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.

Joining the fold...

Alcoholics Anonymous begins its fourth decade on firm footing, garnering respect far and wide. Over the next 20 years, cooperation and sponsorship among A.A. countries will grow, the Fellowship’s International Conventions will expand in size and spirit, and the language of the heart will be spoken in at least 40 different tongues.

Ten thousand-plus in Toronto

In July 1965, more than 10,000 members from around the world meet in Toronto for the 30th Anniversary International Convention. Some 250 members of A.A., Al-Anon, and Alateen, plus 24 internationally known nonalcoholic authorities on alcoholism, are featured speakers at 69 jam-packed sessions. As the Convention ends, attendees clasp hands and recite the newly developed Declaration of Responsibility, led by Bill and Lois. The Convention program and souvenir book are shown at right.

Beginnings in Bolivia

An A.A. group in La Paz, Bolivia, was listed with G.S.O. New York in 1965, but little is known of its origins. Better documented are the two men considered A.A.’s Bolivian pioneers: Oscar G. and Jorge L., who meet in the city of Santa Cruz in 1971. After three years, Oscar will become a Loner when Jorge leaves for a job in La Paz. With a local woman named Dorita, Jorge forms an all-new group in La Paz, planting the seed for the eventual start-up of groups in Cochabamba and again in Santa Cruz. In 1987, the Cochabamba group will host the first national meeting of A.A.s from across Bolivia.

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