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.

Big Book distribution reaches one million

The one millionth copy of Alcoholics Anonymous, A.A.'s Big Book, is presented to President Richard Nixon in a ceremony at the White House.

Bangkok’s first known meetings

In Bangkok in 1971, two Americans of Irish descent — Jim L., a businessman with three years of sobriety, and Evelyn K., wife of a civil engineer under contract in Bangkok — team up to form an A.A. group. The next year they are joined by Jack B., a Redemptorist priest. In 1973, the three move their meetings from Evelyn’s apartment to the Holy Redeemer Rectory and welcome new member Joanne — the wife of an American Embassy official — and George, a German-born U.S. military member. The stabilization of the Bangkok group soon gives rise to the founding of A.A. groups in Ubon and other Thai cities.

Lois’s round-the-world trip

In an echo of their 1950 visit to Europe, Lois W. sets out on a nine-week trip around the world a year after Bill’s death. Her traveling companion is Evelyn C., an early volunteer at the Al-Anon Clearing House and later a staff member at the Al-Anon World Service Office. During their journey the women meet with members of A.A. and Al-Anon in South Africa, Australia, New Zealand, Hong Kong, Tokyo, and Honolulu. (Shown to the right is a gift later presented to Lois, the Serenity Prayer in Japanese.) In Lois Remembers, Lois will write that “Seeing and feeling the loving devotion and oneness of A.A. and Al-Anon around the world did much to submerge in an overwhelming sea of gratitude my sense of personal loss."

Musings from members

Came to Believe, a 120-page booklet published in 1973 by A.A., is a collection of stories by members who tell in their own words what significance the phrase “spiritual awakening” holds for them. One story describes, “I began to see another part of me emerging — a grateful me, expecting nothing, but sure that another power was beginning to guide me, counsel me, and direct my ways.”

Intergroups in Wales

The first known group in Wales was founded in Abergavenny in 1963. Until then most alcoholics who wanted to attend A.A. meetings had to cross the border into England. A decade later, the Welsh Borders Intergroup is founded to link groups on both sides of the border (shown at right are the towns where the groups meet). An intergroup has also been established in South Wales—the Cymraig Intergroup, composed of groups in Cardiff, Swansea, Llanelli, and Newport.

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