Alcoholics Anonymous celebrates 87th birthday

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AKRON, OH. – “Alcoholics Anonymous saved my life. There’s no question about that. It’s the best thing that ever happened in my life. I was one of those that everybody that knew me thought I’d always be drinking. It was just the way it was. The program has made such a difference in my life. There’s no way anybody could understand it unless they’d been there too,” said Charlie D, a recovering alcoholic who hasn’t had a drink in over 50 years.

Recently celebrating its 87th anniversary, the program Alcoholics Anonymous was started by two raging alcoholics, each having tried to kick their drink problem through various methods over the years.

In June of 1935, former New York stock analyst Bill Wilson traveled to Akron, Ohio for business. A newly sober alcoholic himself, Wilson sought out any other drunkard who was attempting to live a clean life.

Through his learning from the Oxford Group, a Christian predecessor of Alcoholics Anonymous which emphasized moral teachings on “absolute honesty, absolute purity, absolute unselfishness and absolute love,” Wilson was urged to seek out another suffering soul in the throes of alcoholism.

Wilson was directed to Akron surgeon Dr. Bob Smith, a man agonizing under his addiction to alcohol and daily use of benzodiazepines. Speaking to Smith on the threefold disease of addiction, harming his mind, body and spirit, Wilson soon found an ally.

Smith stopped drinking on June 10, 1935, and thus, the fellowship of Alcoholics Anonymous was born.

“I can’t imagine my life without Alcoholics Anonymous today. I literally can’t imagine my life because I would be dead. There’s no doubt I would have drank myself to death,” shared Corey P.

In 1939, the basic text of the program, “Alcoholics Anonymous: The Story of How More Than One Hundred Men Have Recovered from Alcoholism,” was published. Now in its fourth edition, “The Big Book,” as it’s commonly known, has been recognized by The Library of Congress as its one of 88 “books that shaped America.”

With well over 20 million copies of the book in current circulation, the basic text provides those in need with a guide on how to get and stay sober and how to meet everyday challenges and victories without a glass in hand. Currently, it has been translated into over 100 languages.

Meeting halls and rooms of Alcoholics Anonymous meetings are full of people, young and old, from all walks of life. Membership estimation of approximately two million people worldwide have Alcoholics Anonymous groups in over 180 nations.

The textbook for those battling alcoholism reads, “We are average Americans. All sections of this country and many of its occupations are represented, as well as many political, economic, social and religious backgrounds. We are people who normally would not mix. But there exists among us a fellowship, a friendliness, and an understanding which is indescribably wonderful.

“We are like the passengers of a great liner the moment after rescue from shipwreck when camaraderie, joyousness and democracy pervade the vessel from steerage to Captain’s table. Unlike the feelings of the ship’s passengers, however, our joy in escape from disaster does not subside as we go our individual ways.

“The feeling of having shared in a common peril is one element in the powerful cement which binds us. But that in itself would never have held us together as we are now joined.”

The book gave an outline for working the fellowship’s 12 Steps which provide an outlet for members to comprehensibly address their behaviors and the effects their drinking has had on those in their life. The 12th step tells members, “Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to alcoholics, and to practice these principles in all our affairs.”

The program insists on the constant thought of its members’ fellow man and reiterates that the most significant act one can do to ensure their own sobriety is to help another person get and stay sober.

“Service work is what keeps me going on bad days. Sometimes, I want to whine and feel sorry for myself, but I can’t. The second I fall into that trap, I start wallowing in self-pity. It becomes all about self and I’m back into be a selfish person. That’s what my addiction was all about. Today, it’s all about helping other people. That and the steps save my life,” reflects Lisa M.

Alcoholics Anonymous meetings are available throughout the week in Cullman. For meeting times and locations around the county, please visit http://the12traditions.com/. For more information about Alcoholics Anonymous, please visit https://www.aa.org/.

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