On this day in 1935, Alcoholics Anonymous is founded by Bill Wilson and Dr. Bob Smith in Akron, Ohio. With other original members, Wilson and Smith developed AA’s Twelve Step program of spiritual and character development. AA’s initial Twelve Traditions were introduced in 1946 to help the fellowship remain stable and unified while disengaged from “outside issues” and influences.
Average member sobriety is slightly under 10 years with 36% sober more than ten years, 13% sober from five to ten years, 24% sober from one to five years, and 27% sober less than one year. Before coming to AA, 63% of members received some type of treatment or counseling, such as medical, psychological, or spiritual. After coming to AA, 59% received outside treatment or counseling. Of those members, 84% said that outside help played an important part in their recovery.
The Surgeon General of the United States 2016 Report on Alcohol, Drugs, and Health states “Well-supported scientific evidence demonstrates the effectiveness of twelve-step mutual aid groups focused on alcohol and twelve-step facilitation interventions.”
Notwithstanding the palpable good AA has done for countless millions of sufferers, Wilson and Smith have been denounced as hucksters, and many in academia, psychology and the recovery industry openly question whether the method is a cult or a cure. Meanwhile, over two million people worldwide can frequently be found in all manner of groups and languages, together reciting “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”