A successful program would not base effectiveness solely on sobriety, regardless of how ideal that state might be for the addict.
How many of us exist in the ideal state of our goals, dreams and hopes? Why do we insist on it for addicts? Individuation would necessarily dictate that there are people who are more seriously afflicted than others, and in innumerable individual combinations of ways. In that way it becomes essential to re-commit and re-assure those who have more difficulty with the intensity of their addiction, rather than assume weakness of will, intentional sabotage, or fear that failure of the power of intervention is at the basis of any presumed “failure”.
The ultimate test of the success of an addiction program is if it incorporates the understanding that individuation is a primary feature of the human brain and of human behavior. In that way the degree of intensity with which each individual is afflicted by the multi-faceted dis-ease of addiction would be the primary factor in the design of each person's "program" for recovery. Each program would stay, change and grow, evolve, in place regardless of frequency or duration of relapse.
The power of the addiction, the acceptance of the powerlessness over the addiction, is a primary facet of developing a recovery plan that reduces damage, improves quality of life, and informs the will to succeed in whatever way one measures success for each individual. Demanding ultimate sobriety and abandoning individuals to their own means outside the support structure of the program designed to help them manage the addiction because they have a darker and more insidious struggle against addiction is re-traumatizing at the least. This kind of abandonment might best be considered to be against the basic tenets of ethics for any helping professional engaged in the treatment of addiction.
Will-power may be an important ingredient in each person’s efforts to recover, but it too comes in individuated designs and expression. Combined with such a wide spectrum of individually experienced struggles with addiction, the role of Will and its so-called lack can only really account for one piece of the puzzle of why people succumb and relapse.
It is beyond judgmental, and in the end cruel and self-serving, to demand that Will be the primary attribute that determines a person’s success or failure when it is present in such a variety of degrees and presentations. Successful programs, then, would by necessity be required to re-examine and re-calibrate all of these forgone, generally counter-transference based, and all-too-common provider cultural attitudes about relapse and the role of Will in order to be determined to be successful.
Success would be less measured in terms of sobriety but by other means more fitting to the nature of what is possible according to each individual’s spectrum of abilities and strengths as opposed to what is preferable as determined by and for the provider.