New York City to Host World Service Meeting of Alcoholics Anonymous

To Newspapers/Wire Services

August 25, 2008


            Delegates representing Alcoholics Anonymous  (A.A.) the world over will gather for the Fellowship’s 20th World Service Meeting (W.S.M.) at the Crowne Plaza Times Square, New York, New York.  The event will take place October 26-30, 2008 and is being hosted by the General Service Board of the United States and Canada.

            Since its beginnings in 1969 the W.S.M. has served as a forum for the worldwide sharing of experience and ideas on ways to carry the A.A. message of recovery from alcoholism.  The event alternates biennially between New York City and other locations around the globe, and has convened in such diverse cities as Auckland, New Zealand; Cartagena, Colombia; and, Helsinki, Finland.

            The W.S.M.’s success in bringing together A.A. worldwide service centers for biennial meetings during the past two decades reflects a final vision of A.A. cofounder Bill W., who believed there could be “one world of A.A.”  to assure that help will always be available for sick alcoholics wherever they are or whatever language they speak.  A 1950 visit to A.A. groups in Britain and Europe convinced him that A.A. could cross all of the barriers that had “divided and shattered the world of our time.”  The first W.S.M.  gathering was in New York in 1969,  slightly more than a year before Bill W.’s death.

            This unity of purpose was keenly demonstrated in 2006 when the W.S.M. convened in Malahide, Ireland, with the theme of “One Message---Many Languages---One Fellowship.”  Irish delegate Paul McC. said that “Ireland has a border dividing North from South.  We have two governments, two legal systems, two healthcare systems…my hometown of Belfast even has borders dividing people of different religion s and politics.  But something [that unites us] in all of Ireland is one single A.A. and a message without borders that straddles both North and South.”

            Much discussion at the 2008 W.S.M. will center on the theme “Service —Gratitude in Action.” Some topics under discussion will include A.A. literature distribution, communications and service structures.  There also will be workshops on new media and A.A. Traditions.  The main sessions will be conducted in English and Spanish, with simultaneous translations.  Attendance is limited to elected delegates from the participating countries.

            A.A., as spelled out in its Preamble, “is a Fellowship of men and women who share their experience, strength and hope with each other that they may solve their common problem and help other alcoholics to recover from alcoholism.  The only requirement for membership is a desire to stop drinking.  There are no dues or fees for A.A. membership; we are self-supporting through our own contributions.”  

            Today A.A. has a presence in more than 180 countries, with an estimated total of 113,168 groups and more than 2 million members worldwide.  Said A.A. cofounder Bill W. in 1960, nine years before he initiated the first W.S.M.:  “From the beginning, communication in A.A. has been no ordinary transmission of helpful ideas and attitudes.  Because of our kinship in suffering, and because our common means of deliverance are effective for ourselves only when constantly carried to others, our channels of contact have always been charged with the language of the heart.”

            A.A. traces its beginnings back to Bill W.’s 1935 meeting with cofounder Dr. Bob S., an Akron, Ohio, physician who also suffered from alcoholism.  After Dr. Bob took his last drink on June 10 of that year, the two men set about to aid other alcoholics.  The Fellowship had about 100 members by 1939, when they published “Alcoholics Anonymous,” the society’s basic text, which is now in its fourth edition and has been published in 58 languages.  By 1950, the year of Dr. Bob’s passing, A.A. had 100,000 members and was reaching out to many countries.  Bill W. authored the now-famous Twelve Steps as well as the Twelve Traditions which serve as A.A. guidelines.  He addressed the issue of worldwide A.A. activity in another publication, “Twelve Concepts of World Service.”

            Though Bill W. worked in New York, his belief was that A.A. membership on other continents would someday exceed that of the U.S. and Canada.  While A.A.’s General Service Office in New York continues to serve A.A. groups and members in these two countries, Bill W. insisted that A.A. service centers in other countries should be independent.  There are currently 61 autonomous A.A. service offices worldwide, including the New York office.

            For more information, contact the Public Information Coordinator at the General Service Office at or (212) 870-3119.

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