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.

Three start-ups in Ecuador

After a group of physicians from the Ecuadorean city of Cueca observe A.A. groups in neighboring Colombia, they are instrumental in getting a local group off the ground: Grupo Alianza Amiga, listed with G.S.O. New York in March 1966. The second known group takes shape when Eduardo A., who had achieved sobriety through A.A. in Washington, DC, returns home to Guayaquil and arranges with a local priest to hold meetings in his church. In the fall of 1971, the Guayaquil group helps Paulina M., who had gotten sober in Coral Gables, Florida, and Javier J., a businessman from Lima, Peru, to launch the first known group in the capital city of Quito.

The Trustees’ new alignment

In a move that stresses the Fellowship’s full acceptance of responsibility for conducting its own affairs, the 1966 General Service Conference recommends and accepts a new alcoholic-to-nonalcoholic ratio of Trustees on the General Service Board. With the gradual addition of U.S. and Canadian Trustees-at-large, the Board’s membership would now be made up of 14 alcoholics and seven nonalcoholics.

A bulletin changes names

In the 1966 Holiday issue, the name of the newsletter "A.A. Exchange Bulletin" (subtitled “News and Notes from the General Service Office of A.A.”) is changed to Box 4-5-9, named after G.S.O.’s post office box at New York’s Grand Central Station. In 1967, the journal will go trilingual with the launching of French and Spanish editions.

Loners and groups in Vietnam

As war rages in Vietnam, 10 American soldiers there are listed as Loners by G.S.O. New York in 1966. In 1967, soldiers’ groups in Vietnam number 11. By 1971, groups in Saigon, Long Binh, Cam Ranh Bay, and other locations keep in touch through SEA SIDE (SEA standing for South East Asia), a bulletin started by M/Sgt. Andie A. In a letter to G.S.O. New York, a soldier named Frank writes from the battle lines: “For years I prayed for sobriety, but now I pray the Serenity Prayer. God bless you.”

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