A Brief History on the Development of A.A.

[fa icon="calendar"] Jul 8, 2020 12:00:00 AM / by John D.


On December 11, 1934, while under treatment at Towns Hospital for alcoholism, Bill Wilson, co-founder of Alcoholics Anonymous, experienced a profound and lasting spiritual experience. This intense and life-changing spiritual awakening left Bill with an overwhelming sense of well-being and freed him from his obsession and craving for alcohol. Bill said this about his “hot flash”, “I knew I was a free man”.

For the next six months Bill worked incessantly with alcoholics trying to get them to stay sober, but to no avail. In May of 1935 utterly dejected and demoralized he’ll complain to his wife Lois, that he’s worked with drunks for the past six months and not a one of them is sober. She’ll look him squarely in the eye and respond, “Yes, but you are”.

It dawns on him that the way he keeps his gift of sobriety is by sharing it with other alcoholics. He understands that he keeps the gift by giving it away. Moreover, he realizes that it doesn’t matter if others accept the gift, what matters is that he stays sober by sharing it.

The next month (June 1935) Bill will speak to another alcoholic, not in the hope of getting the man sober, but in the hope that by sharing his gift of sobriety Bill will stay sober. That man was Dr. Bob Smith and that meeting, in Akron, Ohio, will start the chain of events that will become the program of Alcoholics Anonymous.

Today the program of Alcoholics Anonymous has over two-million members worldwide. The book Alcoholics Anonymous (The Big Book) has been printed over 50 million times and is now designated by the Library of Congress as one of 88 “Books That Shaped America”.

Bill will remain sober from December 11, 1934 up until his death in January of 1971. In 1999 Time magazine listed him in Time’s 100 Most Important People of the 20th Century. Because of the miracle of sobriety that was given to Bill over eighty-five years ago, A.A. now has an international fellowship with over 100,800 groups.

Last month A.A. celebrated a major milestone by turning 85 years old. A.A. marks its birthday on June 10, 1935 with the first meeting between Bill Wilson and Dr. Bob Smith. To celebrate this incredible accomplishment, the website is having a series of virtual events to inform the public and membership about this amazing journey.

In the spring of this year, a decision was made to cancel the 2020 A.A. International Convention due to the COVID-19 pandemic. However, throughout the month of July, the 2020 International Convention will come alive online to provide a new experience that includes A.A. speakers; a digital “Carrying the Message Pavilion”; sharing from nonalcoholic friends of A.A. and special guests linked to the history of Alcoholics Anonymous. These virtual meetings and information will be available throughout the entire month of July.

Congratulations Alcoholics Anonymous on “Carrying the Message” of recovery from alcoholism for 85 years!


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Topics: Alcoholics Anonymous, AA meetings, 12 steps of aa, AA Big Book, Family Sober Support, Alcoholism Treatment Program

John D.

Written by John D.

John is a person in long-term recovery with over 42 years of sobriety. He teaches a monthly workshop at The Retreat on The Steps and Sponsorship.

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