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.

Planting a seed in China

In 1995, retired Chinese physician Dr. Lawrence Luan, who owns a primary health care clinic in Santa Barbara, California, asks the clinic's administrator, who happens to be an A.A. member, to accompany him on a medical business trip to his hometown of Daiwan. To be granted a visa, the administrator must speak on a health topic, and while Chinese authorities request that he address HIV/AIDS, Dr. Luan arranges for him to speak to five doctors at the mental hospital in Daiwan on his subject of choice: alcoholism. The speech is well received, as are Chinese-language copies of the Big Book he presents to the doctors. In 1998, he will share his experience at the Pacific Regional Forum in Sacramento as a member of the International Panel. As a result, a member of the San Francisco Intergroup begins organizing a “messengers” group that will travel to China. Shown to the right is “Alcoholics Anonymous” in Chinese script.

Canada's golden anniversary

During the first weekend of July 1995, more than 6,000 A.A.s and friends from Canada, the U.S., South America, Europe, and Asia gather in Toronto at the Metro Convention Center to celebrate 50 years of Alcoholics Anonymous in Canada. The program includes 34 speaker meetings, 26 panels, 40 marathon meetings, and two talkathons.

Celebrating 60 years

The theme of the 60th Anniversary International Convention — “A.A. Everywhere–Anywhere” — is borne out as nearly 56,000 people from the U.S., Canada, and 85 other countries gather in San Diego, California, in June-July 1995. Among the highlights are an opening-night waterfront dance with fireworks exploding across the bay, an opening meeting that sees Jack Murphy Stadium filled to capacity, and oldtimers recounting stories at the “Forty Years or More Sober” meeting, Saturday night's featured event. Shown at right is the Convention's souvenir book.

First Asia/Oceania Service Meeting

Years after Bob P. of New Zealand conceives the idea of a zonal meeting serving Asian and Pacific Island A.A. groups, the first Asia/Oceania Service Meeting (AOSM) is held in Tokyo in March 1995. Bob P. chairs the meeting, and its “Twelfth-Stepping Your Neighbor Country” theme emphasizes the shared responsibility of carrying the message in this part of the world. Attending are delegates from Australia, Hong Kong, Japan, Korea, New Zealand, and Vanuatu.


With approval of the General Service Board, G.S.O New York launches a site on the World Wide Web on December 22, 1995. With a click, users can now instantaneously access information about the Fellowship in English, Spanish, and French. G.S.O.'s A.A. Website is constantly evolving. In spring 1998, G.S.O. New York shares the experience of computer-savvy A.A.s when it issues a list of Frequently Asked Questions for A.A. entities looking to set up their own website. In 2000, 2006 and 2014 “aa.org” will undergo major expansions.

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