Alcoholics Anonymous

Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) is an international fellowship requiring no membership dues or fees dedicated to helping alcoholics peer to peer in sobriety through its spiritually inclined Twelve Steps program.[1][2][3] Non-professional, non-denominational, self-supporting and apolitical, an avowed desire to stop drinking is its sole requirement for membership.[1][2][4] Despite not endorsing the disease model of alcoholism, to which its program is nonetheless sympathetic, its wider acceptance is due in part to many AA members promulgating it.[5] As of 2020, having spread to diverse cultures and geopolitical areas normally resistant to grassroots movements, AA has had an estimated worldwide membership of over two million with 75% of those in the U.S. and Canada.[6][7]

Alcoholics Anonymous
The book cover of Alcoholics Anonymous, 4th edition. AA derives its name from the title of this book.
NicknameAA
Formation1935; 86 years ago (1935)
Founded atAkron, Ohio
TypeMutual-help addiction recovery twelve-step program
HeadquartersNew York, New York
Membership (2020)
2,100,000
Key people
Bill W., Bob Smith
Websiteaa.org

AA began in 1935 with a newly sober Bill Wilson (Bill W.) first meeting Dr. Bob Smith M.D. (Dr. Bob), then detoxing in an Akron, Ohio hospital from alcohol abuse. Wilson put forth to Smith that alcoholism was not a failure of will or morals, but an illness from which he had recovered as a member of the Christian revivalist Oxford Group. Leaving the Oxford Group to form a fellowship of alcoholics only, Wilson and Smith, along with other members, wrote and in 1939 published Alcoholics Anonymous: The Story of How More Than One Hundred Men Have Recovered From Alcoholism. Commonly called "the Big Book", it contains AA's Twelve-Step program of recovery.[8] Later editions added the Twelve Traditions, first adopted in 1946, to formalize and unify the fellowship as a “benign anarchy”.[8]

The Twelve Steps are presented as a non-coercive self-improvement program of initially admitting powerlessness over alcohol and acknowledging its damage, listing and striving to correct personal failings, making of amends for past misdeeds, and continued spiritual development while helping other alcoholics towards sobriety through the Steps. The Steps suggest the healing aid of an unspecified God — "as we understood Him" — but are nonetheless accommodating to agnostic, atheist, and non-theist members.[4]

The Traditions hold that recovery from alcoholism is AA's primary purpose, making plain that AA seeks to avoid controversy by having no opinions on anything else. That members or groups should not use AA to gain wealth, prestige, or property. That dogma and hierarchies are to be avoided. That AA groups are autonomous, self-supporting and should not lend the AA name to other entities. And, without threat of retribution or means of enforcement, that members should remain anonymous in public media.[9][10]

With AA's permission, subsequent fellowships such as Narcotics Anonymous and Gamblers Anonymous have adapted the Twelve Steps and the Twelve Traditions to their addiction recovery programs.[11]