Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) was founded in 1935 by a stockbroker named Bill,
and a surgeon Dr. Bob who were both hopeless alcoholics. The two had
initially both belonged to the Oxford Group, a nonalcoholic fellowship
headed by an Episcopal clergyman, Dr. Samuel Shoemaker. Dr. Shoemaker
and an old friend Ebby together helped Bill to get sober. Bill was also
helped by working with other alcoholics. Dr. Bob however did not have
these ides introduced by Bill, he soon got sober, and never drank again.
The two men began work with other alcoholics at the City Hospital in Akron,
Ohio, and one patient became sober right away. Together these men made up the
Early in 1939, the Fellowship published its basic textbook, Alcoholics
Anonymous. The text, written by Bill, explained A.A.’s philosophy and methods,
the core of which was the now well-known Twelve Steps of recovery. The book was
also reinforced by case histories of some thirty recovered members. From this
point, A.A.’s development was rapid (Alcoholics Anonymous).
The heart of Alcoholics Anonymous is in The Twelve Steps, which is a program of
personal recovery. New members do not have to accept or follow them as a whole
terms with their problem, and that by going to meetings and listening to A.A.
can begin. The importance of anonymity is also stressed as part of the
The Preamble of Alcoholics Anonymous:
Alcoholics Anonymous is a fellowship of men and women who share their
experience, strength and hope with each other that they may solve their common
problem and help others to recover from alcoholism. The only requirement for
membership is a desire to stop drinking. There are no dues or fees for AA
membership; we are self-supporting through our own contributions. AA is not
allied with any sect, denomination, politics, organization, or institution; does
not wish to engage in any controversy, neither endorses nor opposes any causes.
Our primary purpose is to stay sober and help other alcoholics to achieve
sobriety (AA Forum).
There are no dues or fee for members of Alcoholics Anonymous. A hat is passed
at meetings for voluntary contributions used to offset the cost of rental for
literature. An individual is allowed to, but not expected to contribute ,000 a
year. However, contributions are not accepted from non-members because the
group strives to be fully self-supporting.
In 1946, in the Fellowship’s international journal, the A.A. Grapevine, these
principles were reduced to writing by the founders and early members as the
Twelve Traditions of Alcoholics Anonymous. They were accepted and endorsed by
the membership as a whole at the International Convention of A.A., at Cleveland,
Ohio, in 1950 (Alcoholics Anonymous). These guidelines were created in order to
ensure the success of the group. They can help especially because of the
group’s informal structure.
Alcoholics Anonymous sets out to do three things:
1. A.A. members share their experience with anyone seeking help with a drinking
problem; they give person-to-person service or “sponsorship” to the alcoholic
coming to A.A. from any source.
2. The A.A. program, set forth in our Twelve Steps, offers the alcoholic a way
3. This program is discussed at A.A. group meetings (AA Forum).
There are several different types of meetings. There are 2 types of open
meetings. One is open speaker meetings which are open to both alcoholics and
nonalcoholic. In this type of meetings the members of A.A. share their stories,
modified since attending A.A. The other type of open meeting is discussion
meetings. A member discusses briefly their experiences with alcohol, and then
leads a discussion on recovery or another alcohol related problem brought up by
someone at the meeting. Closed discussion meetings are the same as open
discussion meetings, but are for alcoholics and prospective A.A. members/ people
who may have drinking problems only. There are also step meetings, which are
normally closed. At these meetings one of the Twelve Steps are discussed.
Alcoholics Anonymous has expanded its locations to include holding meetings in
extend help to people who are in need, but unable to go to meetings. Obviously
Patients in treatment facilities are also helped by these meetings. They are in
treatment and recovering, but also are receiving counseling and/or therapy along
with being able to attend meetings. The Alcohol Safety Action Project
(A.S.A.P.) and Driving While Intoxicated (D.W.I.) may have Alcoholics Anonymous
not regular A.A. group meetings, but informational meetings about A.A.
On November 11th I attended an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting with another student
meetings in Nassau County. The meeting was in a local church that I have driven
by many times. The meetings themselves were located in the basement of the
church. I thought that the meeting would be held in a big, open, spacious room
filled with people from what I may have seen an A.A. meeting looks like on
television or in movies.
However, I was unpleasantly surprised to discover that the meetings held at this
particular location were in small, nursery school classrooms. I figured that I
unnoticed. This was not the case. When I first walked downstairs, I was
reading a bulletin board which listed the times, types, and room assignments for
the meetings to be held that night. I was only standing there a minute or two
reading and deciding which meeting to go into when a man came over and asked if
he could help me find a meeting. So much for going unnoticed.
