History of Alcoholics Anonymous

Medically Reviewed By Kayla Loibl | Last Edited : October 02, 
2020 
| 4 Sources

Who Founded Alcoholics Anonymous?
Early Alcoholics Anonymous
Bill Wilson Alcoholics Anonymous
Bill W AA



History of Alcoholics Anonymous
Early Alcoholics Anonymous is dominated by its founders, Bill W. and Dr. Bob




history of alcoholics anonymous

So well-known is Alcoholics Anonymous and some of its practices, that you could be forgiven for thinking that it has been in existence for a very long time.

However, this is not the case AA having only recently celebrated its 80th anniversary.

A.A. was founded in 1935 at Akron, Ohio, as the result of a meeting between Dr. Bob S., an Akron surgeon, and Bill W., a New York stockbroker. Both were hopeless alcoholics. Before that time, Dr. Bob and Bill had working with the Oxford Group, a nonalcoholic fellowship that focused on universal spiritual values in daily living. Through this spiritual influence, and with the help of a friend, Ebby T., Bill had been sober and maintained his recovery by working with other alcoholics, although none of them had actually recovered from alcoholism.







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The First Two Members of AA

Bill Wilson (known to members of AA as Bill W.) and Dr. Bob Smith, who founded Alcoholics Anonymous, were also the original sponsor and sponsoree of the group.

Wilson was a member of the Oxford Group, a Christian outreach program begun by an American missionary.

He was an alcoholic who found his way to sobriety through his experiences with the Oxford Group.

Smith was an alcoholic and someone that another member of the Oxford Group had been trying desperately to help.

This member introduced Wilson to Smith. After a month that included Wilson and his wife actually staying with the Smiths, Dr. Bob Smith did achieve sobriety.

In fact, June 10, 1935 is referred to as the birthday of AA as that is the date of Smith's last drink.

Some in AA like to say that Bill W. was the founder of alcoholics anonymous, but as Alcoholics Anonymous is a fellowship no one person can be said to have founded the group.

So both Bill W. and Dr. Bob are credited as the founders of AA as we know it today.


History of Alcoholics Anonymous
Spreading the Message

The two men wanted to share this with others who were stuck in the mire of hopelessness induced by alcoholism.

They worked together reaching out to alcoholics in Smith's hometown of Akron, Ohio through the summer of 1935.

Two guiding principles of AA were born in that summer – that an alcoholic needed another alcoholic to work with him and the one day at a time philosophy.

AA's program was developed from the concepts of the Oxford Group, a religious organization that aimed to reproduce the first century Christianity practices. Nonetheless, its absence of religious doctrine has helped atheists, agnostics, and believers in nontheistic religions like Buddhism, among others. 


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The Big Book

Wilson began writing what would go down in the history of Alcoholics Anonymous and in the publishing world itself – The Big Book.

This book was meant to help those who were not able to find another alcoholic to talk to or meetings to attend, but in the end it has become the basis of the AA tenets and program.

Wilson would have his secretary copy chapters and mail them to publishers and possible financial backers.

Harper & Bros. Publishing did offer to publish the book for them but Wilson was convinced by another member to start their own publishing company for the AA literature instead.

Works Publishing Inc. published Alcoholics Anonymous- The Big Book in 1939.

It has since been updated and revised to keep up with changes in language, with the current 4th edition released in 2001.

In the middle of the Great Depression, Dr. Bob Smith and Bill Wilson had their first meeting, which bloomed into a service organization that has helped millions of people fight substance abuse and addiction. 

The Expansion of AA

Wilson had been holding meetings in New York while Smith held meetings in Akron but it was in 1939 that the meetings began to appear in other cities.

One of the attendees of Akron meetings, Clarence S., began holding meetings in Cleveland, Ohio.

That was a momentous first in the history of Alcoholics Anonymous and as you know, today there are meetings and chapters all over the world.





If you found this page of interest then you may find the following resources useful:




Lead Writer/Reviewer : Kayla Loibl

Licensed Medical Health Professional 


Hello!

I am a Mental Health Counselor who is licensed in both New York (LMHC) and North Carolina (LCMHC). I have been working in the Mental Health field since 2015. I have worked in a residential setting, an outpatient program and an inpatient addictions program. I began working in Long Island, NY and then in Guelph, Ontario after moving to Canada. Read More



Sources:  

Alcoholics Anonymous. The Birth of A.A. and Its Growth in the U.S./Canada. https://www.aa.org/pages/en_us/historical-data-the-birth-of-aa-and-its-growth-in-the-uscanada

NCBI. Alcoholics Anonymous: Still Sober After 75 Years. December 2010. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2978172/

MPR News. Documentary: Steps to Recovery- The History of Alcoholics Anonymous. July 20, 2015. https://www.mprnews.org/story/2015/07/20/documentary-steps-to-recovery-the-history-of-alcoholics-anonymous

Time. How Alcoholics Anonymous Got Its Start. December 11, 2014. https://time.com/3624211/alcoholics-anonymous-1934/



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