It’s said of many endeavors that we get out of them what we put into them.

I’ve heard the complaint that when a person relapsed in 12 Step fellowships, it was often attributed to not ‘working’ the program diligently enough. That can seem unfair. There are a lot of other factors to consider. Relapse can be complex and trying hard is no guarantee against the risk of a return to drinking or drug use.

Nonetheless, the 12 Step programs don’t make a secret of their emphasis on effort as a precursor to success.

“Rarely have we seen someone fail who has thoroughly followed our path,” says the relevant text. Note the qualifiers rarely and thoroughly. There will be exceptions, even among those who tried hard.

From the Promises in AA’s Big Book:

If we are painstaking about this phase of our development, we will be amazed before we are half way through .”

Another qualifier– painstaking. Merriam Webster’s definition is “expending, showing, or involving diligent care and effort.”  That’s pretty clear.

Later on, with respect to those same Promises:

They are being fulfilled among us – sometimes quickly, sometimes slowly. They will always materialize if we work for them.”

Again, the notion of effort (and persistence) rewarded is integral to the experience. As one wag put it, “recovery ain’t for sissies”.

Now, is it fair to say that some people do not do well in AA or NA due to a lack of effort or commitment? Sure. I’ve met some. Okay, many.

Is it also fair to say that some persons do not do well in therapy for the same reason? Sure. I’ve met a bunch who fit that description, too.

In fact, it’s a good question to put to a newcomer, in AA/NA or in therapy: “How much work are you willing to put into this process, in order to achieve your goals?”

The answer is often a reasonably good predictor of eventual success.