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AA Celebrates Its 78th Birthday

Since Dr. Bob Smith's last drink on June 10, 1935, AA has grown from two members to more than 2 million.

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By Benjamin Aldo

06/10/13

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Seventy-eight years ago, a newly sober New Yorker went to Akron, Ohio on business. Tempted by an urge to drink, he instead went to a phone booth and called the local church directory. He was referred to a woman who had been trying to help a hopeless alcoholic for the past two years. The New York businessman, Bill Wilson, asked if he could speak to the alcoholic, Dr. Bob Smith. The two men met on May 12, and Wilson laid out the foundation for what would become AA: he told his story—what it was like being a drunk, what happened to sober him up, and what his life was like on that day. They spoke for many hours and the two agreed to help one another stay sober, with Wilson moving in to the Smith household in Akron. Smith then relapsed and sobered up again. The date of that last drink—June 10, 1935—has since stood as the founding date of AA.

The story has been told in many forms—in Wilson and Smith's own stories in AA's Big Book, in AA Comes of Age, in Dr. Bob and the Good Old Timers, and on the official timeline of AA. The first AA meeting began shortly thereafter in Akron, before Wilson returned to New York and began the second AA meeting in his Brooklyn home. Within four years, AA had 100 members. Today, AA has an estimated total of 2,133,842 members in 114,070 AA groups worldwide. And at least 53 other 12-step fellowships have sprung up, modeled on the AA formula.

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