Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) is a worldwide mutual aid group whose aim is to help alcoholics and former alcoholics attain or maintain sobriety. Now with more than 2 million members, AA started in 1935 through the initiative of Bill Wilson and Dr. Bob Smith, both from Akron Ohio.
With the help of other pioneering members, Wilson and Smith created the movement’s 12-step spiritual and character development program. In 1946, the duo introduced the movement’s Twelve Traditions. The Traditions call on all members to maintain anonymity and help everyone who intends to junk their drinking habit.
Furthermore, the program recommends avoidance of involvement in public issues, dogma and governing hierarchies for all members of the organization. Similar subsequent movements, such as Narcotics Anonymous, have adopted AA’s Twelve Traditions for their own purposes.
During this time, local chapters of AA began to pop up all over America and the world over. The group’s website estimates over 100,000 groups in the country and at least 2,000,000 members worldwide. Grassroots efforts are also available for those with a drug and alcohol problem and who are keen on changing their lives.
Not requiring any fees or dues from members, groups merely rely on voluntary contributions for their funding. Those who want to join the group are only required one thing: commitment to attaining sobriety.
What people often don’t realize is that AA is a non-professional organization – nobody is being treated or helped by a psychologist, counselor or doctor. Everyone was once an alcoholic and they are helping one another recover. As well, there is no central authority directing how these groups work or operate. All decisions are made by members themselves.
Although the decision to recover from alcoholism can begin in one moment, the process of recovery itself can last a whole lifetime. As AA members embark on the 12-step recovery program of the group and move on with life, carrying with them mementos of the process, can help them achieve continued success. These mementos are more popularly known as AA recovery medallions or AA chips milestones. In simple terms, these items were there to remind members of their victory over alcoholism and of their promise to stay sober.
While AA is non-religious, it was a popular Catholic nun by the name of Sister Ignatia, who first gave recovering alcoholics AA recovery medallions. She told them that accepting the medallion symbolized their commitment to God, the movement and their own recovery. That established the tradition of AA recovery medallions, coins, chips or whatever term was given the same meaning.