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A An Overview of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA)

Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) is an international aid organization whose purpose is to help alcoholics and former alcoholics in their quest for sobriety or continued sobriety. It was in 1935 when this group, now over 2 million strong, was started by Ohio-based Bill Wilson and Dr. Bob Smith.

Together with other early members, Wilson and Smith built the 12-step program of the movement, which centered around spiritual and character development. In 1946, the movement’s Twelve Traditions was born. The Traditions encourage members and groups to keep their identities anonymous, help other alcoholics, and welcome everyone who wishes to stop their drinking habit.

In addition, the program recommends that all members avoid dogma, governing hierarchies and public issue involvement when acting on behalf of the group. Similar fellowships, such as Narcotics Anonymous, have subsequently adopted AA’s Twelve Traditions and used it to achieve their own objectives.

During this time, local chapters of AA began to pop up all over America and the world over. There are about 100,000 chapters across the U.S. and some 2,000,000 members the globe over. Grassroots efforts are also made to help those who have a drug and alcohol problem and are determined to change.

Groups do not require members to pay fees or dues; instead, they are funded through voluntary contributions. Anyone who wants to be part of the group is only required one thing: commitment to achieving and maintaining sobriety.

What people often don’t realize is that AA is a non-professional organization – nobody is being treated or helped by a psychologist, counselor or doctor. Each member is a former alcoholic, and they are all dependent on one another in their journey to recovery. As well, there is no central authority directing how these groups work or operate. All decisions are made by members themselves.

AA Tokens

Although the decision to recover from alcoholism can begin in one moment, the process of recovery itself can last a whole lifetime. As AA members embark on the 12-step recovery program of the group and move on with life, carrying with them mementos of the process, can help them achieve continued success. Such mementos are more popular called AA recovery medallions or AA chips milestones. In simple terms, these items were there to remind members of their victory over alcoholism and of their promise to stay sober.

While AA is non-religious, it was a popular Catholic nun by the name of Sister Ignatia, who first gave recovering alcoholics AA recovery medallions. She equated acceptance of the medallion with the recipients’ commitment to God, as well as to the movement and to their own recovery. That started the tradition of AA recovery medallions, chips, coins or any name having the same significance.

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