Alcoholics Anonymous (A.A.) is an international mutual aid movement declaring its "primary purpose is to stay sober and help other alcoholics achieve sobriety." Now claiming more than 2 million members, A.A. was founded in 1935 by Bill Wilson and Dr. Bob Smith (Bill W. and Dr. Bob) in Akron, Ohio.
With other early members Wilson and Smith developed A.A.'s Twelve Step program of spiritual and character development. A.A.'s Twelve Traditions were introduced in 1946 to help A.A. stay unified and grow. The Traditions recommend that members and groups remain anonymous in public media, altruistically help other alcoholics and include all who wish to stop drinking.
The Traditions also recommend that A.A. members acting on behalf of the fellowship steer clear of dogma, governing hierarchies and involvement in public issues. Subsequent fellowships such as Narcotics Anonymous have adopted and adapted the Twelve Steps and the Twelve Traditions to their respective primary purposes.
Since this time, local chapters of Alcoholics Anonymous were popping up all over the United States and around the world. According to the Alcoholics Anonymous web site at www.aa.org it is estimated that there are currently more than 100,000 groups with approximately 2,000,000 members worldwide. These are grass roots efforts to provide alcohol and drug treatment service to those who truly want to change.
Groups are self funded by voluntary contributions, and do not require membership fees or dues to be paid at any time. The only requirement for participating in a meeting is the desire to overcome alcohol dependency and acquire sobriety.
A.A. is non-professional - it doesn't have clinics, doctors, counsellors or psychologists. All members are themselves recovering from alcoholism. There is no central authority controlling how A.A. groups operate. It is up to the members of each group to decide what they do. However, the A.A. program of recovery has proved to be so successful that almost every group follows it in very similar ways.
A.A. is not a religious organisation nor is it affiliated with any religious body. It welcomes members of all religions, agnostics and atheists alike. You don't have to sign up or achieve anything to be a member. You're a member of a group if you choose to be. You can come and go as you please. No one is "in charge" of a group. We work through the offer of help and suggestion only. No one can tell you what you should or shouldn't do.
A.A. works through members telling their stories of what we used to be like, what happened and what we are like now. The A.A. program, known as The Twelve Steps, provides a framework for self-examination and a road to recovery, free of alcohol
More About A.A. (these links to aa.org open in another window)