The 12-step process has become ingrained into how we think about recovery. It provides substance users with a framework to structure their path to sobriety, giving them clear benchmarks to surpass and triumphs to accomplish.
But it began as a simple gesture between two men desperately seeking a connection to the world that was slipping away from them, one drink at a time.
This June 10th marks the 84th anniversary of the founding of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA). To chart the history of this vital organization, let’s look back in time and walk in the footsteps of our forefathers in need.
A Story of Salvation
In the 1930s, America was caught in the oppressive grip of the Great Depression. Our economic forecast was bleak, and the pervading toll on individuals was striking. Alcoholics suffered in silence, hiding their problems as they strived to survive in an uphill battle for clarity and sustenance.
Bill Wilson felt completely alone. The New York native had tried to achieve sobriety on his own, but his efforts were failing. Temptation overtook him while on a business trip to Ohio, and he knew he had to share his struggle with someone. That’s where Wilson met a surgeon named Robert Holbrook Smith; the two men crossed paths in a church in Akron and vowed to help one another kick booze.
This pledge – this simple promise between two human beings who thoroughly understood one another’s fears and hopes – became the cornerstone on which AA was founded. The two men stopped pretending that they could simply ignore their issues or stifle their diseases. Wilson and Smith knew that they needed accountability and honesty to overcome their alcoholism.
They also wanted to move past the regrets that dragged them back into a state of helplessness. If they couldn’t forgive themselves for their own indiscretions, then how could they move forward? It quickly became apparent that atonement and inventory would be incorporated into their manifesto of wellness.
The fledgling system wasn’t perfect, and neither were the men who devised it. Dr. Smith soon relapsed, relying on Wilson to help him through his withdrawals so he could perform surgery. The friends characterized their recovery as a “one day at a time” process that would inevitably include setbacks, but wouldn’t allow these stumbles to define their sobriety.
These are the philosophies that drive AA to this day.
Communication Yields Comfort
A random encounter in an Ohio church was enough to save the lives of two men, who went on to be known as Bill W. and Dr. Bob. They were proud of their progress but pioneered the idea of anonymity as a way to connect to the greater community of recovering individuals.
When you shed the constructs of your identity (full name, title, history), then you can truly open up. How do you feel, what are you craving, why do you want to leave substance abuse in the rearview mirror? These questions tap into our universality and create conversations that focus us on our shared goals.
AA is an international network that encourages participants to share their experiences without sacrificing their identity. It is a structured series of meetings that feature testimonials and discussions designed to bring people out of the shadows and into a greater sense of enlightenment.
By connecting like-minded individuals in a supportive, caring environment, AA nurtures a spirit of transparency. This is fertile ground for personal growth, emotional breakthroughs, and meaningful change. By holding one another accountable in a non-judgmental way, members of AA forge respectful relationships that become the infrastructure for a sober new life.
AA also encourages the sponsor system. This allows more experienced members to mentor newer inductees and guide them in through the burgeoning days, months, and years of recovery. Experience is a valuable commodity; AA works to learn from not only an individual’s past but also our collective journeys from substance use to healthy, productive lifestyles.
How You Can Get Involved
What began in a modest Midwest church 84 years ago has blossomed into an international web of inclusion and acceptance. Bill W. and Dr. Bob taught one another lessons that resonate beyond Ohio, across the seas, and back to your hometown in the here and now.
Residents of the Costa Mesa area can join a myriad of upcoming AA gatherings; everything from studying the teachings of Bill W. to daily reflections to an open discussion in the “men’s stag” group. No matter what stage you may find yourself in recovery, there is a place for you in the hearts and minds of other Costa Mesa people working their recovery programs.
The same is true if you happen to live in the Newport Beach vicinity. Upcoming AA events include women’s group discussions, survivor stories, and trips to the aquarium. While Founder’s Day (June 10th) is an important landmark in the history of AA, these gatherings prove that every day is a chance to flex your wellness and connect with others who share your passion for life and liberation from substance use.
Building on AA
After you attend a meeting, connect with your truth, and gain a new perspective on life, we want you to share this quest with us. Our caring and compassionate team is well versed on the specifics of alcoholism and the ensuing troubles it may cause. Contact one of us today and bolster your brave and important foray into the AA perspective. Together, we will build a better future, one day at a time.