William Griffith Wilson and Dr. Robert Holbrook Smith co-founded Alcoholics Anonymous, or AA, in 1935. The process uses a 12-step program and regular meetings to help alcohol-addicts achieve sobriety. Through the years, AA has grown to not only include alcoholics, but anyone with an addiction such as gambling or drugs. AA was founded on a Christian basis in relation to the Oxford Group and its roots in Christianity have made it a success both within and outside churches in America.
In 1934, William Wilson was hospitalized for excessive drinking. While in the hospital, a feeling of spirituality overwhelmed him, and he no longer desired to drink. He decided to help other people, and this is where Smith came in. After Smith succeeded, both men wrote the book Alcoholics Anonymous in order to help others. That spiritual beginning was the spark that changed both men’s lives and inspired the 12-steps. Without that moment of crisis and found-faith, AA would not have ever existed.
12 Steps and the Oxford Group
The book these men wrote contained 12 steps to help them work toward a sober lifestyle. The idea for the 12 steps originated from the Oxford Group which is a Christian based movement started by Samuel Moor Shoemaker, Jr.
Wilson and Smith visited Oxford Group meetings which taught a 6-step program. The men took those 6 steps and expanded them to fit the needs of AA. Wilson then incorporated the 5 procedures of the Oxford Group, and the 12 steps were born in 1938. These steps are based on Christian beliefs, but revised so that anyone can accept and try them.
The first step in the AA program is admitting addicts are powerless over alcohol and their lives have become unmanageable. In the United States, the law attempts to keep people from drinking too much by enforcing a blood alcohol content, or BAC. You are considered legally intoxicated if your BAC is 0.08 percent or higher and your BAC can be measured 15 minutes after you have your first drink. Regardless of percentage, intoxication begins with the first drink.
This first admission of powerlessness against vice is critical, and a defining step both in AA and in similar programs. It is often a spiritual experience, letting go and relinquishing lost control to desires and addiction. Knowing you are mortal, and sometimes relying on a higher power is the best, and first step in making real change in your life.
The Makeup of an Addict
Many people don’t consider themselves alcoholics because they work and continue with their normal life. These people are considered functioning alcoholics. These addicts, along with the obvious alcoholics make up the many people that seek help every day, and Alcoholics Anonymous strives to provide that help. Nothing says an addict seeking help needs spirituality, but often it is this admission and relinquishing of control that sparks a spiritual nature in many recovering addicts. Spirituality is a part of life and even non-Christians who are able to set aside their vices say this process or 12 steps is the most powerful and spiritual of experiences.
With its Christian basis, the spirituality behind the 12-step program guides people through a process that will hopefully one day bring full sobriety. Due to the revisions made to the program, those who believe in God and those who don’t can follow the program and help others along the way.