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Learn more about self-help group, Alcoholics Anonymous (AA)

Alcoholics Anonymous

What is Alcoholics Anonymous (AA)?

AA is a self-help or mutual aid group where people with alcohol addiction problems support each other in staying sober. AA is nonprofessional, self-supporting, multiracial, apolitical, and international, so it can be found almost everywhere. The purpose of the groups, which meet weekly, is simple: at meetings recovering addicts talk about their addiction, their daily lives, their problems, their fears, and share experiences with fellow members who all suffer from the same addiction. They rely on each other during their mutual recoveries.

The History of Alcoholics Anonymous

In 1935, an American businessman, Bill W., managed to stop drinking for the first time after attempting it on several occasions before. He decided to look for another person with alcohol problems with whom he could share experiences. He did it because he was afraid of relapsing into his addiction and wanted to share his fears with another person confronting the same challenges. Bill W. realised that every time he wanted to drink again and was about to fall into his addiction, his desire to consume alcohol dissipated if he tried to help others with the same problem. Finally, along with Dr. Bob S., who also had problems with drinking, they discovered that the ability to remain sober was related to helping and motivating others to follow the path of sobriety.

Since then, thousands of self-help or mutual aid groups have been established around the world to unite people with addictions to provide mutual ongoing support to stay away from alcohol and prevent relapse into addiction.

AA in the UK

Alcoholics Anonymous in the UK started in London in March 1947, with an initial meeting at the exclusive Dorchester Hotel. Meanwhile, in Scotland the Oxford Groups had an instrumental role in AA beginnings as they had in America, and the first meetings were held in Perth, Edinburgh and Glasgow in 1949. In Wales, AA meetings began in 1951 in Cardiff.

There are approximately 4,400 group meetings each week throughout the GB service structure and there are 15 regions on mainland Great Britain and one further region representing English-speaking continental Europe.

Mutual aid groups and 12-step programmes

Self-help groups like AA work with the 12 Steps. According to AA: “The 12 Steps are a group of principles, spiritual in their nature, which, if practiced as a way of life, can expel the obsession to drink and enable the sufferer to become happily and usefully whole.” The 'Higher Power' referred to in the 12 Steps can be religious, non-religious, spiritual, or perhaps found in the family, in others, in oneself, or in the group with fellow AA members. 

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