Everyone has heard of the group Alcoholics Anonymous, or AA. It is an informal meeting society for recovering alcoholics. The group’s primary purpose, according to their website, is to stay sober and help other alcoholics achieve sobriety. The group recommends to its members that they all follow the twelve step program and abstain from consuming alcohol in an effort to recover or treat alcoholism.
In addition to abstaining from alcohol and attending meetings, the group encourages individuals who have achieved sobriety to share their experiences, strength, and hope with other alcoholics. The group believes that alcoholics can solve their problems much more effectively by meeting together.
The twelve step program pioneered by AA has become the model for other groups like Narcotics Anonymous. In addition, there are associated groups like Al-Anon and Alateen which provide support for the relatives and friends of alcoholics.
Although Alcoholics Anonymous has a high attrition rate, there is evidence to suggest that the group helps alcoholics recover and that it is an effective way of treating alcoholism.
AA was founded in 1935 by the recovering alcoholics Bill Wilson and Dr. Bob Smith. Bill Wilson had jeopardized his career on Wall Street by being drunk all the time. In 1934, he sought the assistance of a doctor who viewed alcoholism as a disease and took steps to treat it as such. Together, he and Bill Wilson achieved sobriety. Unfortunately, in 1935, while on a business trip, Bill Wilson again felt the need to drink. At this point, he assisted the help of another recovering alcoholic to stay sober. Together, he and Dr. Smith joined together and founded a small group whose membership grew by word of mouth.
By 1937, the group that had started with two people trying to stay sober had helped more than 40 alcoholics achieve sobriety. By 1939, the group had more than 100 members. In that year, Wilson’s book Alcoholics Anonymous came out. The book detailed a twelve step program that was later adopted, along with the name, by the group.
By 2001, it was estimated that there were more than two million members of various groups of Alcoholics Anonymous across the world. There were over 100,000 different groups that met as part of the AA organization.