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.

U.S.-Russia exchange bears fruit

By 1989, three A.A. groups are meeting in Russia — one in Moscow and two in Leningrad. The growth of A.A. in Russia had begun in 1986-1987, through exchange visits between Alcoholics Anonymous members and representatives of Russia's Temperance Promotion Society. Independent groups such as San Francisco's "Creating a Sober World" organization were also instrumental in bringing A.A. to Russia. Growth in Russia proceeds at a rapid pace, expanding to at least 270 groups meeting in more than 100 cities by the beginning of the 21st century.

The Big Book at 50

The golden anniversary of the publication of Alcoholics Anonymous is marked at the A.A. General Service Conference held in April 1989. The “birthday cake” baked for the occasion (right) sports replicas of the covers of the First and Third Editions of the book, of which more than eight million copies have been sold or distributed by 1989.

A first for Turkey

The first nationwide A.A. Conference in Turkey is held at a hotel in Kizil Eahaman, nestled in the pine-covered mountains 100 kilometers outside the capital, Ankara. Twenty-four delegates from groups in Ankara, Istanbul, Izmir, and Adana communicate in both Turkish and English during three days of meetings and activities. Johanna S., of the Ankara International Group, reports to The A.A. Grapevine that the event was “a gathering of active, intense, happy, recovering alcoholics who met, dined, walked, and enjoyed each other's company. We touched each other's lives.” The sketch to the right accompanied an account of the event in The A.A. Grapevine.

About the Author



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