AA History & Alcoholics Help Directory
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Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) traces its history back to the mid-1930s, when Bill Wilson and Dr. Smith began helping other alcoholics while formulating a structured program to help guide them toward complete sobriety. Wilson and Smith allegedly helped roughly 100 alcoholics achieve sobriety between 1935 and 1939.
The Introduction of ‘The Big Book’
Wilson and Smith’s program went mainstream after they published “Alcoholics Anonymous: The Story of How Many Thousands of Men and Women Have Recovered from Alcoholism” in 1939. The publication is now commonly referred to as “The Big Book,” and it continues to be the guiding text behind not only Alcoholics Anonymous, but many other programs that help people cease addictive substances and behaviors.
By 2013, Alcoholics Anonymous had reportedly spread to roughly 170 nations – in the form of 115,000 different chapters and 2.1 million members in total.
What Are the 12 Steps of AA?
Within “The Big Book” is a 164-page section that introduces the 12 steps of recovery, which have taken on a life of their own. In short, the 12 steps of AA involve:
- Admitting your powerlessness over your addiction
- Committing to turning your life around and putting your trust in a higher power
- Asking the higher power to help remove your faults and shortcomings
- Making amends with people you’ve harmed or offended
- Asking the higher power to guide your life going forward
- Embracing sobriety and beginning to help others walk the same path
The 12-step of AA model has been adapted to form the foundation for a number of different programs that help people recover from various types of addiction – from drug use to gambling. Twelve-step-based programs have allegedly helped hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of people worldwide recover from addictive behaviors.
What to Expect in Modern AA Meetings
Alcoholics Anonymous began with a very heavy Christian component, and while this is still applicable, AA chapters have embraced and accommodating people of various faiths and even no religious affiliations. The “higher power” to which the 12 steps refer doesn’t necessarily have to pertain to the Christian interpretation of God.
AA meetings provide a nonjudgmental setting for sharing one’s struggles with alcohol and receiving support from a like-minded group. There are various types of AA meetings, including closed and opensessions. Some meetings will strictly be dedicated to sharing stories, while others will focus on readings from The Big Book or on a specific step in the 12-step process. There are also women- and men-only meetings occasionally offered.
New members can begin their journey in an open meeting, and many bring volunteers or sponsors to accompany them for their first few times in AA. Some meetings even allow participants to bring family members and loved ones. You’re encouraged to speak when you attend a meeting, but it’s not required.
Many meetings start and end with a reading from The Big Book and/or the recitation of the Serenity or Lord’s Prayer. Refreshments and snacks are usually provided.
Although each AA meeting is a little different, here are some general rules to follow:
- Keep it 3 minutes or less when sharing
- Share your personal experiences, struggles and feelings – rather than your opinions
- Only share when the group leader opens the floor to do so
- Avoid “crosstalk” (interrupting others or giving direct advice after they’ve shared)
- Show support and empathy toward other members