Alcoholics Anonymous was founded in 1935 by a New York stockbroker and an Ohio surgeon, both of whom had a problem with alcoholism. Dr. Robert Smith and Bill Wilson founded Alcoholic Anonymous in an effort to help others who suffered from the disease of alcoholism and to stay sober themselves. The spiritual aspect of Alcoholics Anonymous developed when one of the founders joined a sobriety organization called The Oxford Group, which was headed by Dr. Frank Buchman, a Lutheran minister. According to the American Heritage website, the group promoted Buchman’s belief in divine guidance: One should wait for God to give direction in every aspect of life (not just with respect to alcoholism or any other single problem) and surrender to that advice. Wilson initially was not receptive to this belief. Later, on a business trip in 1935, Wilson was struggling to resist having a have drink at the local bar. He looked in the phone book and called the local Oxford Group. According to the American Heritage website an Episcopal minister put him in touch with a woman whose friend, Dr. Robert Smith, was an alcoholic. Smith reportedly agreed to meet with Wilson for fifteen minutes but ended up talking with Wilson for six hours. Smith reported that he decided to quit drinking that very night. His wife then invited Wilson to move into their home for the duration of his stay in Akron, and the two men devoted their free time to the Oxford Group and educating other drinkers.
Alcoholics Anonymous groups are autonomous, and the network of Alcoholics Anonymous groups has grown in the United States and around the world. The current estimated membership of the Alcoholics Anonymous program is over two million members in 180 countries. According to the Alcoholics Anonymous website, the organization is a fellowship of men and women who share their experience, strength, and hope with each other so that they are able to solve their common problem with alcohol and help others to recover from alcoholism . Through this program they are able to come together to share their experiences and to try to resolve the issues that resulted in their alcoholism. According to the Alcoholics Anonymous website, “The only requirement for membership is a desire to stop drinking.” There are no dues or fees for AA membership. The organization is self-supporting and only accepts up to a $3,000 donation from any one individual. Alcoholics Anonymous is not allied with any sect, denomination, politics, organization or institution; does not wish to engage in any controversy; and neither endorses nor opposes any causes. Though it does not recognize itself as a religious group Alcoholics Anonymous does affiliate its program with local church facilities to house meetings.
Alcoholics Anonymous practitioners base their practice on the now legendary “Big Book.” The book recounts the story of how thousands of men and women have recovered from alcoholism. Both the “Big Book” and the program make it clear that Alcoholics Anonymous is not affiliated with any religious group. In the “Big Book” the word “spiritual,” upon careful reading, refers to the personality change sufficient to bring about recovery from alcoholism. The book states that,” Most of us think this awareness of a Power greater than ourselves is the essence of spiritual experience. Our more religious members call it “God-consciousness.”
Alcoholics Anonymous meetings come in all forms and can be found on the Alcoholics Anonymous website. They are typically broken up into different categories and subjects. The different types of Alcoholics Anonymous meetings include open and closed, mixed gender, men only, women only, young persons, speakers, “Big Book,” step study or discussion, smoker and non-smoker. The meetings can be located at a clubhouse or church and can be small or large. In these meetings there is either a speaker, who is a typically a recovering alcoholic, or there is a sharing period during which members are able to tell their own stories. These testimonials typically begin with the famous statement: “Hi my name is _____ and I’m an alcoholic.” There are also “Big Book” meetings and Twelve Step meetings where they focus on the study of the “Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous” or on the “Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions”(“12 and 12”) written by Bill Wilson, the co-founder of Alcoholics Anonymous.
The Richmond Intergroup Inc., the Richmond affiliate of Alcoholics Anonymous, was incorporated on December 18, 1963 and is currently located on West Broad Street. The Intergroup organizes approximately 350 meetings in the Richmond area. The Richmond Intergroup describes itself as being able to be of assistance to anyone who is struggling with sobriety on a 24 hour-a-day basis. The organization engages in a wide range of activities, such as yearly conventions held in Richmond, and public service outreach to schools, prisons, or individuals suffering from alcoholism. The Richmond Intergroup cooperates with churches in the area which offer space for over eighty percent of its meetings. The local membership of the Richmond Intergroup is approximately six thousand.
Richmond Intergroup, Inc.
3600 West Broad Street, Suite 684
Richmond VA 23230-4916
American Heritage Website
Richmond Intergroup website
Alcoholics Anonymous website
Alcoholics Anonymous representative
Profiled prepared by Courtney Culbreath