No. It’s not true. Just go to any open 12-Step meeting and listen to people talk about how long they’ve been sober or clean, and you will see that they do work.
12-Step support groups are also a widely available and inexpensive source of the recovery support services that are proven to substantially improve recovery outcomes.
That doesn’t mean they work for everybody. They certainly don’t appeal to everybody.
Again, because they offer a spiritual solution and use the word God, they can turn some people off. Some people may have suffered traumatic experiences with religion and cannot create the level of safety and trust needed to work through the actions in the Twelve Steps.
A little bit of history might be helpful in understanding this debate. When Alcoholics Anonymous first wrote its textbook about the 12 Steps, they claimed an 80% recovery rate.
But it’s important to read that passage in the text very carefully.
They did not claim that 80% of everyone who walked in the door recovered.
They claimed that 80% of the people that worked all 12 Steps in a 6-month period and who continued to work with others recovered.
Many, many people don’t manage to work all 12 Steps or do so in a timely enough manner.
There are no studies to support this specific claim, although there are numerous studies that show that 12-Step recovery groups DO improve recovery outcomes.
Although this is purely anecdotal, many people with long term recovery through the 12 Steps still estimate that, among the people who do work all 12 steps in a timely manner and continue to work with others, a similar figure of recovery prevails even today. There is no reliable data on these numbers however.
Even if the spiritual aspect is not a problem, 12 Step recovery is very humbling work.
Just read the steps and you will quickly see what I’m talking about.
There are some who struggle to swallow their pride to the degree that the actions suggested in the steps demand. The Steps may not work for those people.