CORINNE tasted her first drink at 13 during Prohibition, when a
friend stole a bottle of wine from her father's stash in the
That began 20 years of drinking, blackouts and depression.
Then, in 1950, she joined Alcoholics Anonymous and her life changed
A phenomenon credited with saving thousands of people,
Alcoholics Anonymous is marking its 60th anniversary, enduring
despite threats from a host of contemporary issues and competition
from other forms of treatment.
"Victimization in culture encourages people to indulge in their
drinking," said Radcliffe University sociologist Wendy Kaminer, who
wrote the book "I'm Dysfunctional, You're Dysfunctional."
"If there's a threat to AA, it's an increased interest in
alternative programs for alcoholism," she said. "People are
different, and they need different kinds of treatment programs."
AA was formed in 1935 by stockbroker Bill Wilson and surgeon
Bob Smith, who met in Akron, Ohio. They discovered that leaning on
each other for emotional and moral support was crucial to keeping
them on the wagon.
AA members gathered recently in San Diego for an international
convention to celebrate Wilson and Smith's creation.
Members refer to AA as a fellowship, founded on the notion of
healing through helping others combat alcoholism. Veteran members
are paired with newcomers, referred to as "babies" or "pigeons" in
AA parlance, to support one another.
"It goes right back to the very beginning of our fellowship,"
said Helen of AA's General Service Office in New York, "one
alcoholic talking to another and saying, `I've been where you are,
and this is what I've done to not be there anymore.' "
Eventually, Wilson and Smith developed the Twelve Steps, the
guiding principles of AA that rely on spirituality and surrendering
the problem to a higher power. The Twelve Steps and other
principles are contained in the Big Book, the bible of AA, written
The religious aspects have proved to be a vulnerable target for
critics over the years and a reason why some may attend their first
AA meeting and never come back.
"It began out of evangelical movements," Kaminer said. "The
Twelve Step ideology is a popular Protestant ideology - you're
saved when you surrender your will and become imbued with God's
"For many people, AA is a religion. Some people need something
as powerful as religion to keep them from drinking, and some people
Another central tenet, confidentiality, was threatened last
year when police were told about two murders that a recovering
alcoholic had discussed at an AA meeting. …