Alcoholics Anonymous was founded in the United States in the middle of the Depression by Bill Wilson and Bob Smith, two nonprofessionals who helped each other stay sober. The organization grew rapidly. In 2006, AA reported 106,202 groups worldwide. Although distinctly Christian in its early days, the program has evolved to include people of all faiths and nonbelievers. Participants are encouraged, however, to be open to the possibility of accepting a “higher power” in their lives as a part of the program.

In part, it is the structure of Alcoholics Anonymous that has kept it growing and thriving for so many years. AA groups are self-supporting and are neither businesses nor charities. There are no ...

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