alcoholics anonymous and temperance and found somethings sources published by an academic press that discuss relationship and influence in vague ways. If the case is as strong as you are saying it it, I would love to see scholarly sources that discuss the exact "influence" or "relationship" AA has with any temperance movement stated in clear terms, again "relationship" here being more than superficial. - Scarpy (talk) 14:56, 9 August 2016 (UTC)
I never stated that AA is itself a temperance movement (although I have found other scholarly sources that do make that claim). Rather, the temperance movement, along with the Washingtonian movement, was an antecedent to AA, as stated in an official AA publication. You state that it would be desirable to "go through each of the sources discussed and actually try to pin point what parts of, if any, are currently incorporated in AA". However, that would constitute original research; I am talking about AA being influenced by the temperance movement as a historical phenomenon and the sources published by academic presses clearly support that. I found an additional peer-reviewed source published in the Journal of American Studies titled "AA and the Redeployment of Temperance Literature" that also discusses the influence of the temperance movement (specifically its literature) on AA. If you still object to the inclusion of this referenced material, perhaps we could start an RfC to gain input from the wider Wikipedia community to see whether the clause should be included in the article. I hope this helps. Thanks, AnupamTalk 16:56, 9 August 2016 (UTC)
An RfC is fine. - Scarpy (talk) 17:47, 9 August 2016 (UTC)
I would encourage you, however, to at least state your case clearly. The Washingtonian Movement is an antecedent to AA in the same way that the Neolithic era was an antecedent to AA, it "a thing or event that existed before" AA did. If you read the article you've now linked twice, the point is that while the Oxford Group, for example, had an influence on AA the Washingtonian Movement didn't and if anything is very different from AA in an important ways. That's why I actually would desire you to do through each of the sources discussed in the article and actually try to pin point what parts of, if any, are currently incorporated in AA. Not to include in Wikipedia, but because I see no indication you read any of it passed the title. If I'm wrong here, please correct me.
Again, if you want to say something "influenced" AA, you need to answer the question "in what way did it influence AA?" You can't just do a Google Scholar search for Alcoholics Anonymous and temperance find an article using some language indicating a vague influential relationship and copy and paste a quote and then say there's an "influence." That's a WP:SYN. - Scarpy (talk) 18:05, 9 August 2016 (UTC)
I can appreciate that you agree to an RfC if this matter is not resolved between us. I did read the publication that I provided to help you understand the antecedents of AA. One example that delineates how temperance movement influenced AA discusses the Washingtonian Temperance Society: "At several points in his writings, A.A.’s Bill W. reflected on the Washingtonians as an object lesson for Alcoholics Anonymous. The two were similar in many respects: alcoholics helped each other, held weekly meetings, shared personal experience. Each featured the fellowship of a group and the availability of its members, reliance on God, and of course, total abstinence" (page 3). The peer-reviewed article I linked to above discusses how literature from the temperance movement influenced AA. The threshold of inclusion on Wikipedia is that the information we add here is verifiable by reliable sources. I have presented several sources that meet this standard and in light of these facts, the clause should continue to remain in the article. Cheers, AnupamTalk 07:08, 10 August 2016 (UTC)
In addition to verifiable and reliable sources, there's also issues of novel synthesis, as I've pointed out before, and due weight. So far, I've only seen one peer-reviewed source discussing this "relationship" in any specific terms, and the abstract describes it as between "publication materials from the temperance and Prohibition periods with the Big Book to show how AA's narrative antidotes to the traumas of modernity (sited in alcohol abuse) were as much the product of premodernist and turn-of-the-century hysteria as they were an attempt to write a new chapter in America's relationship with alcohol based on contemporary medical and social research." Boiling this down to "[AA] was influenced by the temperance movement" is WP:SYN.
If you can, however, find enough peer-reviewed sources discussing how AA's narrative antidotes to traumas of modernity are products of premodernist and turn-of-the-century hysteria such that they should be given due coverage in this article, I'm all for including a section on it. I'll admit, while I've done substantial research for this article and related ones, I've never looked specifically in to the topic of narrative antidotes to traumas of modernity. That being said, it sounds like a fascinating research topic.
Similarly, spelling out the similarities and differences between AA and The Washingtonians (who, by the way, were not strictly part of the temperance movement) and similar groups would be worthwhile. I know in that case there is more than enough WP:RS to support it so there's no argument from me on undue weight there. It would fit best in the History of Alcoholics Anonymous article in my opinion. - Scarpy (talk) 21:18, 10 August 2016 (UTC)
As I've said above, we have sources published by academic presses that state that AA was influenced by the temperance movement. In addition, we have a document from AA itself that states that the temperance movement (including the Washingtonian Temperance Society) was an antecedent of the organization. Therefore, we can include this information in Wikipedia, citing those sources. Repeating what reliable sources state is the standard practice here on Wikipedia. As far as due weight, a seven word clause about an important influence on AA is a long shot from being sufficient. If you can accept a WP:COMPROMISE of leaving this in, I can agree to leave out the "see also" wikilink that you removed. I hope this helps. With regards, AnupamTalk 06:07, 12 August 2016 (UTC)
The first reference, "Gender and Addictions: Men and Women in Treatment", might be a good reference for talking about issues AA has with the "Thirteenth Step" (and may have helped User:Not4credit keep more of the stuff they tried to put on this page last year), but it's not talking about the history of AA or its supposed origin from temperance movements. The second reference, "Clinical Psychology: Historical and Research Foundations", appears to only mention the supposed influence of the temperance movement on AA as an aside. Neither is a reliably sourced in-depth look at the origins of AA and how it stems from the temperance movements. Defendingaa (talk) 12:06, 12 August 2016 (UTC)
I have removed the dubious comparison to AA and temperance movements. It can come back once we get a reliable source which makes an actual case that AA was influenced by those movements, instead of just mentioning it as an aside. Defendingaa (talk) 12:17, 12 August 2016 (UTC)

