History of A.A.
The fellowship of Alcoholics Anonymous dates its inception from June 10, 1935, when a 6-month sober (at the time) Wall Street hustler helped an Akron rectal surgeon through his last binge. The New Yorker had been relieved of his obsession to drink through a sudden spiritual awakening while hospitalized for acute alcoholism. He realized, however, that to maintain his sobriety, he needed to help others. The two men set out to carry this message: that a spiritual way of life could arrest the chronic, progressive and fatal condition known as alcoholism. The man from New York is commonly referred to as Bill W., and the surgeon was Dr. Bob.
By 1937, after approximately 40 solid successes and many failures, a decision was made to spread the message as widely as possible. Work began on a book that would "Of necessity ... have .. discussion of matters medical, psychiatric, social, and religious." (Alcoholics Anonymous, Third Edition, p.19). In addition to broadcasting the message of recovery, the book also served to codify what had been until then a "word-of-mouth" program. In the spring of 1938, the principal author of the book, Bill W., took the six principles in use at that time and expanded them, in his words, "to break this program up into small pieces so they can't wiggle out" (remarks in Fort Worth, Texas, 1954). Thus were born the original Twelve Steps.
A revolutionary document for its time, "Alcoholics Anonymous" (from which the Fellowship took its name) presented for the first time in print the concept that alcoholism was an illness of both mind and body. The first edition (5,000 copies) was set in fairly large type and on the thickest possible paper (so that people would feel they were getting their money's worth) hence the nickname, "Big Book". The first 179 (then, 164 in second and third editions) pages including a section titled "The Doctor's Opinion" describe the problems of alcoholism and the accompanying "personality disorder", the program of recovery, and some of the expected results. The first section has had only minor changes through three editions, mostly dealing with estimates of the number of people who have used the program. The balance of the book set out personal stories by members of the Fellowship. These have changed to reflect the wider nature of the fellowship through its growth.
To learn more about A.A. history, see the official Alcoholics Anonymous Timeline.