Life for someone suffering from alcoholism prior to the creation of Alcoholics Anonymous was grim, to say least. Those who suffered from alcoholism were simply thrown in jails or mental hospitals to dry up and then released back to the streets.
Alcoholism was seen as a moral failing and not a disease. Since Alcoholics Anonymous was created, millions have found sobriety through the twelve step method.
Here we take a look at the history of Alcoholics Anonymous.
What was the Oxford Group?
The Oxford Group was a Christian religious movement that became popular in the early 20th century. The Oxford Group believed that the root of most evil was selfishness and fear, a belief that certainly carried on to Alcoholics Anonymous.
The Oxford Group practiced several actions that would inspire the Alcoholics Anonymous founders, such as self-inventory, making amends, prayer/meditation, and ultimately helping others. (1)
Who were the founders of Alcoholics Anonymous?
Bill Wilson was a co-founder of Alcoholics Anonymous. Wilson was at one time a highly successful stockbroker until his chronic alcoholism killed his career. Wilson was hospitalized four times for alcoholism before finally achieving sobriety.
Before his fourth hospital stay, an old friend named Ebby Thatcher came to visit Wilson to share ideas he had learned from the Oxford Group. After winding back up in the hospital for the fourth time, Wilson decided to incorporate ideas from the Oxford Group into his life that ultimately got him sober. (2)
When was Alcoholics Anonymous founded?
Bill Wilson was overcome with a desire to drink while on a business trip in Akron, Ohio in 1935. Wilson realized the only way he was going to stay sober was to try and find another alcoholic to help.
After phoning local ministries, Wilson was introduced to who would eventually be credited as Alcoholics Anonymous’s other co-founder, Dr. Bob Smith. Smith was a medical doctor who suffered from crippling alcoholism. Smith took his last drink on June 10, 1935, which is considered the day Alcoholics Anonymous was founded.
So what made Alcoholics Anonymous different from the Oxford Group?
Alcoholics Anonymous approached alcoholism as more a medical disease than the moral failing the Oxford Group promoted. They believed the alcoholic was in a state of insanity, rather than a state of sin.
Alcoholics Anonymous also promoted the idea that the alcoholic was hopeless and powerless against alcohol once they started drinking. From this, several other principles soon emerged that differed, such as the idea of attraction rather than promotion and the concept of a higher power versus Christianity alone.
This article is intended for those considering a new way of life, free of the pain of drug and alcohol addiction. For more information on recovery and anyone seeking help with addiction and substance abuse problems, please call True Recovery at (844) 744-8783 or visit us online.
- Alcoholics Anonymous World Services, Inc. (1984), “Pass it on”: the story of Bill Wilson and how the A.A. message reached the world,ISBN 0-916856-12-7.
- “Alcoholics Anonymous”