Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) is the largest and best-known self-help group in the world. Founded by and for alcoholics, its principles are founded on a spiritual and moral foundation that helps alcoholics to connect with their higher power, make amends, and change the way they live their lives.
Before AA, there were other attempts at self-help groups for alcoholics. One of the temperance movements of the mid-1800’s, for example, was started by self-proclaimed drunks. In Baltimore, Maryland, these men founded the Washington Temperance Society, calling themselves the Washingtonians.
They started out, ironically, holding their meetings in a tavern. Hosting parades and courting politicians, they got enough support for their movement that the group became well-known. Hospital patients, celebrities, and many others “took the pledge” of temperance. But the movement eventually fizzled out, with the original plans of the group lost in its popularity.
The Oxford Group of 1908 started as “A First Century Christian Fellowship.” Frank Buchman, the founder, was a Lutheran minister in Pennsylvania. Meetings were held as house parties, where members knelt to the ground and shared their testimony of deliverance from the sin of drinking, smoking, etc. This group changed its name again, in 1940, to “Moral Re-Armament,” a group that still survives today.
Bill W., founder of AA, was brought into the Oxford Group by his friend Ebby, in 1934, after Bill’s fourth hospitalization for alcoholism. Reportedly, Ebby had been referred to the Oxford Group by the famed Dr. Carl Jung of Switzerland. Bill found success in his own recovery, as he joined the group and made a futile attempt to help other alcoholics. Thus the seeds of AA were planted.