Whenever effective new therapies for alcohol addiction are developed, they're presented with an odd timidity. Most writeups begin by saying that they have absolutely nothing against AA, they know many people recovering in AA, it's a wonderful program which has saved millions of lives, etc. Even The Cure For Alcoholism, written specifically to tell more people about an actual medical therapy that actually works, opens with the traditional kowtow to AA.
AA is not a wonderful program, and it has not saved millions of lives. AA itself claims to have about two million members worldwide. Even if zero of those people were coerced (unlikely) and even if every one of them were abstinent (ha!), we still could not say that "AA has saved millions of lives" because the great majority would not die if they left AA. It did not save their lives. They may say it did, and may even believe it did since they are threatened with "jails, institutions, or death" if they leave, but in fact it is one of the least successful recovery methods.
AA is actually harmful. Every time its success rate has been examined by an objective party, it has proved to be no better than the natural history -- that is, the number of people who become abstinent in AA is the same as the number who become abstinent with no therapy or formal action at all.
But at least it doesn't hurt, right?
Well, actually, it does. People exposed to AA are more likely to binge-drink. Not only are AA members nine times more likely to binge-drink than people who receive real therapy, they're five times more likely to binge-drink than a control group who receives no intervention at all (Outpatient Treatment of Alcoholism, by Jeffrey Brandsma, Maxie Maultsby, and Richard J. Welsh. University Park Press, Baltimore, MD., page 105).
AA causes binge-drinking, and it's binges which generally lead to arrests, DUI accidents, accidental deaths, and the other worst consequences of heavy drinking.
How does AA do so much damage?
The biggest problem is its insistence that we are, in AA's words, "powerless over alcohol." People feeling the strong compulsion of conditioning may actually believe this. Even those who know it's nonsense intellectually will be subconsciously affected after hearing it repeated daily for years -- that's just how humans are made.
And now for the big question: Why am I talking about AA's bait-and-switch failure on a blog focused on the Sinclair Method?
It's because I recently encountered a sad case of someone trying to combine AA and TSM. The poor guy has been taught that alcohol is too much for him to manage, and even though the conditioning is now broken, he continues to drink too much.
He is not one of the 10% who are not helped by the method. He's drinking much less than the truly prodigious quantities he used to consume, which would not be true if he were one of the unfortunate 10%. Yet he says, "I'm pretty sure that I am powerless over alcohol," even though his own direct experience contradicts that assertion. He's back in the driver's seat, but continues to drive his life where AA told him he inevitably must.
If you've had Step experience that lasted for any length of time, you may need to get 12-Step dogma out of your head before you can accept your own cure. You are not a helpless person who needs a miracle from a Higher Power. You're simply a conditioned individual who can break the conditioning and resume life.