Addiction Alcohol Use The Founders of Alcoholics Anonymous By Buddy T Buddy T Facebook Twitter Buddy T is an anonymous writer and founding member of the Online Al-Anon Outreach Committee with decades of experience writing about alcoholism. Learn about our editorial process Updated on April 08, 2020 Fact checked Verywell Mind content is rigorously reviewed by a team of qualified and experienced fact checkers. Fact checkers review articles for factual accuracy, relevance, and timeliness. We rely on the most current and reputable sources, which are cited in the text and listed at the bottom of each article. Content is fact checked after it has been edited and before publication. Learn more. by Emily Swaim Fact checked by Emily Swaim LinkedIn Emily is a board-certified science editor who has worked with top digital publishing brands like Voices for Biodiversity, Study.com, GoodTherapy, Vox, and Verywell. Learn about our editorial process Print Steve Debenport/Getty Images A meeting in 1935 between the future founders of Alcoholics Anonymous, both of whom were termed "hopeless" alcoholics, began a program of recovery that has helped millions find sobriety and serenity. Bill W. Bill W., a stockbroker from New York, was one of those men. In fighting his own battle against drinking, he had already learned that helping other people with alcoholism was the key to maintaining his own sobriety, the principle that would later become step 12 in the Twelve Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous. He had been sober for about five months and had traveled to Akron, Ohio in 1935 for a shareholders' meeting and proxy fight, which did not turn out his way. Bill W. Meets Dr. Bob After losing the proxy fight, Bill found himself alone and depressed, according to accounts of the events. He felt drawn to the bar in the Mayflower Hotel where he was staying. Fighting desperately to maintain his sobriety, his immediate reaction was, "I've got to find another alcoholic." There are conflicting versions of exactly what happened next. According to the Alcoholics Anonymous website, Bill W. called various people and was eventually introduced to an Akron surgeon, forever to be remembered simply as "Dr. Bob." The surgeon had struggled for years with his own drinking problem. The two men had their first meeting on May 12, 1935. Dr. Bob Gets Sober The effect the meeting had on Dr. Bob was immediate, and soon he too put down the bottle (June 10, 1935), never to pick it up again. The bond formed between the two men would grow into a movement that would literally affect the lives of millions. The First 100 People Sober Starting in Bill W.'s home in Brooklyn and later moving to Dr. Bob's residence in Akron, the two men began helping other individuals with alcoholism, one person at a time. It took four years to get the first 100 participants sober in the first three groups that formed in Akron, New York, and Cleveland. But after the publication in 1939 of the group's "textbook", Alcoholics Anonymous, and the publication of a series of articles about the group in the Cleveland Plain Dealer, the A.A. rapidly developed, and the membership in the Cleveland group soon grew to 500. Press Play for Advice On Addiction Recovery Hosted by Editor-in-Chief and therapist Amy Morin, LCSW, this episode of The Verywell Mind Podcast, featuring Rock & Roll Hall of Famer Ricky Byrd, shares his experiences with Alcoholics Anonymous and how he committed to getting and staying sober. Click below to listen now. Follow Now : Apple Podcasts / Spotify / Google Podcasts Alcoholics Anonymous Grows to 6,000 The response was so overwhelming, the group found itself sending out members, who had gotten only a short time in the program themselves, to work with other new members. For the first time, the founders learned they could mass produce recovery and not be limited to the ground that they themselves could cover. After a dinner in New York in 1940, given by John D. Rockefeller, Jr., to publicize the group, membership soon grew to 2,000. An article in the Saturday Evening Post in 1941 resulted in another growth period, and membership in the United States and Canada rose to a reported 6,000. The Legacy of AA By 1950, Alcoholics Anonymous had helped more than 100,000 people recover from alcoholism, and by 1973, more than one million copies of the Big Book had been distributed. By 2005, the number of copies sold had reached 25 million. Since that time, the fellowship has continued to grow and has become worldwide. A number for Alcoholics Anonymous can be found in the white pages of virtually every local telephone directory. Today members can also attend electronic meetings from any computer, cell phone, or mobile device. Dr. Bob died Nov. 16, 1950, and Bill W. passed on Jan. 24, 1971, but the legacy they left behind continues to touch the lives of millions. The Significance of Dr. Bob's Last Drink 1 Source Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy. Alcoholics Anonymous. 25 millionth Alocholics Anonymous 'Big Book' to be given in gratitude to warden of San Quentin. Additional Reading Alcoholics Anonymous. A.A. timeline. Alcoholics Anonymous. Historical data: The birth of A.A. and its growth in the U.S./Canada. By Buddy T Buddy T is an anonymous writer and founding member of the Online Al-Anon Outreach Committee with decades of experience writing about alcoholism. See Our Editorial Process Meet Our Review Board Share Feedback Was this page helpful? Thanks for your feedback! What is your feedback? 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