A.A. Origins

The origins of Alcoholics Anonymous can be traced to the Oxford Group, a religious movement popular in the United States and Europe in the early 20th century. Members of the Oxford Group practiced a formula of self-improvement by performing self-inventory, admitting wrongs, making amends, using prayer and meditation, and carrying the message to others.

In the early 1930s, a well-to-do Rhode Islander, Rowland H., visited the noted Swiss psychoanalyst Carl Jung for help with his alcoholism. Jung determined that Rowland’s case was medically hopeless, and that he could only find relief through a vital spiritual experience. Jung directed him to the Oxford Group.

Rowland later introduced fellow Vermonter Edwin (“Ebby”) T. to the group, and the two men along with several others were finally able to keep from drinking by practicing the Oxford Group principles.

One of Ebby’s schoolmate friends from Vermont, and a drinking buddy, was Bill W. Ebby sought out his old friend at his home at 182 Clinton Street in Brooklyn, New York, to carry the message of hope.

Bill W. had been a golden boy on Wall Street, enjoying success and power as a stockbroker, but his promising career had been ruined by continuous and chronic alcoholism. Now, approaching 39 years of age, he was learning that his problem was hopeless, progressive, and irreversible. He had sought medical treatment at Towns Hospital in Manhattan, but he was still drinking.

Bill was, at first, unconvinced by Ebby’s story of transformation and the claims of the Oxford Group. But in December 1934, after again landing in Towns hospital for treatment, Bill underwent a powerful spiritual experience unlike any he had ever known. His depression and despair were lifted, and he felt free and at peace. Bill stopped drinking, and worked the rest of his life to bring that freedom and peace to other alcoholics. The roots of Alcoholics Anonymous were planted.

Bill W. declines honorary degrees

In the wake of Alcoholic Anonymous’ success, several colleges and universities offer Bill W. honorary degrees. He declines, explaining why in this excerpt from a letter to Yale University, which had proposed an honorary Doctor of Laws degree: “The tradition of Alcoholics Anonymous . . . entreats each member to avoid all that particular kind of personal publicity or distinction which might link his name with our Society in the general public mind.” He then quotes A.A.’s need for anonymity, as stated in Tradition Twelve.

The Alcoholic Foundation becomes the General Service Board

Changing the name of the Alcoholic Foundation to the General Service Board of Alcoholics Anonymous was first proposed at the first General Service Conference in the spring of 1951, but the switch becomes official in 1954. The motivation is to signal that the A.A. membership is taking full responsibility for itself.

Membership exceeds 100,000

By the end of A.A.’s second decade, some 130,000 members are meeting in approximately 6,000 groups on five continents.

About the Author

Related

1953

A post-war beginning in GermanyA handful of U.S. servicemen, all recovering alcoholics stationed at ...

Read More >

1940

Rockefeller’s dinnerJohn D. Rockefeller, Jr. hosts a dinner at the exclusive Union Club (right...

Read More >

2003

Experience, Strength and Hope publishedIn April 2003, A.A. publishes Experience, Strength ...

Read More >

2010

“A Vision For You”A.A. members and guests from around the world celebrate A.A.’s 7...

Read More >

1945

Knickerbocker Hospital Treats AlcoholicsAt New York's Knickerbocker Hospital, a pioneering exper...

Read More >

2011

An Anniversary CelebrationThe A.A. French Audio Internet Group – Vivre Sans Alcool (Living Sob...

Read More >

Post a Comment