1983 - 2000
Milestones in Malta
In Malta in 1983, the first translations of basic A.A. literature are approved and a Maltese-born member of A.A. Malta attends the bi-annual European Service Meeting for the first time. Seventeen years prior, in 1966, an Irish veterinary surgeon living in suburban Valletta had listed the Malta Group — originally English-speaking, and later known as the International Group — with G.S.O. New York. In 1981, its Maltese members founded a Maltese Group in the Valleta suburb of Floriana. Another significant event takes place in the next year, when Maltese women start attending meetings, making it easier for A.A. Malta to reach out to women struggling with alcoholism. Two other milestones will be reached in 1986: the opening of a General Service Committee and founding of a group on Gozo, Malta’s sister isle.
The Spanish Services Desk
A full-time Spanish Services staff position at G.S.O. New York is created in 1984. The assigned staff member helps handle all correspondence in Spanish, translates pamphlets and bulletins, develops new service materials, and performs other services as needed. The drawing at right was sent to the G.S.O. Spanish Service Desk by Berny, a Costa Rican member of A.A. “Hello!,” it reads. “My name is The Happy Tico, I'm an alcoholic.”
“Pass It On” published
After five years of preparation, in 1984 A.A. World Services publishes "Pass It On": The Story of Bill W. and How the A.A. Message Reached the World. In 25 chapters the book recounts “the dramatic story of the founding of Alcoholics Anonymous, its early struggles and amazing growth.” One of the illustrations shows a newspaper report of an early Oxford Group meeting in Akron (right).
Joining the fold...
Fortuitously for A.A., two world-changing events coincide as the 20th Century draws to a close. The dawn of the Electronic Age facilitates communication between A.A. offices and, in turn, country-to-country sponsorship, while the transformation of governments in Eastern European countries allows A.A.s to meet openly.
A.A.'s golden anniversary
The Fellowship's 50th Anniversary International Convention in Montreal in 1985 draws more than 45,000 members of A.A., Al-Anon, and family and friends — more than twice the attendance of the record-setting 1980 convention in New Orleans. Delegates from 54 nations give the gathering a truly international feel, and meetings in the Olympic Park Stadium are simultaneously translated into French, Spanish, and German. One of the honored guests is Ruth Hock Crecelius (a nonalcoholic), who is presented with the five millionth copy of the Big Book, the original manuscript of which she had typed almost half a century earlier when she was Bill W.'s secretary at their small office in Newark, New Jersey.
Dr. Bob's house opens in Akron
The Akron house where Dr. Bob and his wife lived and raised their children — 855 Ardmore Avenue — is opened to visitors in 1985. Much of the furniture is original (as is the still-working refrigerator, which Dr. Bob and Anne bought in 1934), and many of Dr. Bob and Anne's books line the shelves.
First paperback Big Book
In November 1986, for the first time, the Big Book, Alcoholics Anonymous, is published as a paperback. The softcover book makes it easier for A.A. members to carry the message into correctional facilities, where hardcover books are often not permitted.
WSM revisits Latin America
Delegates from 25 countries with an A.A. service structure or office gather in Guatemala City, Guatemala, for the Ninth World Service Meeting (WSM). The 1986 meeting marks the fourth time the WSM has been held outside of New York, and the second in Latin America. Previous WSM hosts were England, Finland, and Mexico.
Growth of electronic meetings
As the Fellowship expands rapidly around the world, some A.A. members turn to their personal computers to give and receive the message of recovery. Since the mid-1980s, electronic communication has been an updated and expanded version of the “telephone therapy” of A.A.'s earlier days. Primitive electronic Bulletin boards set up on home computers are linked through national and international networks, enabling local users to join instant “meetings” with A.A.s all over the world. A number of international networks are listed with G.S.O. New York.
India’s first G.S.O. conference
A.A. India holds its first General Service Office conference in Bombay (now Mumbai) in May 1987. By the year 2000, more than 20 conferences and P.I. (Public Information) meetings will have been held in different parts of India, and the country's G.S.O. will have published the Big Book in eight languages: English, Hindi, Marathi, Tamil, Malayalam, Kannada, Punjabi, and Bengali. In the Delhi meeting room shown to the right hang banners printed with the Twelve Traditions —one in Hindi, the other in English.+
Baltic State start-ups
June 1988 sees the founding of Lithuania's earliest known group, which meets in the Vilnius apartment of Romas O. Romas had set foot on the road to sobriety when he read a Lithuanian translation of the Big Book in the fall of 1987. In late 1988, Romas and fellow group members visit Riga, Latvia, and correspond regularly with that city's first group, founded by Pëteris and Austris in November 1988. A.A.s will begin meeting in neighboring Estonia in 1989, in Tallinn.
The Language of the Heart published in 1988
An anthology of more than 150 AA Grapevine articles written by Bill W., The Language of the Heart, documents the trial and error that resulted in A.A.'s spiritual principles of Recovery, Unity, and Service and articulates Bill's vision of what the Fellowship could become. For more than three decades Bill had often used the magazine as a vehicle for communication with members and groups.
