In 1934 AA co-founder Bill Wilson’s drunkenness had ruined a promising career in finance, when a former drinking friend, Ebby Thacher, introduced Wilson to a spiritual solution for alcoholism that Thacher picked up as a member of the Oxford Group, a Christian society that promoted sobriety. Wilson subsequently stopped drinking for good. During a 1935 business trip to Akron, Ohio, Wilson’s cravings for alcohol returned, and to stay sober, he met with another alcoholic Dr. Bob Smith, and related how he stayed sober with the help of God. Wilson and Smith continued to meet and became convinced that working with another alcoholic helped them to stay sober. For the benefit of other alcoholics, they co-founded AA. The last day Smith drank alcohol June 10, 1935 is the anniversary date of AA.
By 1937, Wilson and Smith counted 40 alcoholics they helped to get sober, and two years later, they counted 100 members (including one woman). To promote the fellowship, Wilson and other members wrote Alcoholics Anonymous, the book for which the fellowship is named. Informally referred to by members as “The Big Book,” it suggests a twelve-step program in which members admit powerlessness over alcohol, acceptance of a higher power, taking of a moral inventory, making amends to those harmed, and seeking direction, guidance, and power from a God “of one’s own understanding.”
In 1941 interviews on American radio and favorable articles in US magazines, particularly by Jack Alexander in The Saturday Evening Post were followed by increased book sales and membership. By 1946, the growing fellowship was confused and quarreling over practices, finances, and publicity. Wilson’s corrective was to write the guidelines for non-coercive group management, Twelve Points to Assure our Future, that eventually became known as the Twelve Traditions. At the 1955 St. Louis convention, in Missouri, Wilson relinquished stewardship of AA to the General Service Conference. In this era, AA started to expand internationally and grew to an estimated two million by 2001