This week saw Alcoholics Anonymous celebrate it’s 80th Birthday.
Many media outlets have stated that AA was founded 80 years ago but this is not correct.
AA was co-founded 80 years ago when Bill Wilson passed on a message of hope to Dr Bob, or Dr Robert Smith to give his full name.
Dr Bob like Bill Wilson had intermittently stayed sober via involvement with the Oxford Group but they had always relapsed back to drinking.
When Bill Wilson first met Dr Bob he convinced him that he had a spiritual malady coupled with a abnormal reaction to alcohol, which meant he could not control the amount he would drink and could not control when he was going to drink, he had, in effect, become powerless over alcohol and only help from a power greater than himself could help him.
The original power greater than himself, as for millions of alcoholics over the last 80 years (and for some it stays this way) is another alcoholic. One recovering alcoholic or a group of recovering alcoholics is a power greater than oneself.
The message of recovery is usually from someone who has recovered from alcoholism, this is a power greater than yourself as he/she has used certain tools to recover and this is now being passed on to you, as they were passed onto him or her. The solution to your alcoholism is the same as the solution to their alcoholism.
There are no individualistic programs or people simply doing their own thing, it is a collective program of action.
Thus at the heart of AA is one alcoholic helping another get sober. It is a reciprocal relationship. Helping other get sober helps us stay sober too.
It is the most perfect win-win situation.
The wounded healer principle personified.
Bill Wilson had got this idea of abnormal, or allergic reaction to alcohol, from a physician, Dr Silkworth, who had treated him at Towns Hospital. It seemed to account for his uncontrolled drinking.
Dr Bob did however relapse again soon after receiving the message from Bill Wilson, briefly, and this only served to reinforce his view that Bill Wilson was correct about this abnormal reaction to alcohol and his inability to continue not drinking under his own steam.
Today this would be termed “despite negative consequences”.
Hence his first day of sobriety is taken as the first day of AA, although the AA organisation as we know it today took longer to come in to being.
It symbolizes that this was the day when one alcoholic helped another alcoholic achieve lasting sobriety.
Dr Bob, it is aid, went on to help over 5,000 alcoholics achieve sobriety and died sober.
The basic tenet of this, is that it takes one alcoholic to help another alcoholic achieve sobriety. This has been borne out in millions of cases around the world.
Millions of lives have been saved not to mention the lasting benefits it has brought to families, and societies once harmed by alcoholism.
When asked what he thought was the greatest accomplishment of the 20th century, Henry Kissenger replied, “Alcoholics Anonymous.”
AA saved my life and I can never put into words the gratitude I have for AA. I cannot express how happy it has allowed my wife, family and friends to become.
I can never properly describe the chrysalis effect it has had on me and on everyone close to me.
The age of miracles is still my us, our recoveries prove that. It is a gift that keeps giving, freely.
Thus my original point is not semantic, AA was not founded by one person, it was co-founded as we alcoholics achieve sobriety with the help of other alcoholics.
It is “we” of Alcoholics Anonymous, as the very first line of the Big Book of AA states.
In the twelve-step groups the focus is not on the individual self, but on the group or the community. Mutual aid and equality are the core principles of the twelve-step groups. Each member of AA help themselves by helping others who are in the same situation.
Essentially as one academic put it, The «power»
referred to in several of the twelve steps is therefore unrelated to religion; it refers to the potentially healing power inherent in interpersonal relationships based on reciprocity and equality.
Most active ingredients accounting for AA’s benefit are social in nature, such as attending meetings, and the 12 steps mention “we” 6 times but not “I” once.
AA’s 12 steps are a spiritual program of recovery but at the heart of that spirituality is the role of sponsoring.
Sponsorship embodies the fellowship’s altruistic orientation, reflecting a “helping and helper therapy principle” . Sponsorship plays an important role in the recovery process.
High sponsor involvement over time has been found to predict longer recovery .
Although social support is key to early engagement in the Twelve-Step membership, over time, spiritual issues emerge as increasingly important and helping others achieve recovery is at the heart of this.
The spirituality of AA is exemplified in helping others, it creates a feeling of wholeness and connectedness with others.
This is why we celebrate this great anniversary, this co-founding of AA, as it is the start of this therapeutic and spiritual connectedenss with other alcoholics needing help and giving help and with the wider world.
Thank God For AA!