Alcoholics Anonymous

Alcoholics Anonymous is an organization where people who are addicted to alcohol help each other to get and stay sober. The program is not affiliated with any religious faith, and is open to anyone who wants to join. There are no fees or dues required, only a desire to lead a sober life.

Alcoholics Anonymous Overview

Alcoholics Anonymous has chapters in 180 countries around the world. The organization doesn't keep a list of members' names, but estimates that it has 2 million members who come from all backgrounds. Members who suffer from alcoholism range in age from their teens through all ages of adulthood. 


The philosophy behind Alcoholics Anonymous is that alcoholism is a disease. Even if someone stops drinking, they are not "cured." The individual is a recovering alcoholic.

The program focuses on staying sober "one day at a time." Alcoholics Anonymous members realize that promising to stay away from alcohol for life is not the best approach. Instead, all members pledge to keep away from alcohol for today.

Traditions, Steps, and Process

Alcoholics Anonymous was formed in 1935 by two men. One was a stockbroker from New York, and the other one was a surgeon from Ohio. Both of them were alcoholics, and had been considered "hopeless drunks."

The 12 steps of Alcoholics Anonymous are designed to help the recovering alcoholic have a healthy mind and spirit. These elements are as important as freeing the physical body from the effects of alcohol consumption. By following the 12 steps in sequence, the recovering alcoholic can improve their thought processes and work on healing their emotions.

Members of Alcoholics Anonymous attend meetings once or twice a week. "Open" meetings welcome alcoholics and their family members, as well as people who want to learn more about Alcoholics Anonymous. Speakers share their experience with alcohol addiction, as well as how the Alcoholics Anonymous program has helped them.

Attendance at "closed meetings" is limited to alcoholics only. At this type of meeting, members talk about the issues they are facing when trying to live sober lives. Other members can share the strategies they have used to cope with the same kinds of issues. 

Effectiveness: Does Alcoholics Anonymous Work?

Since Alcoholics Anonymous makes a point of stressing confidentiality for all its members, it's difficult to find statistical information on how well the program works. The fact that the program is still active after all this time indicates that it is working for at least some of the addicts who go to meetings.

Controversy and Criticism

Alcoholics Anonymous has been criticized for advocating total abstinence for alcoholics. Some people feel that those with a drinking problem can learn to drink in moderation instead of stopping their use of alcohol entirely. Some members within the organization have spoken out about "13 stepping," which refers to an existing member starting a romantic or sexual relationship with someone who has recently joined the group.

Famous Alcoholics & Celebrities That Have Been in Alcoholics Anonymous

  • Buzz Aldrin (Astronaut)
  • Rick Allen (Musician)
  • Robert Downey, Jr. (Actor)
  • Mel Gibson (Actor)
  • Melanie Griffith (Actor)
  • Lindsay Lohan (Actor)

Getting a Sponsor

New members of Alcoholics Anonymous choose someone who has been involved with the program for some time to offer them one-on-one support outside of meetings. The sponsor is someone who they feel comfortable speaking with.

Finding an Alcoholics Anonymous Meeting Near You

To find a meeting, visit the Alcoholics Anonymous web site or review our addiction recovery programs directory. For meetings in the U.S. and Canada, just type in your location, postal code, or zip code. A list of international offices is provided, as well.

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