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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.

Together with other early members, Wilson and Smith built the 12-step program of the movement, which centered around spiritual and character development. By 1946, the movement’s Twelve Traditions were introduced. 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.

By this time, local chapters of AA have begun springing up all around the U.S. and the globe. 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. Those who want to join the group are only required one thing: commitment to attaining 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. Members themselves are the ones who decide what they do.

AA Tokens

While the journey to recovery can start in one moment, we know that it can last an entire 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. 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 said acceptance of the medallion stood for their commitment to God, the group and their recovery. That began the tradition of AA recovery medallions, coins, chips or any name that shared the same symbolism.

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