Defining “Alcoholics Anonymous”Following is the definition of A. A. appearing in the Fellowships basic literature and cited frequently at meetings of A. A. groups: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 of fees for A. A.membership; they are self-supporting through their own contributions. A. A is not allied with any sect, denomination, politics, organization, of institution; does not wish to engage in any controversy; neither endorses nor opposes any causes. Their primary purpose is to stay sober and help other alcoholics to achieve sobriety. Alcoholics Anonymous can also be defined as an informal society of more than 2,000,000 recovered alcoholics in the United States, Canada, and other countries. These men and women meet in local groups, which range in size from a handful in some localities to many hundreds in larger communities.
Because A. A. has never attempted to keep formal membership lists, it is extremely difficult to obtain completely accurate figures on total membership at any given time. Some local groups are not listed with the US/Canada General Service Office. Others do not provide membership data, thus are not recorded on the G.S. O. computer records. The membership figures listed below are based on reports to the General Service Office as of January 1, 1996, plus an average allowance for groups that have not reported their membership. There is no practical way of counting members who are not affiliated with a local group.
Estimated A.A. Membership and Group Information Groups in US. 50,671Members in US1,153,795Groups in Canada5,259Members in Canada. .97,397 Groups Overseas. . 37,082Members Overseas614,466Internationalists. 145~Groups in Correctional Facilities~US/Canada.. 2,154Lone Members333Internationalists~Aproximately 145 persons in naval science or the merchant marines on sea duty describe themselves as “A. A. Internationalists. ” Staff members of the US/Canada General service Office correspond with those members and make it possible for them to correspond with each other.
Internationalists have been responsible for starting and encouraging local A. A. groups in many foreign ports. Loners~ Some 33 men and women living in isolated areas throughout the world, (or in areas where it has not been possible to form a local group), are listed at the G. S. O. of the US/Canada as Lone Members. Many achieved sobriety solely through A. A literature. They correspond with G. S.O. and with their counterparts in other sections of the world. In a number of cases, notably U. S. military installations overseas, Loners have been responsible for establishing local groups.
Historical Data: The Birth of A. A. and its Growth in U. S. /CanadaA.A. had its beginnings in 1935 at Akron, Ohio, as the outcome of a meeting between Bill W. , a New York stockbroker, and Dr. Bob S. , an Akron surgeon. Both had been hopeless alcoholics.
Prior to that time, Bill and Dr. Bob had each been in contact with the Oxford Group, a mostly nonalcoholic fellowship that emphasized universal spiritual values in daily living. In that period, the Oxford Groups in America were headed by the noted Episcopal clergyman, Dr. Samuel Shoemaker.
Under this spiritual influence, and with the help of an old-time friend, Ebby T. , Bill had gotten sober and had then maintained his recovery by working with other alcoholics, though none of these actually recovered. Meanwhile, Dr. Bobs Oxford Group membership at Akron helped enough to achieve sobriety. When Dr. Bob and Bill finally met, the effect on the doctor was immediate.
This time, he found himself face to face with a fellow sufferer who had made good. Bill emphasized that alcoholism was a malady of mind, emotions, and body. This all-important fact he had learned from Dr. William D. Silkworth of Towns Hospital in New York, where Bill had often been a patient. Through a physician, Dr. Bob had not known alcoholism to be a disease. Responding to Bills convincing ideas, he soon got sober, never to drink again.
The founding spark of A. A. had been struck. Both men immediately set to work with alcoholics at Akrons City Hospital, where one patient quickly achieved complete sobriety. Though the name Alcoholics Anonymous had not yet been coined, these three men actually made up the nucleus of the first A. A. group. In the fall of 1935, a second group of alcoholics slowly took shape in New York. A third appeared at Cleveland in 1939. It had taken over four years to produce 100 sober alcoholics in the three founding groups. 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.
Had it not been for A. A. s early friends, Alcoholics Anonymous might never have come into being. And without its host of well-wishers who have since given of their time and effort – particularly those friends of medicine, religion, and world communications – A. A. could never have grown and prospered. The Twelve Steps of Alcoholics AnonymousThe relative success of the A. A. program seems to be due to the fact that an alcoholic who no longer drinks has an exceptional faculty for “reaching” and helping an uncontrolled drinker.
In simplest form, the A. A. program operates when a recovered alcoholic passes along the story of his or her own problem drinking, describes the sobriety he or she has found in A.A. , and invites the newcomer to join the informal Fellowship. The heart of the suggested program of personal recovery is contained in Twelve Steps describing the experience of the earliest members of the Society:
- We admitted we were powerless over alcohol – that our lives had become unmanageable.
- Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
- Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.
- Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.
- Admitted to God, to ourselves and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.
- Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.
- Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.
- Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.
- Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.
- Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.
- 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.
- Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to alcoholics and to practice these principles an all our affairs.
Newcomers are not asked to accept or follow these Twelve Steps in their entirety if they feel unwilling or unable to do so.
They will usually be asked to keep am open mind, to attend meetings at which recovered alcoholics describe their personal experiences in achieving sobriety, and to read A. A. literature describing and interpreting the A. A. program. A. A. members will usually emphasize to newcomers that only problem drinkers themselves, individually, can determine whether or not they are in fact alcoholics. At the same time, it will be pointed out that all available medical testimony indicates that alcoholism is a progressive illness, that it cannot be cured in the ordinary sense of the term, but that it can be arrested through a total abstinence from alcohol in any form.
A. A. Meetings
The two most common kinds of A. A. meetings are:
OPEN MEETINGS: As the term suggests, meetings if this type are open to alcoholics and their families and to anyone interested in solving a personal drinking problem or helping someone else to solve such a problem. Most open meetings follow a more or less set pattern, although distinctive variations have developed in some areas. A chairperson describes the A.
A. program briefly for the benefit of newcomers in the audience and introduces one, two, or three speakers who relate their personal drinking histories and may give their personal interpretation of A. A. Midway through the meeting there is usually a period for local A.
A. announcements, and a treasurer passes the hat to defray costs of the meeting hall, literature, and incidental expenses. The meeting adjourns, often followed by informal visiting over coffee of other light refreshments.
CLOSED MEETINGS: These meetings are limited to alcoholics. They provide an opportunity for members to share with one another on problems related to drinking patterns and attempts to achieve stable sobriety. They also permit detailed discussion of various elements in the recovery program.
Guests at A. A. meetings are reminded that any opinions or interpretations they may hear are solely those of the speaker involved. All members are free to interpret the recovery program in their own terms, but none can speak for the local group or for A. A. as a whole.
How to Contact A. A. In the US / Canada: Look for “Alcoholics Anonymous” in any telephone directory. In most urban areas, a central A. A. office, of “intergroup,” staffed mainly by volunteer A. A. s, will be happy to answer your questions and/or put you in touch with those who can. Or, you can write to : A. A World Services, Inc. , P. O. Box 459, New York, NY 10163-(212)870-3400. All information was obtained from the official A. A. fact file located at:http:www.alcoholics-anonymous.org/factfile/aafactfi.html