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.

Cuban A.A. Continues to Grow

The 18th General Service Conference of A.A. in Cuba is held in Santa Clara, Cuba, March 23-25. Representatives from the United States/Canada service structure learn how A.A. in Cuba continues to grow despite lacking basic necessities, such as a phone line. 

Sub-Saharan Africa Service Meeting in Johannesburg

The 8th Sub-Saharan Africa Service Meeting is held in Johannesburg, South Africa, June 9-11. In attendance are 24 delegates from 12 nations: Botswana, Ghana, Kenya, Lesotho, Malawi, Namibia, South Africa, Swaziland, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe. Delegates share the struggles and successes of A.A. in their respective countries. 

Asia-Oceana Service Meeting in Mongolia

The 12th Asia-Oceania Service Meeting is held in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia, July 6-9, 2017. Participating are 17 representatives from Australia, Hong Kong, India, Iran, Japan, Mongolia, New Zealand, Russia, Taiwan, Thailand, United Arab Emirates and the countries of the Middle East Region of Alcoholics Anonymous (M.E.R.C.A.A.). Country highlights include the following:

• Australia notes that it continues to visit the Solomon Islands to spread the message and hold public information sessions.

• India, celebrating 60 years of A.A., reports publishing and distributing A.A. literature in 15 languages.

• Iran reports that its government has given groups permission to use the name Alcoholics Anonymous and that A.A. is now recognized as an official entity.

• Mongolia shares about the formation of 21 new A.A. groups since the previous Asia-Oceania Service Meeting, bringing the country’s total to 101 groups.

• Russia notes that it is celebrating 30 years of A.A.

• Thailand shares about the recent printing of the new Thai Big Book.

An Emerging Fellowship in Uzbekistan

In September 2017, the International Desk at the General Service Office receives an email from a member in Tashkent, Uzbekistan, regarding the growing formation of groups there. The last contact the G.S.O. had had with Uzbekistan was in 2014. According to the Uzbek member, other groups had tried to form before but had always closed. The member reports contacting various churches and mosques in the city in order to carry the message, as well as posting information on the website for A.A. in Kazakhstan, after which they receive numerous inquiries.

Archives Workshop in Canada

The 2017 National A.A. Archives Workshop is held September 28-October 1 in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. This is the first time that the workshop — held every year since 1996 — is taking place in Canada. The National A.A. Archives Workshop was established in order to create a level of support and community for local A.A. archivists, as well as to offer training in archival techniques. The first Archives Workshop, held in Akron, Ohio, was intended to be a one-time event, but it was so successful that it became an annual event. 

A.A. Convention in Zhengzhou

The 2017 A.A. Zhengzhou Convention takes place over three days in October in the city of Zhengzhou, in China’s central Henan Province. The convention is held in a large conference room on the fifth floor of Zhengzhou No. 9 People’s Hospital. Of the 132 people who attend, it is estimated that perhaps 30 people are Al-Anons and another 12 are expatriate or visiting American A.A. members. Over two days, the Zhengzhou Convention unfolds along the lines of a typical A.A. convention, with an opening ceremony, Step and meditation meetings, speakers, panels, and a sobriety countdown.

20th REDELA in Costa Rica

The 20th Meeting of the Americas (REDELA) is held in San Jose, Costa Rica, October 1-5, 2017. Along with 24 delegates from 19 countries, the trustees-at-large of the General Service Board attend as delegates representing the United States/Canada service structure.

First-Ever North American A.A. Corrections Conference

From November 10-12, the first-ever National A.A. Corrections Conference for North America arrives at “the Gateway of the West” — St. Louis, Missouri — with 384 attendees ready to make sure that when an alcoholic behind the walls reaches out for help, the hand of A.A. is there. The purpose of the weekend is to have “A.A. members involved in corrections work behind the walls come together to share experience, exchange information, and hear from corrections professionals, former inmates, and trusted servants throughout the U.S. and Canada.”

About the Author



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