Thank you for this article on success rates, and I have a few comments from the trenches.
First, the weakest link in the recovery rate scene is the content of talks that speakers give all over the world. If they insist on war stories and drunkalogs, entertainment ranks high. But the speakers need to be held to a much higher standard if newcomers are to be helped. First, the talks need to include the following: (1) Discussion of the Big Book. (2) Discussion of the Steps. (3) Discussion of how the first three AAs got sober. (4) Discussion of the early Akron A.A. program--set forth on page 131 of DR. BOB and the Good Oldtimers. (5) Discussion of the First Edition of Alcoholics Anonymous and the removal of all the personal stories but three which deprives the newcomer of testimonies of the real program. (6) Discussion of two major tools--a) The Dr. Bob interview article in Faith in 1939 which shows how that cofounder got well and helped others get well by prayer and study of the Bible. b) The Co-Founders of Alcoholics Anonymous: Biographical Sketches Their Last Major Talks. And, if the speaker can't cover our basic text, cover the origins of A.A., can't bring himself to discuss the role of God, Jesus Christ, and the Bible in the A.A. program, cover the original program, and cover the major compromise in the Big Book before it went to press in 1939, that speaker is not prepared and is merely telling his own drinking story rather than focusing on informing the newcomer who still suffers. His "experience, strength, and hope" amounts to very little if it does not include the kind of information the founders were providing. See "Stick with the Winners!"
Second, the next weakest link is the sponsor who fails to qualify himself in learning each of the tools mentioned above. He owes it to the newcomer who has placed his recovery in the hands of someone who yet has the fundamentals to learn and pass along.
Third, then there is the newcomer himself. The best start for him is an Orientation Meeting like the ones being conducted by Rock Recovery Ministries in San Diego. It's never too soon to let the newcomer in on what Conference-approved literature there is, what the chapters of the Big Book are for, why the personal stories in the First Edition of the Big Book need to be learned if people want the kind of successes that early AAs had. They are testimonies of success, and that is their purpose. Back to the first two points: The newcomer needs to be listening to speakers who are talking about how they used the Big Book, the Twelve Steps, the information about the early Akron program, the fact that A.A. is not monolithic and needs to be viewed as a place for love and tolerance, love and service, and tolerance of the varied beliefs, individuals, and approaches. The newcomer needs to be provided with Beginners Meetings which provide information instead of an opportunity to vent concerns and questions.
You don't go to kindergarten and tell the teacher what you would like to hear. You recognize you are there to learn, not teach; get educated, not expose ignorance; personify humility, not pride.
God Bless, Dick B. www.dickb.com