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The organization is notoriously difficult to study, thanks to its insistence on anonymity and its fluid membership.And AA's method, which requires "surrender" to a vaguely defined "higher power," involves the kind of spiritual revelations that neuroscientists have only begun to explore.
One thing is certain, though: AA doesn't work for everybody.
In fact, it doesn't work for the vast majority of people who try it.
It's all quite an achievement for a onetime broken-down drunk.
And Wilson's success is even more impressive when you consider that AA and its steps have become ubiquitous despite the fact that no one is quite sure how—or, for that matter, how well—they work.
It was December 14, 1934, and Wilson was drying out at Towns Hospital, a ritzy Manhattan detox center.
Reflection Paper Attending Aa Meeting
He'd been there three times before, but he'd always returned to drinking soon after he was released.
Some 1.2 million people belong to one of AA's 55,000 meeting groups in the US, while countless others embark on the steps at one of the nation's 11,000 professional treatment centers.
Anyone who seeks help in curbing a drug or alcohol problem is bound to encounter Wilson's system on the road to recovery.
And understanding more about who it does help, and why, is likely our best shot at finally developing a system that improves on Wilson's amateur scheme for living without the bottle.
AA originated on the worst night of Bill Wilson's life.