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A An Overview of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA)

Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) is a worldwide mutual aid group whose aim is to help alcoholics and former alcoholics attain or maintain sobriety. Now with more than 2 million members, AA started in 1935 through the initiative of Bill Wilson and Dr. Bob Smith, both from Akron Ohio.

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 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. Subsequently, similar movements like Narcotics Anonymous, have used AA’s Twelve Traditions and used the program for their own ends.

By this time, local chapters of AA have begun springing up all around the U.S. and the globe. The group’s website estimates over 100,000 groups in the country and at least 2,000,000 members worldwide. There are grassroots efforts offering alcohol and drug treatment to individuals who are sincere in their desire to change.

Not requiring any fees or dues from members, groups merely rely on voluntary contributions for their funding. The only requirement for joining is a commitment to achieving sobriety.

What many people don’t know is that AA is non-professional, meaning it has no doctors, counselors, psychologists or clinics serving its members. Each member is a former alcoholic, and they are all dependent on one another in their journey to recovery. These groups are also under no central authority’s control. 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 popularly known 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.

Although AA is non-religious, Sister Ignatia, a major Catholic figure, who first gave out 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 started the tradition of AA recovery medallions, chips, coins or any name having the same significance.

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