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.

The First World Service Meeting

For the first time, representatives from countries where A.A.s have established a G.S.O or a literature distribution center convene to share information on service structures, group services, publishing, and finance. The date is October 8-11, 1969, and the place is New York City. Attendees include Bill W., Chairman Dr. John L. Norris, G.S.O. New York manager Bob H., and delegates from Australia, Belgium, Canada, Colombia, Costa Rica, Finland, France, Germany, Guatemala, Holland, Mexico, New Zealand, Norway, South Africa, United Kingdom, and the U.S.

Hungary’s first open meeting

Midge M., a staff member of G.S.O. New York, travels to Budapest in June 1969 to attend a conference held by the International Institute on Prevention and Treatment of Alcoholism. While there, she arranges Hungary’s first known open A.A. meeting. Members Peter B. of the Netherlands, Inge L. (West Germany), Richard P. (Ireland), and Cecily C. (U.S.) address a group of Hungarian alcoholics as Archer Tongue, director of the Institute, translates. While a small group will be formed in Budapest in 1972, A.A. won’t become firmly established in Hungary until the late 1980s.

Growth of Spanish-speaking groups

As of 1969, 1,500 Spanish-speaking groups are listed at the G.S.O. in New York.

About the Author



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