Alcoholics Anonymous ® (AA) is a fellowship of men and women who share their experience, strength and hope with each other that they may solve their common problem and help others to recover from alcoholism. The only requirement for membership is a desire to stop drinking. There are no dues or fees for AA membership; we are self-supporting through our own contributions. AA is not allied with any sect, denomination, politics, organization or institution; does not wish to engage in any controversy, neither endorses nor opposes any causes. Our primary purpose is to stay sober and help other alcoholics to achieve sobriety.
AA has its roots in Akron, Ohio. In 1935, a New York stockbroker known as Bill Wilson met with Dr. Bob Smith, an Akron surgeon. Both had been hopeless alcoholics. They had both been in contact with the Oxford Group, a mostly nonalcoholic fellowship emphasizing spiritual values in daily life. Bill had gotten sober, and had then maintained his recovery by working with other alcoholics. Dr. Bob had not found the influence of the Oxford Group enough to keep him sober. When Dr. Bob and Bill finally met, the effect on the doctor was immediate: here was someone just like him and he had managed to stay sober.
Bill believed alcoholism was a disease of the mind, emotions, and body. Dr. Bob responded to Bill's message and got sober. This was the essential beginning of the group that came to be known as Alcoholics Anonymous.
Bill and Dr. Bob worked with alcoholics at Akron’s City Hospital. When a patient got sober, the three men created what was essential the first AA group. In the fall of 1935, a second group of alcoholics was starting in New York. A third appeared in Cleveland in 1939. It took over four years to produce 100 sober alcoholics in the three founding groups.
What Is It?
AA is based on the very simple principle that alcoholics in recovery can help other alcoholics find recovery by sharing their experiences, their strength, and their hope. No longer could the alcoholic say they weren't understood - these other alcoholics understood them completely.
Membership is free with a donation basket the only source of funds. The program offers 12 Steps for recovery and functions as a whole under a set of 12 Traditions.
Meetings are at the heart of the AA program. Anyone who has a desire to stop drinking can attend any meeting. There are also open meetings where non-alcoholics can attend. Meetings are available throughout the world.
These are the original Twelve Steps as published by Alcoholics Anonymous:
1. We admitted we were powerless over alcohol—that our lives had become unmanageable.
2. Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
3. Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.
4. Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.
5. Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.
6. Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.
7. Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.
8. Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.
9. Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.
10. Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.
11. Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.
12. Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to others, and to practice these principles in all our affairs.
These steps have been used by other recovery groups, modified to fit their particular members - for example, gambling, sex addiction, cocaine addiction, narcotics, marijuana, and debt.
The steps are not simply steps. They are considered a way of life based on honest self-evaluation, respect for others, and acceptance of abstinence from the addictive behavior.
1. Our common welfare should come first; personal recovery depends upon A.A. unity.
2. For our group purpose there is but one ultimate authority - a loving God as He may express Himself in our group conscience. Our leaders are but trusted servants; they do not govern.
3. The only requirement for A.A. membership is a desire to stop drinking.
4. Each group should be autonomous except in matters affecting other groups or A.A. as a whole.
5. Each group has but one primary purpose-to carry its message to the alcoholic who still suffers.
6. An A.A. group ought never endorse, finance or lend the A.A. name to any related facility or outside enterprise, lest problems of money, property and prestige divert us from our primary purpose.
7. Every A.A. group ought to be fully self-supporting, declining outside contributions.
8. Alcoholics Anonymous should remain forever nonprofessional, but our service centers may employ special workers.
9. A.A., as such, ought never be organized; but we may create service boards or committees directly responsible to those they serve.
10. Alcoholics Anonymous has no opinion on outside issues; hence the A.A. name ought never be drawn into public controversy.
11. Our public relations policy is based on attraction rather than promotion; we need always maintain personal anonymity at the level of press, radio and films.
12. Anonymity is the spiritual foundation of all our traditions, ever reminding us to place principles before personalities.
The traditions are designed to keep politics and in-fighting at bay so that members can focus on their sole purpose: staying sober and helping other alcoholics stay sober. They have been critical to the long-term health of AA.