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SINCE the original Foreword to this book was 
written in 1939, a wholesale miracle has taken 
place. Our earliest printing voiced the hope "that 
every alcoholic who journeys will find the Fellowship 
of Alcoholics Anonymous at his destination. Already," 
continues the early text, "twos and threes and fives of 
us have sprung up in other communities." 
Sixteen years have elapsed between our first printing 
of this book and the presentation in 1955 of our second 
edition. In that brief space, Alcoholics Anonymous 
has mushroomed into nearly 6,000 groups whose mem- 
bership is far above 150,000 recovered alcoholics. 
Groups are to be found in each of the United States 
and all of the provinces of Canada. A.A. has flourish- 
ing communities in the British Isles, the Scandinavian 
countries, South Africa, South America, Mexico, 
Alaska, Australia and Hawaii. All told, promising 
beginnings have been made in some 50 foreign coun- 
tries and U.S. possessions. Some are just now taking 
shape in Asia. Many of our friends encourage us by 
saying that this is but a beginning, only the augury of 
a much larger future ahead. 
The spark that was to flare into the first A.A. group 
was struck at Akron, Ohio, in June 1935, during a talk 
between a New York stockbroker and an Akron 
physician. Six months earlier, the broker had been 
relieved of his drink obsession by a sudden spiritual 


xvi                              FOREWORD 

experience, following a meeting with an alcoholic 
friend who had been in contact with the Oxford 
Group of that day. He had also been greatly helped 
by the late Dr. William D. Silkworth, a New York 
specialist in alcoholism who is now accounted no less 
than a medical saint by A.A. members, and whose 
story of the early days of our Society appears in the 
next pages. From this doctor, the broker had learned 
the grave nature of alcoholism. Though he could not 
accept all the tenets of the Oxford Group, he was 
convinced of the need for moral inventory, confession 
of personality defects, restitution to those harmed, 
helpfulness to others, and the necessity of belief in and 
dependence upon God. 
Prior to his journey to Akron, the broker had worked 
hard with many alcoholics on the theory that only an 
alcoholic could help an alcoholic, but he had suc- 
ceeded only in keeping sober himself. The broker had 
gone to Akron on a business venture which had 
collapsed, leaving him greatly in fear that he might 
start drinking again. He suddenly realized that in 
order to save himself he must carry his message to 
another alcoholic. That alcoholic turned out to be 
the Akron physician. 
This physician had repeatedly tried spiritual means 
to resolve his alcoholic dilemma but had failed. But 
when the broker gave him Dr. Silkworth's description 
of alcoholism and its hopelessness, the physician began 
to pursue the spiritual remedy for his malady with a 
willingness he had never before been able to muster. 
He sobered, never to drink again up to the moment of 
his death in 1950. This seemed to prove that one 
alcoholic could affect another as no non-alcoholic 

FOREWORD                                    xvii 
could. It also indicated that strenuous work, one 
alcoholic with another, was vital to permanent re- 
Hence the two men set to work almost frantically 
upon alcoholics arriving in the ward of the Akron 
City Hospital. Their very first case, a desperate one, 
recovered immediately and became A.A. number 
three. He never had another drink. This work at 
Akron continued through the summer of 1935. There 
were many failures, but there was an occasional heart- 
ening success. When the broker returned to New York 
in the fall of 1935, the first A.A. group had actually 
been formed, though no one realized it at the time. 
By late 1937, the number of members having sub- 
stantial sobriety time behind them was sufficient to 
convince the membership that a new light had entered 
the dark world of the alcoholic. 
A second small group had promptly taken shape at 
New York. And besides, there were scattered alco- 
holics who had picked up the basic ideas in Akron or 
New York and were trying to form A.A. groups in 
other cities. 
It was now time, the struggling groups thought, to 
place their message and unique experience before the 
world. This determination bore fruit in the spring of 
1939 by the publication of this volume. The member- 
ship had then reached about 100 men and women. 
The fledging society, which had been nameless, now 
began to be called Alcoholics Anonymous, from the 
title of its own book. The flying-blind period ended 
and A.A. entered a new phase of its pioneering time. 
With the appearance of the new book a great deal 
began to happen. Dr. Harry Emerson Fosdick, the 

