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A Background on Alcoholics Anonymous (AA)

Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) is a worldwide mutual aid group whose aim is to help alcoholics and former alcoholics attain or maintain sobriety. It was in 1935 when this group, now over 2 million strong, was started by 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. Similar fellowships, such as Narcotics Anonymous, have subsequently adopted AA’s Twelve Traditions and used it to achieve their own objectives.

Around this time, AA local chapters started cropping up all over the United States and the world. The group’s website estimates over 100,000 groups in the country and at least 2,000,000 members worldwide. 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. Everyone was once an alcoholic and they are helping one another recover. There is also no central authority that dictates how these groups operate. The members themselves decide what they do.

AA Tokens

Though deciding to recover from alcoholism can be a single moment in time, the journey itself can take 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. Such mementos are more popular called 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.

Although AA is non-religious, Sister Ignatia, a major Catholic figure, who first gave out AA recovery medallions to recovering alcoholics. She told them that accepting the medallion symbolized their commitment to God, the movement and their own recovery. That established the tradition of AA recovery medallions, coins, chips or whatever term was given the same meaning.

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