AA History & Alcoholics Help Directory
Please take the time to look through the alcohol recovery resources below, and feel free to contact us if you need guidance. People respond in different ways to the various resources available. Understanding and choosing the type of meeting or path to recovery that is right for you or a loved one can make a difference in the outcome of treatment, therapy, and support. We offer intervention support for families of loved ones who may have an alcohol use disorder.
An intervention is not about how to control your loved one with a substance use or mental health disorder; it is about learning how to let go of believing you can.
The Introduction of ‘The Big Book’
Bill Wilson, a New York stockbroker, and Dr. Bob Smith, a physician from Akron, Ohio came together to form Alcoholics Anonymous, an evidence-based treatment that is by far the most popular self-help group available today. Wilson formed many of his ideas for the 12 steps from what were originally the 6 tenets of the Oxford Group. The book of Alcoholics Anonymous is not a novel but rather a textbook. Regardless of which treatment modality is preferred, the philosophy of Alcoholics Anonymous is to accept a change in behavior while taking suggestions from someone other than the substance user. Alcoholics Anonymous has changed dramatically since the “Disease Concept of Addiction” introduced by Dr. E.M. Jellinek in 1960. What was once a program with an astonishing rate of recovery is now considered by many to be ineffective. But when the basics of AA’s original message are followed, the resulting success stories of sobriety resonate far and wide.
By 2013, Alcoholics Anonymous had reportedly spread to about 170 nations – in the form of 115,000 different chapters and 2.1 million members.
What Are the 12 Steps of AA?
The 12 steps of Alcoholics Anonymous are suggested to be worked by focusing on momentum. Unfortunately, the 12-step program has been altered from its original intent. The book suggests that members “launch onto a course of vigorous action.” It does not say that “we did not get sick in one day, so take your time getting better.”
Unfortunately, that is often the chatter currently heard in AA groups. Today, many people in Alcoholics Anonymous tell newcomers that the program is selfish. Interestingly enough, that is the exact opposite of what the Alcoholics Anonymous book says. In fact, it references being unselfish and living on an altruistic plane. As noted above, Alcoholics Anonymous members have changed the program over the years with their opinions and self-will. Much of what one hears in AA is not faithful to the philosophy described in the foundational text.
The purpose of Alcoholics Anonymous is to work the steps with momentum, to carry the message to newcomers at meetings, and to work with others while taking them through the steps. Bill Wilson worked the first 11 steps at Towns Hospital in New York City in two days. With the permission of Dr. William Silkworth, a physician at the hospital, Bill was allowed after eight days of sobriety to carry the message (the 12th step) to others in the hospital. At some point, treatment providers suggested that people find sponsors with multiple years of sobriety. That is not what the book says either. Why would you want a sponsor who is 2 years sober on step 3 who is still considered sick and running on self-will? You should be looking for someone who has worked the first 11 steps and is ready to work step 12 by carrying the message to you. There is a well-known picture of Dr. Bob and Bill Wilson sitting with Bill Dotson (considered to be AA #3) in the Flower Room of the hospital, a room for patients whom they assumed were going to die. The picture captures the two men attempting to carry the message—the twelfth step—to Bill Dotson. At the time of that photo, it is suggested that Bill Wilson had 6 months sober and Dr. Bob had been sober for about two weeks.
The Twelve Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous can be summarized as follows:
● Trust God
● Clean House
● Help Others
What to Expect in Today’s AA Meetings
What was originally expected to happen in AA meetings does not occur today as often as it should. Alcoholics Anonymous was built on working the steps quickly and carrying the message of the book to meetings. Currently, there are many discussion meetings that have evolved into topic meetings, oftentimes not adhering to the AA tradition of carrying the message. A term sometimes heard in relation to these kinds of meetings is “they’re carrying the mess, not the message”. Before getting discouraged, know that many good meetings take place that are based on discussion. The goal should be to find one that is discussing solutions based on AA principles, not solutions based on an untreated alcoholic’s opinion.
Other popular meeting formats are called speaker meetings. These meetings can be effective if the speakers resist sharing a list of their drunk or drug experiences with the group. Unfortunately, this happens and is not helpful for many. If speakers share insights while keeping in mind the vision of Alcoholics Anonymous, they will use their time to carry the message. They will share their experiences, strengths, and hopes, based on the changes in their own lives that have resulted from working the steps and sponsoring others.
With all the changes to today’s Alcoholics Anonymous, a good way to find effective meetings is to look for ones that focus on:
● Big Book Study
● Step Meetings
● Primary Purpose
● 12 & 12
● Joe & Charlie Meetings
This information is not meant to scare anyone away from Alcoholics Anonymous. It is by far the most effective self-help group available. Millions of people are sober today and have far better lives than they ever imagined as a result of AA participation. Our suggestion is to find a meeting that imparts the message and relies on the basics. AA has not changed. Unfortunately, over time and as with many things in life, we humans like to change things that are already working well.