xviii                             FOREWORD 

noted clergyman, reviewed it with approval. In the 
fall of 1939 Fulton Oursler, then editor of Liberty, 
printed a piece in his magazine, called "Alcoholics and 
God." This brought a rush of 800 frantic inquiries 
into the little New York office which meanwhile had 
been established. Each inquiry was painstakingly 
answered; pamphlets and books were sent out. Busi- 
nessmen, traveling out of existing groups, were 
referred to these prospective newcomers. New groups 
started up and it was found, to the astonishment of 
everyone, that A.A.'s message could be transmitted in 
the mail as well as by word of mouth. By the end of 
1939 it was estimated that 800 alcoholics were on 
their way to recovery. 
In the spring of 1940, John D. Rockefeller, Jr. gave 
a dinner for many of his friends to which he invited 
A.A. members to tell their stories. News of this got on 
the world wires; inquiries poured in again and many 
people went to the bookstores to get the book "Alco- 
holics Anonymous." By March 1941 the membership 
had shot up to 2,000. Then Jack Alexander wrote a 
feature article in the Saturday Evening Post and 
placed such a compelling picture of A.A. before the 
general public that alcoholics in need of help really 
deluged us. By the close of 1941, A.A. numbered 8,000 
members. The mushrooming process was in full swing. 
A.A. had become a national institution. 
Our Society then entered a fearsome and exciting 
adolescent period. The test that it faced was this: 
Could these large numbers of erstwhile erratic alco- 
holics successfully meet and work together? Would 
there be quarrels over membership, leadership and 
money? Would there be strivings for power and 

FOREWORD                                         xix 
prestige? Would there be schisms which would split 
A.A. apart? Soon A.A. was beset by these very prob- 
lems on every side and in every group. But out of this 
frightening and at first disrupting experience the con- 
viction grew that A.A.'s had to hang together or die 
separately. We had to unify our Fellowship or pass 
off the scene. 
As we discovered the principles by which the indi- 
vidual alcoholic could live, so we had to evolve prin- 
ciples by which the A.A. groups and A.A. as a whole 
could survive and function effectively. It was thought 
that no alcoholic man or woman could be excluded 
from our Society; that our leaders might serve but 
never govern; that each group was to be autonomous 
and there was to be no professional class of therapy. 
There were to be no fees or dues; our expenses were 
to be met by our own voluntary contributions. There 
was to be the least possible organization, even in our 
service centers. Our public relations were to be based 
upon attraction rather than promotion. It was decided 
that all members ought to be anonymous at the level 
of press, radio, TV and films. And in no circumstances 
should we give endorsements, make alliances, or enter 
public controversies. 
This was the substance of A.A.'s Twelve Traditions, 
which are stated in full on page 564 of this book. 
Though none of these principles had the force of rules 
or laws, they had become so widely accepted by 1950 
that they were confirmed by our first International 
Conference held at Cleveland. Today the remarkable 
unity of A.A. is one of the greatest assets that our 
Society has. 
While the internal difficulties of our adolescent 

xx                               FOREWORD 

period were being ironed out, public acceptance of 
A.A. grew by leaps and bounds. For this there were 
two principal reasons: the large numbers of recoveries, 
and reunited homes. These made their impressions 
everywhere. Of alcoholics who came to A.A. and 
really tried, 50% got sober at once and remained that 
way; 25% sobered up after some relapses, and among 
the remainder, those who stayed on with A.A. showed 
improvement. Other thousands came to a few A.A. 
meetings and at first decided they didn't want the 
program. But great numbers of these—about two out 
of three—began to return as time passed. 
Another reason for the wide acceptance of A.A. was 
the ministration of friends—friends in medicine, 
religion, and the press, together with innumerable 
others who became our able and persistent advocates. 
Without such support, A.A. could have made only the 
slowest progress. Some of the recommendations of 
A.A.'s early medical and religious friends will be found 
further on in this book. 
Alcoholics Anonymous is not a religious organiza- 
tion. Neither does A.A. take any particular medical 
point of view, though we cooperate widely with the 
men of medicine as well as with the men of religion. 
Alcohol being no respecter of persons, we are an 
accurate cross section of America, and in distant lands, 
the same democratic evening-up process is now going 
on. By personal religious affiliation, we include Catho- 
lics, Protestants, Jews, Hindus, and a sprinkling of 
Moslems and Buddhists. More than 15% of us are 
At present, our membership is increasing at the 
rate of about seven per cent a year. So far, upon the 

FOREWORD                                          xxi 
total problem of several million actual and potential 
alcoholics in the world, we have made only a scratch. 
In all probability, we shall never be able to touch more 
than a fair fraction of the alcohol problem in all its 
ramifications. Upon therapy for the alcoholic himself, 
we surely have no monopoly. Yet it is our great hope 
that all those who have as yet found no answer may 
begin to find one in the pages of this book and will 
presently join us on the highroad to a new freedom. 

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