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.

First paperback Big Book

In November 1986, for the first time, the Big Book, Alcoholics Anonymous, is published as a paperback. The softcover book makes it easier for A.A. members to carry the message into correctional facilities, where hardcover books are often not permitted.

WSM revisits Latin America

Delegates from 25 countries with an A.A. service structure or office gather in Guatemala City, Guatemala, for the Ninth World Service Meeting (WSM). The 1986 meeting marks the fourth time the WSM has been held outside of New York, and the second in Latin America. Previous WSM hosts were England, Finland, and Mexico.

Growth of electronic meetings

As the Fellowship expands rapidly around the world, some A.A. members turn to their personal computers to give and receive the message of recovery. Since the mid-1980s, electronic communication has been an updated and expanded version of the “telephone therapy” of A.A.'s earlier days. Primitive electronic Bulletin boards set up on home computers are linked through national and international networks, enabling local users to join instant “meetings” with A.A.s all over the world. A number of international networks are listed with G.S.O. New York.

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