I don't believe that this is the norm, Sunlight. I've seen very few alcoholics stay sober for the long-haul, and even fewer of them -- that haven't made their amends and changed their lives -- and are still sober.
It does happen though.
I figure, if you can't trust they are telling the truth, if they haven't cleaned house, if they are still living a crooked lifestyle -- then, how can we believe that they are really sober?
Out in LA, where I got sober -- my home group, and many of the other groups that I frequented -- we shared our Sobriety Date. This was the date of our last drink with nothing in between and no alternative substances.
When I moved to where I live now, I would ask people "What's your sobriety date?" Their answers were frequently "I've been in the program since (such and such) year."
When I'd press them for what that meant -- they'd frequently say "Well. I first came to AA in 1985.... Then again in 1990. And, again in 1997. And, 1998. And, yep, I'm still coming back!" What they failed to acknowledge was "I still kept coming back SOBER with no drinking or drugs in between!"
There's one guy here that say's he's 35 yrs "in the program". LOL. He swears he hasn't drank -- but he does use pot and he was selling it to newcomers. And, a few of the old-timers still around, remember some of the more recent 12-Step calls that they made on him.
You know... So what?
They've got to live in their skins. I don't have to live in their skin. They're most often miserable. I don't want what they've got -- I keep coming back, sober -- so I don't get what they got.
We can know the truth --= and the truth, can set us free.
Hugs to you!