Immediately, I found myself speechless (that does not happen very often). I did
not think it was appropriate to say that I am not an alcoholic, nor do I have a
problem with alcohol because I was surrounded by either alcoholics or friends
and family members of alcoholics. I also thought that he might think that I was
equally so because she was doing the talking for both of us and was having
trouble choosing her words . It was not appropriate either for us to say that I
was there to observe for a school project.
The man was polite and had introduced himself. He said that he helped to run
the meetings here and at another location on Long Island. He also asked if this
was our first meetings, I think because we both looked lost and somewhat
suggested a few options for meetings about to begin. There were meetings that
were both open and closed, step, for women, and for beginners to name a few.
We told him we were interested in an open meeting. he asked us if we were
students, and we said yes. Then, a very astute observation, he politely asked
if this was research for a class. A minor sigh of relief, I did not feel like I
was posing or intruding so much anymore.
We decided to attend an open meeting that was for women only. The meeting
started, and a women stood up and introduced herself. She stated her name and
that was an alcoholic, but had been sober for a little over a year. Recently,
she said she has had a strained relationship with he teenage son. They have a
good relationship, but he knows how to lay guilt trips. Before she was sober
more independent and at 16, and getting a drivers license. She has set
boundaries, but he does not readily accept this. It is also difficult she
Another women in the group has a boy the same age, and she said they have spoken
about their similar problems, and it is good to know she is not the only one
going through this growing process. She realizes that this is a difficult time
for her son too because her own mother was not there for her. Being a member of
Alcoholics Anonymous helped her to understand that her mother was a sick woman,
who was dependent on amphetamine. She has forgiven herself for feeling like she
did about her mother, and they have a relationship not. They are not close, but
understand each other.
It seemed that this women has benefited greatly from attending A.A. meetings.
She was able to stop drinking, and attend meetings where she can discuss her
drinking and related problems. The difficulty of staying sober, everyday
occurrences in life, or specific child related problems can be related by other
members in meetings. She has also been able to repair the relationship with her
mother who was also an addict. It seems like these meetings really do help
people in their everyday battle to stay sober. It is a support system that they
might not able to stay sober without. About 2,000,00 people consider
themselves members of Alcoholics Anonymous according to a member survey in 1999
A 1999 study confirms that weekly participation a 12-Step program, like
Alcoholics Anonymous, or Narcotics Anonymous helps people in recovery to
maintain their abstinence for up to two years after completing substance abuse
treatment. “Results indicated that 12-Step attendance was associated with lower
drug and alcohol use (Fiorentine).” The people in the study who continued
attending 12-Step programs were much less likely to have used drugs or alcohol
than were subjects who dropped out. The author of the study concluded that
“weekly or more frequent attendance at 12-Step programs may be effective in
maintaining long-term drug and alcohol abstinence. Treatment providers should
encourage and assist their clients in 12-Step participation (Fiorentine).”
Because A.A. meetings are now held in treatment centers patients can now begin
attending A.A. meetings while they are still in treatment.
A Brown university study conducted research about “how actively the patient is
“working” the program; the extent to which he or she is incorporating A.A.
concepts into daily living; and the degree of attendance and participation in
procedure variables it will “help clinicians and researchers investigate why
A.A. works for some patients and not others, and may be able to help develop
individualized treatment goals (AA/Brown University).” Although there may be
some hesitance at first, I believe that it is a logical conclusion that a
person who is an active participant in a meeting, and shares their story will
be better helped that a person who does not.
The Journal of Studies on Alcohol conducted an extensive eight year study.
Their key finding was that “individuals who seek and obtain help for a drinking
problem show better drinking-related outcomes over 8 years than do those who do
not seek and receive help (Timko et al).” 54% of the studies participants
maintained abstinence. However, only 26% of untreated individuals did so.
There were two important findings regarding help for problem drinking among help
seekers “Informal treatment alone was at least as effective as formal treatment
of help (Timko et al.).”
Works Cited & Consulted
Alcoholics Anonymous. 1 December 2001 Alcoholics Anonymous .
AA Forum Group. 1 December 2001. AA Forum Group. .
Alcoholics Anonymous. Psychometric instruments help measure AA process
I 1(January 2001): 3.
Allen, JP. Measuring treatment process variables in Alcoholics Anonymous.
Fiorentine, R. 12- Step programs help maintain abstinence. The Brown
University Digest of Addiction Theory and Application, v18 i9 (September 1999):
Timko, Christine., et al. Long-Term Outcomes of Alcohol Use Disorders: Comparing
Untreated Individuals with Those in Alcoholics Anonymous and Formal Treatment.
Journal of Studies on Alcohol. Journal of Studies on Alcohol, v 61 I 4 (July