In 1935 two men, both self described ‘hopeless alcoholics’ began a program of recovery. Today, the program has helped many in helpless situations come back from the brink, finding a path of serenity, sobriety and hopefulness. This program or fellowship is known as Alcoholics Anonymous. Since its inception AA has spawned numerous support groups such as NA and SLA. These groups all follow similar principles of recovery. Countless lives have been saved because of the determination of two men who searched for a new way of life. These two men were Bill W and Dr. Bob.
Bill W was fighting a dire battle against drinking. From past experience he had learned that the key to maintaining sobriety was with the help of other alcoholics. This would later culminate as the 12th step in the 12 step recovery program of Alcoholics Anonymous.
Bill was successful stock broker from New York City who had traveled to Ohio on May 12 1935 for a shareholders meeting (which did not turn out as he had hoped.) At this time Bill had been sober for 5 months.
Poor me, poor me, pour me a drink
After Bill had lost the proxy fight in his meeting he spiraled into the depths of self-loathing. In a strange town, depressed and unaccountable, he was drawn to a bar in the Mayflower Hotel. He was fighting desperately not to pick up a drink and in his desperation he searched for another alcoholic in the bar. He knew that looking through the eyes of another alcoholic would help in the battle against booze.
In this delirium of confusion and desperation, Bill W ended up meeting a local surgeon who will forever be remembered as Dr. Bob. Dr. Bob had spent years battling his own drinking demons.
A fellowship begins
A strong bond formed between the two men and this fellowship and determination would culminate into a movement that changed the lives of countless men and women the world over.
It all began in an upstairs room at Dr. Bob’s house. The two men worked together helping other alcoholics – one at a time. After 4 years of dedicated work and tireless commitment to recovery – and the recovery of others 2 groups were formed in American. These groups were located in Akron (Ohio), New York and Cleveland. After the publication of the text book ‘alcoholics anonymous’ developed by these two men, the development of the fellowship grew rapidly. The Cleveland AA group quickly grew, with over 500 fellows attending.
Hope for the hopeless
The response to AA and the AA text was overwhelming. Members from the original groups had to work with new members and new groups. This dedication and genuine desire to spread the word of recovery is what led to the development of the movement. The founders had discovered that recovery could actually be ‘mass produced’. It was not limited to just the ground they could cover. In 1941, an article appeared in the Sunday Evening Post about AA and after this membership in America and Canada grew to an astounding 6000. Alcoholics in the depths of depravity were being given a chance at life. Sobriety was possible.
Alcoholics Anonymous: A Legacy of Faith, Hope and Serenity
By 1951 AA had helped over 100 000 people find sobriety. More than a million copies of the AA text (known as ‘The Big Book’) had been distributed. By the year 2000 this number reached 20 million and by 2010 27 million copies had been sold.
The fellowship continues to flourish and is a world wide support group. AA support groups can be found in almost every city worldwide. 21st Century members also have the opportunity to attend online support groups via cell phone, computer or smart phone. This is the legacy of AA – worldwide hope.
Dr. Bob passed away on November 16th 1950. Bill W passed on January 24th 1971.
Together these men who met up randomly at a bar in a small time created a fellowship that has saved millions of lives. The legacy lives on, their memories live on and AA continues to thrive.
We thank you Dr. Bob and Bill W. You have shown the world that recovery is possible through hard work and the choice to change.
I will end on this: It works if you work it, so work it, it’s worth it.