Alcoholics Anonymous is an organization that utilizes a twelve-step program to help alcoholics rid themselves of their addiction through the Twelve Steps. The experiences of Don Gately and other members of Ennet House at various Boston-area AA group meetings such as those for White Flag form one of the major plotlines of David Foster Wallace's novel Infinite Jest .
Alcoholics Anonymous was formed in 1935 by Bill Wilson and Robert Smith. This date is tenuous, though members of AA regard 10 June 1935 the day of AA's founding, as that was the day that Wilson, an alcoholic himself, took his last drink. Membership by 2001 had reached an estimated two million worldwide.
The program's most notable feature is the Twelve Steps, which were first described in the Big Book, produced by Smith and Wilson in the late 1930s. These steps are:
- We admitted we were powerless over alcohol—that our lives had become unmanageable.
- Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
- Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.
- Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.
- Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.
- Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.
- Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.
- Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.
- Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.
- Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.
- Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His Will for us and the power to carry that out.
- Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to alcoholics, and to practice these principles in all our affairs.
The Twelve Steps have been adopted in some form or another by a variety of twelve-step groups and other organizations designed to combat addictions.