Sober Truth: Debunking the Bad Science Behind 12-Step Programs and the Rehab Industry.

Sober Truth: Debunking the Bad Science Behind 12-Step Programs and the Rehab Industry. Dr. Lance Dodes

This book has just come out today and I downloaded it from kindle. I have read the first chapter and think it would appeal to many that come to this blog.

Here is a link to a review of the book which already has about 550 comments from those who support AA or those who find it unhelpful or worse.

sober truth book

Many of the comments are from AA members who have not read the book and probably won’t! They feel that AA is the answer to all their problems, and that there is no need to investigate other methods of recovery. This attitude in AA, has meant many in AA feel that the program will work for anybody even though the statistics would tend to show otherwise. Chapter 5  from the AA Big Book claims this and anyone who fails in AA is said to have not followed the program. There is never any discussion in AA, that a more suitable program for that individual may help. If you criticise AA, many AA members get very upset as it has become a religion for many of them, who have remained members for years.

I hope that Lance Dodes new book “The Sober Truth” will help change attitudes to the outdated 12 step method of recovery.

The book explores the religious background of AA and how the steps are based on  morality and can actually hinder the progress of an individual who is already aware of many of their failings.

I will write more about this book when I have finished reading it in about a week, but so far, it really seems to make sense and I would recommend it already.

If you wish to hear the author he is on Blog Talk radio later with massive from the Leaving AA site these shows are really good and are always available for you to download afterwards as podcasts etc.

Here is a section from the interview on npr

Interview Highlights

On Alcoholics Anonymous’ success rate

There is a large body of evidence now looking at AA success rate, and the success rate of AA is between 5 and 10 percent. Most people don’t seem to know that because it’s not widely publicized. … There are some studies that have claimed to show scientifically that AA is useful. These studies are riddled with scientific errors and they say no more than what we knew to begin with, which is that AA has probably the worst success rate in all of medicine.

It’s not only that AA has a 5 to 10 percent success rate; if it was successful and was neutral the rest of the time, we’d say OK. But it’s harmful to the 90 percent who don’t do well. And it’s harmful for several important reasons. One of them is that everyone believes that AA is the right treatment. AA is never wrong, according to AA. If you fail in AA, it’s you that’s failed.

On why 12-step programs can work

The reason that the 5 to 10 percent do well in AA actually doesn’t have to do with the 12 steps themselves; it has to do with the camaraderie. It’s a supportive organization with people who are on the whole kind to you, and it gives you a structure. Some people can make a lot of use of that. And to its credit, AA describes itself as a brotherhood rather than a treatment.

So as you can imagine, a few people given that kind of setting are able to change their behavior at least temporarily, maybe permanently. But most people can’t deal with their addiction, which is deeply driven, by just being in a brotherhood.

On a psychological approach to addiction

When people are confronted with a feeling of being trapped, of being overwhelmingly helpless, they have to do something. It isn’t necessarily the “something” that actually deals with the problem. … Why addiction, though — why drink? Well, that’s the “something” that they do. In psychology we call it a displacement; you could call it a substitute …

When people can understand their addiction and what drives it, not only are they able to manage it but they can predict the next time the addictive urge will come up, because they know the kind of things that will make them feel overwhelmingly helpless. Given that forewarning, they can manage it much better.

But unlike AA, I would never claim that what I’ve suggested is right for everybody. But … let’s say I had nothing better to offer: It wouldn’t matter — we still need to change the system as it is because we are harming 90 percent of the people.


Commenting area

  1. Thanks so much for the link I just had a look and it is a really good piece. It is interesting to see that so many people are writing good comments about this. The recovery movement is clearly split and so the one size fits all solution has really had its day. There are so many good books and sites springing up at the moment. I will add your link to my web articles section when I have time in the next few days.

  2. I am interviewing him tomorrow ! I already interviewed him for my film The 13th Step …..great …great smart man too!

  3. The book is great, I have read a couple of chapters. Will have to listen to a recording of your show as I have a really early start at work in the morning. I put a link to you above but here is another one.

  4. Congrats to this blog dude, I really like the feel to it…hope more of these kind of blogs on AA will pop up and outnumber the ones in existence today.

    I really Think the good doctor is on to something important with his theories on addiction. Havent read his books yet, but from what ive been Reading and listening to by him, a lot of it really resonated deeply with me. And I strongly beleive his theories will prove to be of real help to a lot of future addicts.

    I too am a former AA/NA – member, with about 5 years in the fellowships on my belt. Managed too stay of the sauce and the drugs during this time, but there were a lot of other addictions or addictive behaviour going on with me, which the program didnt seem to be able to rid me of. I Think dr Dodes work manage to give some insights as to why…

    These Days I really beleive that the emotional pain of not being in Control of stressful situations wether they be a war, a demanding spouse, endless introspection of all the shityness in ones life or anything in between really serves as a prime motor for addictive or perhaps a lot of other “dysfunctional” behaviour. And needs to be dealt with if one is to expect to lead a sober Life somewhat “happy, joyous and free”. The AA program, as I recall it, generally dont get to the root of this fundamental problem, much of the steps, as presented in the “big book” seems to be a prison built around this problem instead…

    When I Think back on my time in AA, there are way too many examples that seems to support Dr Dodes thoughts on the matter. The best example of this, except for my own experiences, has to be mr Wilson himself and his hopes that future AAers will find a solution to the “emotional sobriety” he so desperately sought himself.

  5. Thanks for your comments. The Lance Dodes book really made me think about what was good and bad about my experiences in recovery. The steps were not for me and I don’t think spending a long time in any recovery group would have really helped me. I needed to move forward and stand on my own two feet. once I was free of the dynamics of the AA group and taking responsibility for myself I was much happier.

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