Alcoholics Anonymous is one of the most renowned organizations that exist to help individuals recover from alcoholism. Millions have benefited from the programs and weekly meetings, and AA has influenced countless other programs, , and those that work with alcoholics.
What may not be so well-known, however, is the history of AA and the events that have occurred to make the organization what it is today.
Bill Wilson’s struggle with alcoholism
Alcoholics Anonymous was created in 1935 by recovering alcoholic Bill Wilson. Wilson had been failing at his Wall Street career because his drinking was so out of hand that he was admitted into the hospital a number of times. Friends tried to help Bill, including his childhood drinking buddy, Ebby Thacher. Ebby had found sobriety through the Christian movement, called the Oxford Group, and he firmly believed it changed his life.
Dr. William Duncan Silkworth of the Towns Hospital in New York City also influenced Bill Wilson with religion, saying that alcoholism is a disease and that only God can cure it. With a newfound relationship of his own with God, Wilson was able to finally quit drinking for good.
Wilson and Smith
Even though he was sober, the temptation for alcohol was still strong. Wilson, on a trip to Akron, Ohio in 1935, met Dr. Bob Smith, another recovering alcoholic, and sought him out for support.
Shortly after that trip, Wilson and Smith co-founded AA. It started small at first, and the two helped about 40 alcoholics during the first two years, working tirelessly with them in their sobriety and also their relationship with God. The organization operated out of people’s homes, and alcoholics often found themselves living for a time with Wilson
The early years
Alcoholics Anonymous was a very faith based organization in its beginning. It called for its members to surrender absolutely to God, to devote themselves daily to prayer or meditation, and to join with other recovering alcoholics in a religious and support group.
There were five elements to the original AA program. These included total abstinence from alcohol, acknowledgement of Jesus as their Savior, obedience to God’s will, growth in fellowship with God, and help for other alcoholics. Meetings were very spiritual and those that joined AA often talked of the healing power of God.
Since those days, AA has grown and changed a lot. It still advises against all alcohol consumption, and focuses on moral character and personal change. But today members are usually encouraged to find their own higher being that can help with their sobriety.
The Twelve Steps are a notable part of AA, walking an individual through the process of being sober for life. Part of that journey still consists of helping other members. Members that have been sober for a while may sponsor a newer individual. These people are paired up and can help each other when they are feeling like quitting. The moral support that occurs at AA is one of its most useful tools.