Alcoholics Anonymous – A History and Background
Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) is a global mutual aid organization composed of alcoholics and former alcoholics trying to achieve and maintain sobriety. With over 2 million members today, AA began in 1935 through the efforts of Ohio-based Bill Wilson and Dr. Bob Smith.
With the help of other pioneering members, Wilson and Smith created the movement’s 12-step spiritual and character development program. In 1946, the duo introduced the movement’s Twelve Traditions. The Traditions encourage members and groups to keep their identities anonymous, help other alcoholics, and welcome everyone who wishes to stop their drinking habit.
Furthermore, the program recommends avoidance of involvement in public issues, dogma and governing hierarchies for all members of the organization. Similar fellowships, such as Narcotics Anonymous, have subsequently adopted AA’s Twelve Traditions and used it to achieve their own objectives.
Around this time, AA local chapters started cropping up all over the United States and the world. The group’s website estimates over 100,000 groups in the country and at least 2,000,000 members worldwide. Grassroots efforts are also available for those with a drug and alcohol problem and who are keen on changing their lives.
Groups do not oblige members to pay any dues or fees, but instead depend on voluntary contributions for funding purposes. Those who want to join the group are only required one thing: commitment to attaining sobriety.
What a lot of people don’t know is that AA is a non-professional organization, which means there are no clinics, counselors, doctors or psychologists working on members’ cases. All members are former alcoholics who are depending on one other for their individual recovery. These groups are also under no central authority’s control. All decisions are made by members themselves.
Although the decision to recover from alcoholism can begin in one moment, the process of recovery itself can last a whole lifetime. As AA members take on the 12-step recovery program and proceed with life, keeping mementos of the process with them can help strengthen their resolve to stay “clean” for good. These mementos are more often referred to as AA recovery medallions or AA chips milestones. In simple terms, these items were there to remind members of their victory over alcoholism and of their promise to stay sober.
Even as AA is a non-religious movement, it was Sister Ignatia, a Catholic nun, who gave out the first AA recovery medallions to recovering alcoholics. She equated acceptance of the medallion with the recipients’ commitment to God, as well as to the movement and to their own recovery. That established the tradition of AA recovery medallions, coins, chips or whatever term was given the same meaning.
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