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A An Overview of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA)

Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) is a global mutual aid organization composed of alcoholics and former alcoholics trying to achieve and maintain sobriety. With over 2 million members today, AA began in 1935 through the efforts of Ohio-based Bill Wilson and Dr. Bob Smith.

Along with other pioneering members, Wilson and Smith created the movement’s 12-step program of spiritual and character development. In 1946, the duo introduced the movement’s Twelve Traditions. The Traditions encourage members and groups to keep their identities anonymous, help other alcoholics, and welcome everyone who wishes to stop their drinking habit.

Additionally, the program recommends that members stay away from governing hierarchies, dogma and participation in public issues. Subsequently, similar movements like Narcotics Anonymous, have used AA’s Twelve Traditions and used the program for their own ends.

Around this time, AA local chapters started cropping up all over the United States and the world. According to the group’s website, they have over 100,000 chapters in the country and no less than 2,000,000 members around the world. There are grassroots efforts offering alcohol and drug treatment to individuals who are sincere in their desire 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 people often don’t realize is that AA is a non-professional organization – nobody is being treated or helped by a psychologist, counselor or doctor. All members are former alcoholics who are depending on one other for their individual recovery. There is also no central authority that dictates how these groups 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. These mementos are more often referred to as AA recovery medallions or AA chips milestones. To put it simply, these items were intended to remind members that they have conquered alcoholism and have vowed to continue the conquest for the rest of their lives.

While AA is non-religious, it was a popular Catholic nun by the name of Sister Ignatia, who first gave recovering alcoholics AA recovery medallions. 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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