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.

A milestone for the AA Grapevine

With the March 1978 issue, the circulation of the Fellowship’s “meeting in print” reaches 100,000. In June 1944, copies of the periodical’s first edition had numbered 1,200 and had gone out to 165 subscribers and other members of A.A.

The first zonal meeting

Born of an idea brought forward at the 1978 World Service Meeting, the first zonal service meeting — during which countries share experiences, strengthen unity, and offer help to A.A.s where service structures have yet to be set up — takes place in Bogota, Colombia in 1979. Delegates from ten Latin American countries convene in what is called the Ibero-American Service Meeting. Later, this biannual meeting will be called REDELA, a shortened form of Réunion de Las Americas (Meeting of the Americas). Zonal meetings will be launched in Europe in 1981, Asia/Oceania in 1995, and Sub-Saharan Africa in 2003.

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