Walker and Straussner sources[edit]

Below are links to the Google Books previews for the sources currently cited to demonstrate the "influence" of the temperance movement on Alcoholics Anonymous. These don't represent serious discussions of an "influence" or "relationship" between Alcoholics Anonymous and temperance movements by any stretch of the imagination, but rather only briefly discuss AA. While these are from academic publishers, they're not serious works on the information they're citing and as such are highly dubious for the claim they're intended to cite.

- Scarpy (talk) 18:32, 9 August 2016 (UTC)

AA is not a temperance movement[edit]

My personal experience, strength, and hope as an AA oldtimer: AA is not a temperance movement. AA's success stems from the fact it does not try to keep people who want to continue drinking sober. The kinds of sources which claim AA is a temperance movement are ignorant of how the fellowship work and tend to not really like AA (for example, Gabrielle Glaser's hideously inaccurate anti-AA polemic claims AA stems from the temperance movements). Indeed, AA members criticize the Washingtonian movement for concentrating too much on trying to regulate other people's drinking.

In my many years in AA, I have only heard people rail against drinking in general a handful of times. The general attitude is, if someone is enjoying their drinking, don't let us ruin their fun. Defendingaa (talk) 05:42, 10 August 2016 (UTC)

Court rulings section[edit]

I'm debating the best home for the following sections:

My motivation for doing this is that I don't think this discussion belongs in the Pagans in Recovery article, but I'm not sure where it does belong. What do others think? A new article? A section of this one? Sondra.kinsey (talk) 23:21, 10 December 2016 (UTC)

@Sondra.kinsey: Why would the section in the AA article on court rulings belong anywhere else? I don't follow your rationale that it doesn't belong in Pagans in Recovery. I agree it doesn't belong there, so leave it in the AA article. For that matter, why should the other two items you link be moved from their current places? Sundayclose (talk) 23:33, 10 December 2016 (UTC)
@Sundayclose: Most important to me is that there be a single authoritative source on the topic, and right now three articles discuss the matter without recognition of each other. Secondarily, I'm struggling with the appropriateness of including this content in articles like Pagans in Recovery. It's obviously an important topic to members of this group, but for an encyclopedia, it isn't about Pagans in Recovery at all, it's about AA. Sondra.kinsey (talk) 23:58, 10 December 2016 (UTC)
@Sondra.kinsey: Sorry, but I'm still confused. But let me ask if I'm understanding one point correctly. My impression is that you are not suggesting removing the court rulings section from the AA article, right? I'm not sure what you mean by "a single authoritative source on the topic", but the information in the AA article seems to be adequately sourced. Regarding the other articles, I'm not sure if you are suggesting that the sections there should be removed from the current articles and moved to the AA article. It might be appropriate to make a brief mention of the information in the AA article, but I think it would be excessive to move it all to the AA article. I really don't have much opinion about the Pagans in Recovery, but I think the information in Rational Recovery should stay there (if properly sourced, I haven't look at the sourcing) because the group has been outspoken about required attendance at 12-step programs. I should also note that it seems to me that the focus is on 12-step programs in general, not just AA. If I have misunderstood something, please clarify. Thanks. Sundayclose (talk) 00:52, 11 December 2016 (UTC)
@Sundayclose: At a quick glance, it looked like there was more information in the Rational Recovery and Pagans in Recovery articles than there was here, but more careful review reveals that is not the case. Alcoholics Anonymous#United States Court rulings is clear, concise, and sufficient. I removed the Pagans in Recovery#First Amendment Violations, the Courts and 12 Step Recovery section completely, and am satisfied to close this discussion with no changes to this article, except the hatnote I already added. Sondra.kinsey (talk) 02:22, 11 December 2016 (UTC)