What is Alcoholics Anonymous?
There are two practical ways to describe A.A. The first is the familiar description of purposes and objectives that appears earlier: “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 A.A. membership; we are self-supporting through our own contributions. A.A. 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.” The “common problem” is alcoholism. The men and women who consider themselves members of A.A. are, and always will be, alcoholics, even though they may have other addictions. They have finally recognized that they are no longer able to handle alcohol in any form; they now stay away from it completely. The important thing is that they do not try to deal with the problem single-handedly. They bring the problem out into the open with other alcoholics. This sharing of “experience, strength and hope” seems to be the key element that makes it possible for them to live without alcohol and, in most cases, without even wanting to drink. The second way to describe Alcoholics Anonymous is to outline the structure of the Society. Numerically, A.A. consists of more than 2,000,000 men and women, in approximately 180 countries. These people meet in local groups that range in size from a handful of ex-drinkers in some localities to many hundreds in larger communities. In the populous metropolitan areas, there may be scores of neighborhood groups, each holding its own regular meetings. Many A.A. meetings are open to the public; some groups also hold “closed meetings,” where members are encouraged to discuss problems that might not be fully appreciated by non-alcoholics. The local group is the core of the A.A. Fellowship. Its open meetings welcome alcoholics and their families in an atmosphere of friendliness and helpfulness. There are now more than 117,000 groups throughout the world, including hundreds in hospitals, prisons, and other institutions.
How How did A.A. get started?
Alcoholics Anonymous had its beginnings in Akron, Ohio, in 1935 when a New Yorker on business there and successfully sober for the first time in years sought out another alcoholic. During his few months of sobriety, the New Yorker had noticed that his desire to drink lessened when he tried to help other drunks to get sober. In Akron, he was directed to a local doctor with a drinking problem. Working together, the businessman and the doctor found that their ability to stay sober seemed closely related to the amount of help and encouragement they were able to give other alcoholics. For four years, the new movement, nameless and without any organization or descriptive literature, grew slowly. Groups were established in Akron, New York, Cleveland, and a few other centers. In 1939, with the publication of the book Alcoholics Anonymous, from which the Fellowship derived its name, and as the result of the help of a number of nonalcoholic friends, the Society began to attract national and international attention. A service office was opened in New York City to handle the thousands of inquiries and requests for literature that pour in each year.
Are there any rules in A.A.?
The absence of rules, regulations, or musts is one of the unique features of A.A. as a local group and as a worldwide fellowship. There are no bylaws that say a member has to attend a certain number of meetings within a given period. Understandably, most groups have an unwritten tradition that anyone who is still drinking, and boisterous enough to disturb a meeting, may be asked to leave; the same person will be welcomed back at any time when not likely to disrupt a meeting. Meanwhile, members of the group will do their best to help bring sobriety to the person if there is a sincere desire to stop drinking.