June 10, 2022 marks the 87th anniversary of the founding of Alcoholics Anonymous in Akron, Ohio. A fateful meeting between Bill Wilson (Bill W.), a stockbroker from New York, and Robert Smith (Dr. Bob), a surgeon from Ohio and their mutual quest for sobriety, ended up paving the way for a worldwide movement.
Founders Day provides an opportunity for various AA chapters to honor these men and acknowledge the importance of the work they started nearly nine decades ago. Because of their vision, along with a genuine desire to help others obtain and sustain sobriety, countless people are living healthy and fulfilling lives today.
What is AA?
Alcoholics Anonymous is an international nonprofit organization that provides support and fellowship to individuals seeking to overcome alcoholism. AA was influenced by the teachings of the Oxford Group — the Christian recovery program that co-founder Bill W. attributed with saving his life. Wilson and Smith adapted some of the Oxford principles to their own unique approach, launching the program as Alcoholics Anonymous in 1935.
In 1939, Alcoholics Anonymous: The Story Of How More Than One Hundred Men Have Recovered From Alcoholism, or the “Big Book” was published. To this day, the Big Book, now simply titled Alcoholics Anonymous, is essential reading for anyone contemplating recovery. It provides various testimonials from individuals who share their success stories in hopes of inspiring others, and is now in its fourth edition.
The Alcoholics Anonymous approach to recovery is based on a system of successive benchmarks called the 12 Steps. Sobriety is achieved by “working the steps,” with the help of a sponsor or another member, in conjunction with participation in an AA recovery group. Ultimately, AA looks to guide the individual towards the ultimate goal: to experience a breakthrough in spiritual awareness.
What are the 12 Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous?
The 12 Steps are introduced and expounded upon in Chapter 5 of the Big Book, providing a roadmap for the reader to follow. They are:
- “We admitted we were powerless over alcohol – that our lives had become unmanageable.”
- “Came to believe that a power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.”
- “Made a decision to turn our will and ourselves over to the care of God as we understood Him.”
- “Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.”
- “Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.”
- “Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.”
- “Humbly ask Him to remove our shortcomings.”
- “Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.”
- “Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.”
- “Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.”
- “Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God, as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us, and the power to carry that out.”
- “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.”
There are also companion books that members find to be quite helpful in gaining a deeper understanding of the 12 Steps, including Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions, and Daily Reflections: A Book of Reflections by A.A. Members for A.A. Members.
What is AA Founder’s Day?
Founders Day allows AA members to ponder the scope of their mission and its success by taking time to acknowledge the invaluable contributions of Bill W. and Dr. Bob. What started with one man helping another to achieve lasting sobriety turned into a global phenomenon that now includes two million AA members worldwide.
Founder’s Day continues to play an important part in the history of AA While the various AA chapters across the nation celebrate this occasion with special events, the main celebration occurs in Akron, Ohio. Thousands of people travel to the University of Akron to participate in Founder’s Day activities, including meetings, panel discussions, speakers and even a motorcycle procession to Dr. Bob’s gravesite.
Bill W. and Dr. Bob created a program that highlights the virtue of humility. By forming a recovery program based not only on humility, but also on the role of faith, these men provided hope for millions of people since that fateful day on June 10, 1935. What a profound legacy they have left the world!
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