Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) is an international mutual aid fellowship with the stated purpose of enabling its members to “stay sober and help other alcoholics achieve sobriety.” AA is nonprofessional, self-supporting, and apolitical. Its only membership requirement is a desire to stop drinking. The AA program of recovery is set forth in the Twelve Steps.
AA was founded in 1935 in Akron, Ohio, when one alcoholic, Bill Wilson, talked to another alcoholic, Bob Smith, about the nature of alcoholism and a possible solution. With the help of other early members, the book Alcoholics Anonymous: The Story of How More Than One Hundred Men Have Recovered From Alcoholism was written in 1939. Its title became the name of the organization and is now usually referred to as “The Big Book”. AA’s initial Twelve Traditions were introduced in 1946 to help the fellowship be stable and unified while disengaged from “outside issues” and influences.
The Traditions recommend that members remain anonymous in public media, altruistically help other alcoholics, and that AA groups avoid official affiliations with other organizations. They also advise against dogma and coercive hierarchies. Subsequent fellowships such as Narcotics Anonymous have adapted the Twelve Steps and the Twelve Traditions to their respective primary purposes.
AA membership has since spread internationally “across diverse cultures holding different beliefs and values”, including geopolitical areas resistant to grassroots movements. Close to two million people worldwide are estimated to be members of AA, as of 2016.