Most people have heard of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), but not too many people know about the origination of the group, where the formula that is practiced came from, or the rich story behind it. In the early 20th century, a popular religious movement called the Oxford Group carried the message of self-improvement through self-inventory, admitting wrongs, using prayer and meditation, and making amends. This is how far back the roots of AA can be traced. Today, the benefits of going to a 12-step rehab program are amazing for recovering addicts.
Rowland H. made a visit to the well-known psychoanalyst Carl Jung. This is the same Carl Jung that is spoken so highly of in textbooks today. It was the 1930’s and Rowland H., who was an influential Rhode Islander sought the help of Jung for his alcoholism. Jung advised Rowland H. that his situation was hopeless. A spiritual experience was Rowland’s only hope, Jung told him, and he referred him to the Oxford Group.
The recommendation from Jung worked for Rowland H., so he, in turn, introduced the Oxford Group to one of his friends, Edwin T. The two men were able to stop drinking successfully, and so was some others. A longtime friend of Edwin’s was Bill W, who was a big shot on Wall Street and was very successful at one time, but his alcoholism crushed his financial career. At the age of only 39, Bill W. tried many options to stop drinking, but all were unsuccessful. He ran into his old buddy, Edwin T., who shared his story with Bill. Bill W. was less than hopeful about the Oxford Group, but after once again being hospitalized for his drinking, something amazing happened to Bill W., something that would change not only his life but millions of lives for years to come.
It was a spiritual transformation that swept over Bill, and at that moment, he vowed to use the rest of his days to help others break free from alcoholism. This was the very first layer of what is today known as Alcoholics Anonymous. Bill W. and his wife, Lois, joined the Oxford Group.
In 1935, Bill W. was on a business trip to Akron, Ohio, when he felt a relapse coming on. Doing what he should, he sought out the company of a fellow alcoholic to help instead of taking that lethal drink. A fellow Oxford Group reverend told Bill W. about a prominent surgeon that he had been trying to help. On Mother’s Day in 1935, Bill W. and Dr. Bob were introduced by Henrietta Seiberling, the daughter-in-law of the founder of the Goodyear Rubber Company. The pair has a meeting, and it lasts for hours. In the end, both felt such relief from talking to someone that could relate to their story.
While that was not the last drink for Dr. Bob, it did not take long for him to see the light. On June 10, 1935, he consumed his very last drink of alcohol. This is also the founding date for AA. After a newly sober New Yorker went to Akron, Ohio on business some 70 plus years ago, AA has grown from two members to more than 2 million. On that Mother’s day in 1935, the two men laid out the foundation for what would become Alcoholics Anonymous (AA).