Origins of the Twelve-Step Program
Once an addict makes the decision to stop using a substance or engaging in a detrimental behavior, the difficult job of sticking with that decision often becomes a daily struggle. This particular stage is called recovery and is a lifelong process. Recovery is the longest stage of addiction and requires extreme behavior modification and self-control. In the late 1930s, a program was created that became the standard for nearly all recovery programs still in use today. The program was originally called Twelve Steps for Alcoholics and is now referred to as the Twelve Step Program. The origins of the Twelve Step Program are unique.
The Twelve-Step Program was the creation of a gentleman named Bill Wilson. Wilson was a stockbroker originally from New York who moved to Akron, Ohio, in 1935. Wilson was an alcoholic. After his relocation to Akron, he was extremely lonely and his drinking increased; in spite of this, he desperately wanted to stop drinking (Wormer, 30). After a severe bout of binge drinking, Wilson was hospitalized for a short time and visited by his friend and former drinking buddy; a man named Ebby T. Ebby T. was now nearly sober and attempting recovery thanks to attendance in a program sponsored by the Oxford Group. The Oxford Group was a Christian-based, nondenominational movement that utilized Christian teachings in order to help alcoholics stop drinking and maintain sobriety. The Oxford Group organization stressed the importance of anonymity for individuals attending their program and an open structure of gatherings. No one person of authority was over the entire group. Many of the Oxford Group teachings and doctrine were adopted by Alcoholics Anonymous after its formation in 1936 (Trice, 90).
Shortly after hospitalization, Wilson contacted the Oxford Group to seek help, and he was introduced to Henrietta Seiberling, an influential member of the Group. Seiberling saw Wilson’s need and distress. She hosted a dinner party to introduce Wilson to Dr. Bob, another alcoholic, with the hope that the two gentlemen would connect and help each other through their addiction. Wilson and Dr. Bob made a positive connection and stayed at the dinner party talking until midnight. When asked about this later, Wilson and Dr. Bob stated they did this simply to remain sober and not have the urge to drink. This initial bonding experience led Wilson and Dr. Bob to become the co-founders of Alcoholics Anonymous (Wormer, 30). Alcoholics Anonymous was started with groups meeting in New York and Ohio in 1936. The groups initially utilized the Oxford Group content for their program for their first few months of existence in 1936; however, in the latter months of 1936, the group severed ties with the Oxford Group and forged out on their own (Trice, 90). Wilson was thirty-nine years of age when he founded Alcoholics Anonymous. He knew from experience that to quit drinking all at once was a monumental undertaking and that breaking it down into smaller more manageable steps would be easier to follow. He initially came up with six steps for the program. Although he originally planned to have more than six steps, he was not sure exactly how many. One evening, a revelation came to him, and he came up with the final six steps to the program, for a total of twelve steps. Wilson’s steps, along with his testimonial, were published in a pamphlet during April, 1939, and simply called, Alcoholics Anonymous (Cheever, 153). News of this pamphlet spread rapidly, and eventually, Dr. Harry Tiebout, a psychiatrist, reviewed and gave his professional opinion of the publication. Tiebout stated that although the program would help alcoholics with their drinking, it did not address the fact that they might have other underlying psychological problems (183). Tiebout was the first medical professional to endorse the Alcoholics Anonymous Twelve-Step Program as a viable treatment and aid for alcoholic addiction....
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