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A Background on Alcoholics Anonymous (AA)

Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) is a global mutual aid organization composed of alcoholics and former alcoholics trying to achieve and maintain sobriety. It was in 1935 when this group, now over 2 million strong, was started by Ohio-based Bill Wilson and Dr. Bob Smith.

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 call on all members to maintain anonymity and help everyone who intends to junk their drinking habit.

In addition, the program recommends that all members avoid dogma, governing hierarchies and public issue involvement when acting on behalf of the group. Similar fellowships, such as Narcotics Anonymous, have subsequently adopted AA’s Twelve Traditions and used it to achieve their own objectives.

Around this time, AA local chapters started cropping up all over the United States and the world. There are about 100,000 chapters across the U.S. and some 2,000,000 members the globe over. Grassroots efforts are also available for those with a drug and alcohol problem and who are keen on changing their lives.

Groups do not require members to pay fees or dues; instead, they are funded through voluntary contributions. 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. Each member is a former alcoholic, and they are all dependent on one another in their journey to recovery. As well, there is no central authority directing how these groups work or operate. Members themselves are the ones who decide what they do.

AA Tokens

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 take on the 12-step recovery program and proceed with life, keeping mementos of the process with them can help strengthen their resolve to stay “clean” for good. 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 started the tradition of AA recovery medallions, chips, coins or any name having the same significance.

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