Alcoholics Anonymous, also known of as AA, is a worldwide 12-step fellowship that was founded in 1935 in Akron, Ohio. Founders Bill Wilson and Bob Smith created AA to enable members to remain sober, as well as help other alcoholics achieve and maintain sobriety. The founding principles of Alcoholics Anonymous are simple: don’t drink, no matter what.

The Beginnings of Alcoholic Anonymous

While spirituality is a part of the code, AA was founded to be non-denominational in nature. Founder, Bill Wilson achieved his own sobriety as a member of a Christian-based group known as the Oxford Group. When a drinking buddy said he got sober after he had “got religion.” Wilson recognized that some individuals took issue with Christianity and sought to remove religion from the concept of spirituality or a “higher power,” so more people can gain the support needed to live sober. He found that the fellowship of individuals helping each other was an effective method of providing mutual support.

The power of the fellowship

This fellowship proves to be one of the most wonderful things about the phenomena of Alcoholics Anonymous. Being part of a 12-step fellowship allows for an individual, who is recovering from alcohol addiction or drug addiction, to go anywhere in the world for business or pleasure and have the opportunity to find a meeting with peers that have one common bond: the desire to stay sober today. It is this simple bond that breaks language barriers like no other.

One of the challenges of maintaining sobriety is breaking old patterns and behaviors. It can be difficult when a person’s entire social circle drinks. Participation in Alcoholics Anonymous or another 12-step support group builds new social relationships with people who share the common goal of sobriety.

12 Steps to Freedom

The first 12-step group was formed in 1935. These are the originals. There are variations on the wording here used by various groups. The steps provide a path for suffers to forgive themselves and right the wrongs committed under the influence.

  • One: We admitted that we were powerless over alcohol–that our lives had become unmanageable.
  • Two: Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
  • Three: Make a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God, as we understand Him.
  • Four: Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.
  • Five: Admitted to God, to ourselves and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.
  • Six: Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.
  • Seven: Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.
  • Eight: Made a list of all persons we had harmed and became willing to make amends to them all.
  • Nine: Made direct amends to such people whenever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.
  • Ten: Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong, promptly admitted it.
  • Eleven: Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.
  • Twelve: Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to addicts and to practice these principles in our affairs.

Twelve Traditions

In 1946, AA introduced the Twelve Traditions to accompany the Twelve Steps. The traditions serve as a way of building character and promoting a spiritual relationship to help alcoholics disengage from outside influences that make stability difficult. The traditions provide order and guidance for the groups themselves and were developed to help resolve conflicts in the areas of publicity, politics, religion, and finances.

  1. Our common welfare should come first; personal recovery depends upon AA unity.
  2. For our group purpose there is but one ultimate authority—a loving God as He may express Himself in our group conscience. Our leaders are but trusted servants; they do not govern.
  3. The only requirement for AA membership is a desire to stop drinking.
  4. Each group should be autonomous except in matters affecting other groups or AA as a whole.
  5. Each group has but one primary purpose—to carry its message to the alcoholic who still suffers.
  6. An AA group ought never endorse, finance, or lend the AA name to any related facility or outside enterprise, lest problems of money, property, and prestige divert us from our primary purpose.
  7. Every AA group ought to be fully self-supporting, declining outside contributions.
  8. Alcoholics Anonymous should remain forever non-professional, but our service centers may employ special workers.
  9. AA, as such, ought never be organized; but we may create service boards or committees directly responsible to those they serve.
  10. Alcoholics Anonymous has no opinion on outside issues; hence the AA name ought never be drawn into public controversy.
  11. Our public relations policy is based on attraction rather than promotion; we need always to maintain personal anonymity at the level of press, radio, and films.
  12. Anonymity is the spiritual foundation of all our traditions, ever reminding us to place principles before personalities.

AA forms the basis for many support groups

Today there are 12-step based groups for just about any addiction a person may be dealing with. There are groups for drugs, gambling, sex addiction, and even over-eating.  In addition, the twelve traditions inform most addiction treatment programs. There are groups worldwide that welcome anyone who needs a supporting hand. While some groups are church-affiliated, most do not require an emphasis on religion and accept a wide definition of a higher power or life force.

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