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AA BETTER KNOWN AS ALCOHOLIC ANONYMOUS

(AA) Alcoholic Anonymous is an International movement declaring its "primary purpose is to stay sober and help other alcoholics achieve sobriety." Now claiming more than 2 million members, AA was founded in 1935 by Bill Wilson and Dr. Bob Smith (Bill W. and Dr. Bob) in Akron, Ohio. Surely Alcoholic Anonymous is huge.

AA first female member Florence Rankin joined in 1936, and the first non-Protestant member, a Roman Catholic, joined in 1939. The membership has since spread "across diverse cultures holding different beliefs and values."

Although the views discussion on the medical nature of alcoholism as beyond its scope. It is regarded as a proponent and popularizer of the disease theory of alcoholism.

AA came from The Oxford Group, a non-denominational modeled on first century Christianity. Group members were not primarily focused on sobriety, but some such as Ebby Thacher found belonging to the group a critical aid in staying sober. Thacher followed the Groups's evangelical bent and sought out former drinking buddy Bill Wilson to tell him he was sober because he "he got religion" and that Wilson could too if he set aside his objections to religion and form a personal conception of God, "another power" or of a "higher power.

Go To Adult Children of Alcoholics

Feeling a shared kinship of common suffering," Wilson was struck that a seemingly hopeless alcoholic like Thacher could stay sober. Wilson attended a Group gathering while noticeably drunk, but nonetheless gained the conviction that sustained sobriety was possible. Within days Wilson admitted himself for the fourth time to the Charles B. Towns Hospital to dry out--after stopping on the way to the hospital to drink four beers, the last amount of alcohol he ever consumed. At the hospital in a sad state, Wilson had an ecstatic experience which a bright flash of light was profoundly felt by him to be God stepping in to help (an intercession). After leaving the hospital, Wilson joined the Oxford Group and began to recruit other alcoholics. Wilson's early efforts were not effective until Dr. Silkworth suggested that less stress be laid on religious aspects and more emphasis were put on "the science" of treating alcoholism.

Go From Alcoholic Anonymous To Alanon

Wilson's first success came during a business trip to Akron, Ohio, where he was introduced to Dr. Robert Smith, a surgeon and Oxford Group member who was unable to stay sober. After thirty days of working with Wilson, Smith had his last drink on June 10, 1935, the date marked by AA for its anniversaries.

While Wilson and Smith credited their sustained sobriety on working with alcoholics under the auspices of the group, a Group associate pastor sermonized against Wilson for forming a "secret, ashamed sub-group" engaged in "divergent works." By 1937 Wilson separated from the Oxford Group. As an Alcoholic Anonymous historian explained the split.

......more and more, Bill discovered that the NA adherents could get sober by believing in each other and in the strength of this group. Men who had proven over and over again, by extremely painful experience, that they could not get sober on their own had somehow become more powerful when two or three of them worked on their common problem. This, then---whatever it was that occurred among them---was what they could accept as a power greater than themselves. They did not need the Oxford Group.

In 1935 Wilson acknowledged AA's debt, saying "The Oxford Groupers had clearly showed us what to do. And just as importantly, we learned from them what not to do." Among the Oxford Group practices AA retained were informal gatherings, a changed-life" developed through "stages," and working with others for no material gain. AA analogs for these are meetings, "the steps," and sponsorship. Anonymity came about as Alcoholic Anonymous wished to avoid the publicity-seeking practices of the Oxford Group and to not promote, Wilson said, "erratic public characters who through broken anonymity might get drunk and destroy confidence in us".

Wilson and Smith could count 40 alcoholic men they had helped to get sober, and two years later they counted 100 members, including one woman. To promote the fellowship, Wilson and other members wrote

the initially-titled book, Alcoholic Anonymous: The Story of How More Than One Hundred Men Have Recovered from Alcoholism, from which AA drew its name. Informally known as The Big Book" (with its first 164 pages virtually unchanged since the 1939 edition), it suggests a twelve step program in which members admit that they are powerless over alcohol and need help from a "higher power"; seek guidance and strength through prayer and meditation from a God (or Higher Power) of their own understanding; take moral inventory with care to include resentments; list and become ready to remove character defects; list and make amends to those harmed, and then try to help other alcoholics recover. AA was born.

Go From AA To The Homepage

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