Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) is perhaps the best known and most successful alcoholism recovery program. Founded in the United States in 1935 by Dr.
Robert Smith and Bill Wilson, by the 1990s the organization had grown to more than 93,000 groups in 131 countries, with an estimated membership of over 2 million. AA functions as a fellowship organization whose members pay no dues and may attend meetings as often as they wish. AA defines alcoholism as a disease as well as a spiritual problem. The AA philosophy and program for recovery are stated in the 12 Steps to Recovery. The alcoholic must recognize his or her “powerlessness over alcohol” and seek help from a “higher power” in regaining control of his or her life.
Although alcoholism, according to the AA philosophy, can never be cured–that is, the alcoholic can never safely drink again–the alcoholic can “recover” to lead a productive and normal life as long as he or she remains sober. Since its inception the organization has also reduced popular misconceptions of alcoholics by educating both professionals and the public about the nature of alcoholism. The related organizations of Al-Anon and Al-Ateen provide similar support to the families and children of alcoholics. Other organizations, such as Overeaters Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous, Gamblers Anonymous, and Co-Dependents Anonymous have adopted the “12-Step” program for recovery. Social Issues