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Alcoholics Anonymous – A History and Background

Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) is an international aid organization whose purpose is to help alcoholics and former alcoholics in their quest for sobriety or continued sobriety. With over 2 million members today, AA began in 1935 through the efforts of Ohio-based Bill Wilson and Dr. Bob Smith.

With the help of other pioneering members, Wilson and Smith created the movement’s 12-step spiritual and character development program. By 1946, the movement’s Twelve Traditions were introduced. The Traditions call on all members to maintain anonymity and help everyone who intends to junk their drinking habit.

Furthermore, the program recommends avoidance of involvement in public issues, dogma and governing hierarchies for all members of the organization. Similar subsequent movements, such as Narcotics Anonymous, have adopted AA’s Twelve Traditions for their own purposes.

During this time, local chapters of AA began to pop up all over America and the world over. There are about 100,000 chapters across the U.S. and some 2,000,000 members the globe over. Grassroots efforts are also made to help those who have a drug and alcohol problem and are determined to change.

Groups do not require members to pay fees or dues; instead, they are funded through voluntary contributions. Anyone who wants to be part of the group is only required one thing: commitment to achieving and maintaining sobriety.

What a lot of people don’t know is that AA is a non-professional organization, which means there are no clinics, counselors, doctors or psychologists working on members’ cases. Each member is a former alcoholic, and they are all dependent on one another in their journey to recovery. As well, there is no central authority directing how these groups work or operate. The members themselves decide what they do.

AA Tokens

Although the decision to recover from alcoholism can begin in one moment, the process of recovery itself can last a whole lifetime. While members embark on their recovery and move on with their individual lives, they can help strengthen their resolve to avoid alcohol for life by keeping mementos of AA’s 12-step process. Such mementos are more popular called AA recovery medallions or AA chips milestones. In other words, such items served as reminders of the members’ conquest of alcoholism, and of their vow to remain sober.

Even as AA is a non-religious movement, it was Sister Ignatia, a Catholic nun, who gave out the first AA recovery medallions to recovering alcoholics. She told them that accepting the medallion symbolized their commitment to God, the movement and their own recovery. That began the tradition of AA recovery medallions, coins, chips or any name that shared the same symbolism.

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