A Brief History

Alcohol addiction has baffled doctors, psychiatrists and most people since its inception thousands and thousands of years ago.  Archaeological site digs have unearthed ancient gourds or receptacles, where remains of fermented beverages existed at least as early as the Neolithic period (c. 10,000 BC).  Evidence of alcoholic beverages has also been found in ancients areas of Iran, Egypt, Babylon, pre-Hispanic Mexico and Sudan, with the earliest dating from 5400 to 5000 BC.

“The oldest verifiable brewery has been found in a prehistoric burial site in a cave near Haifa in modern-day Israel. Researchers have found residue of 13,000-year-old beer that they think might have been used for ritual feasts to honor the dead. The traces of a wheat-and-barley-based alcohol were found in stone mortars carved into the cave floor. Some have proposed that alcoholic drinks predated agriculture and it was the desire for alcoholic drinks that lead to agriculture and civilization.

As early as 7000 BC, chemical analysis of jars from the Neolithic village Jiahu in the Henan province of northern China revealed traces of a mixed fermented beverage. According to a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences in December 2004,chemical analysis of the residue confirmed that a fermented drink made of grapes, hawthorn berries, honey, and rice was being produced in 7000–6650 BC. This is approximately the time when barley beer and grape wine were beginning to be made in the Middle East.”

It was not until the 19th century that scientists recognized alcohol as an addiction; in 1957 the American Medical Society declared it an illness, but it was 1987 before the AMA and other medical organizations officially termed addiction a disease.  It was through this official declaration alcoholism that formal treatments formed.

The Birth of AA

“The origins of Alcoholics Anonymous can be traced to the Oxford Group, a religious movement popular in the United States and Europe in the early 20th century. Members of the Oxford Group practiced a formula of self-improvement by performing self-inventory, admitting wrongs, making amends, using prayer and meditation, and carrying the message to others.

In the early 1930s, a well-to-do Rhode Islander, Rowland H., visited the noted Swiss psychoanalyst Carl Jung for help with his alcoholism. Jung determined that Rowland’s case was medically hopeless, and that he could only find relief through a vital spiritual experience. Jung directed him to the Oxford Group.  Rowland later introduced fellow Vermonter Edwin (“Ebby”) T. to the group, and the two men along with several others were finally able to keep from drinking by practicing the Oxford Group principles.

One of Ebby’s schoolmate friends from Vermont, and a drinking buddy, was Bill W.   Ebby sought out his old friend at his home at 182 Clinton Street in Brooklyn, New York, to carry the message of hope.  Bill W. had been a golden boy on Wall Street, enjoying success and power as a stockbroker, but his promising career had been ruined by continuous and chronic alcoholism. Now, approaching 39 years of age, he was learning that his problem was hopeless, progressive, and irreversible. He had sought medical treatment at Towns Hospital in Manhattan, but he was still drinking.

Bill was, at first, unconvinced by Ebby’s story of transformation and the claims of the Oxford Group. But in December 1934, after again landing in Towns hospital for treatment, Bill underwent a powerful spiritual experience unlike any he had ever known. His depression and despair were lifted, and he felt free and at peace. Bill stopped drinking, and worked the rest of his life to bring that freedom and peace to other alcoholics. The roots of Alcoholics Anonymous were planted.”  (www.aa.org)

AA has since grown into a world wide community with over two million people seeking and finding recovery from alcoholism.  Today, an A.A. presence can be found in approximately 180 nations worldwide. There are more than 123,000 A.A. groups around the world and A.A.’s literature has been translated into over 100 languages.

What Makes AA So Successful?

A Stanford researcher and two collaborators conducted an extensive review of Alcoholics Anonymous studies and found that the fellowship helps more people achieve sobriety than therapy does.  They have found that Alcoholics Anonymous is the most effective path to alcohol abstinence.

“After evaluating 35 studies — involving the work of 145 scientists and the outcomes of 10,080 participants — Keith Humphreys, PhD, professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences, and his fellow investigators determined that AA was nearly always found to be more effective than psychotherapy in achieving abstinence. In addition, most studies showed that AA participation lowered health care costs.

“AA works because it’s based on social interaction, Humphreys said, noting that members give one another emotional support as well as practical tips to refrain from drinking. “If you want to change your behavior, find some other people who are trying to make the same change,” he said.”

(to read the full study, click HERE.)

Why Does AA Work?

AA works for people who have a desire to quit drinking.  It works because people get the emotional help and support they need through others who are going through and have gone through the same things you are going through.  It works because it normalizes your individual struggle and recognizes every tiny, small success you have, even if that is just getting up and getting to a group.  

AA works because there is someone, somewhere, to reach out to in the middle of the night when you are at your lowest point.  AA works because you are heard, valued and recognized as a vital part of our human condition.  AA works because there are no grades, no obstacles, no need to live up to someone else’s expectations of where you could be, should be or can’t be.  

AA works because God is there, not somebodies definition of God, but of your own individual concept of your higher power.  You build your own relationship with Him.  AA works because we know, without any doubt, that wherever you are, that is where you start, even if it feels like you have slid backwards, you are where you are, and that is exactly, at this moment, where you start.  AA works because it works.  It is a great journey, an amazing life, recovery is.  Keep coming back. 

Recovery is never easy; it is the hardest thing you will ever do.  But it is also one of the most beautiful and rewarding gift you will ever receive.  And it is free, no strings attached….

As always, my hopes are for your hopes and dreams……….T 


National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America.                                                                                                                        Duke University Press (reprint edition by AMS Press, New York, 1970)                                                                                      wikipedia.org/wiki/History of alcohol                                                                                                                                                               www.aa.org