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A Background on Alcoholics Anonymous (AA)

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.

Along with other pioneering members, Wilson and Smith created the movement’s 12-step program of spiritual and character development. In 1946, the movement’s Twelve Traditions was born. The Traditions recommend anonymity for all members and encourage everyone to help anyone who wants to end 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. There are about 100,000 chapters across the U.S. and some 2,000,000 members the globe over. There are grassroots efforts offering alcohol and drug treatment to individuals who are sincere in their desire to change.

Groups do not oblige members to pay any dues or fees, but instead depend on voluntary contributions for funding purposes. The only requirement for joining is a commitment to achieving sobriety.

What many people don’t know is that AA is non-professional, meaning it has no doctors, counselors, psychologists or clinics serving its members. Everyone was once an alcoholic and they are helping one another recover. These groups are also under no central authority’s control. All decisions are made by members themselves.

AA Tokens

While the journey to recovery can start in one moment, we know that it can last an entire 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. To put it simply, these items were intended to remind members that they have conquered alcoholism and have vowed to continue the conquest for the rest of their lives.

Even as AA is a non-religious movement, it was Sister Ignatia, a Catholic nun, who gave out the first AA recovery medallions to recovering alcoholics. She equated acceptance of the medallion with the recipients’ commitment to God, as well as to the movement and to their own recovery. That established the tradition of AA recovery medallions, coins, chips or whatever term was given the same meaning.