U.S.-Russia exchange bears fruit
By 1989, three A.A. groups are meeting in Russia — one in Moscow and two in Leningrad. The growth of A.A. in Russia had begun in 1986-1987, through exchange visits between Alcoholics Anonymous members and representatives of Russia's Temperance Promotion Society. Independent groups such as San Francisco's "Creating a Sober World" organization were also instrumental in bringing A.A. to Russia. Growth in Russia proceeds at a rapid pace, expanding to at least 270 groups meeting in more than 100 cities by the beginning of the 21st century.
The Big Book at 50
The golden anniversary of the publication of Alcoholics Anonymous is marked at the A.A. General Service Conference held in April 1989. The “birthday cake” baked for the occasion (right) sports replicas of the covers of the First and Third Editions of the book, of which more than eight million copies have been sold or distributed by 1989.
A first for Turkey
The first nationwide A.A. Conference in Turkey is held at a hotel in Kizil Eahaman, nestled in the pine-covered mountains 100 kilometers outside the capital, Ankara. Twenty-four delegates from groups in Ankara, Istanbul, Izmir, and Adana communicate in both Turkish and English during three days of meetings and activities. Johanna S., of the Ankara International Group, reports to The A.A. Grapevine that the event was “a gathering of active, intense, happy, recovering alcoholics who met, dined, walked, and enjoyed each other's company. We touched each other's lives.” The sketch to the right accompanied an account of the event in The A.A. Grapevine.
A meeting in Minsk
In November 1990, a few dozen A.A.s from Latvia, Lithuania, and Ukraine gather with their counterparts in Minsk, Belorussia (now the Republic of Belarus) to coordinate the services in their respective countries. In April 1991, a second conference will be held in Riga, Latvia, attracting 180 A.A.s from the same four countries plus Russia.
Bursting at the seams in Seattle
Some 48,000 people converge in Seattle for the Fellowship's Ninth International Convention in 1990, far exceeding the anticipated head count. The theme is “Fifty-five Years — One Day at a Time.” More than 250 standing-room-only meetings are held at Seattle Center and around town — at the time, the largest convention ever hosted in Washington's largest city. Nell Wing, Bill W.'s longtime secretary and first archivist for G.S.O. New York, was presented with the Ten Millionth copy of A.A.'s Big Book, Alcoholics Anonymous, at a special ceremony.
Romania: Two steps to success
In 1988, Fran P., an American A.A. teaching English at Romania's University of Timisoara, attempts to start a group with the help of Rodica, an alcoholic student — but the program's reliance on a Higher Power runs afoul of government authorities. Only in 1991, almost two years after the Communist government has fallen, will an A.A. group flourish in Timisoara. In 1993, Petrica and Damian, alcoholics hospitalized in Bucharest, will start a group in the capital city with the help of Dr. Doina Constantinescu and Patricia and Lee, an A.A. couple from the U.S. This flyer is typical of A.A. Romania's efforts to reach out to struggling alcoholics.
Movement in Southeast Asia
In 1991, around five A.A.s begin to meet in Ubud, Indonesia, auguring the start-ups of small groups in Kuta, Sanur, and Seminyak. The meetings are attended by tourists passing through, but by 2003 some 40 Indonesians will have joined A.A. The early 1990s find stable groups of native speakers meeting in Thailand, Vietnam, Singapore, and Malaysia.
Canadians cross language barriers
In an effort to carry the message to the Native North American population in the Northwest Territory, who speak seven different languages, A.A.s in the Yellowknife area go about gathering all known Native American translations of A.A. literature. They confirm the translations' accuracy and build files that are easily accessible to A.A. members. Their efforts will continue, paving the way for an Eastern Canada regional trustee and a fellow A.A. to travel to remote communities in northern Quebec in May 2004, distributing A.A. literature in the Inuktitut language to educators, prison officials, attorneys, and mayors.
Missives to the Persian Gulf
After military action begins in the Persian Gulf in 1991, the G.S.O. New York staff member on the Loners/International Desk hears from scores of A.A.s serving in Saudi Arabia. Each is sent a copy of the new book Daily Reflections, a free subscription to the Grapevine, and any A.A. literature that is requested. One letter, from Sgt. John L., is representative. In it, he writes, “A lot of good has come out of my being in this desert. I've finally been forced to really take a good look at my life. As the Big Book says, I'm 'building an arch to walk through a free man [sic].'”
First Native American Convention in 1991
“Living Our Traditions Through Sobriety” is both the purpose of Native American A.A. gatherings and the motto on the emblem they create (right) for the first annual convention for Native American A.A.s from the U.S. and Canada. Among the 800 attendees at the event, held in October 1991 in Las Vegas, are Native Americans from some 100 tribes plus representatives of tribal alcohol programs, halfway houses, and treatment centers. In ensuing years, Washington, South Dakota, North Carolina, and other states will hold their own conventions, leading to the fourteenth National/ International Native American Convention which will convene in Minneapolis in 2004.
European Service Meetings
Meeting in Frankfurt (right), 32 A.A. delegates from 18 countries attend the 1991 European Service Meeting (ESM), the zonal conference that has been held biannually in the German city since 1981. The ESM gives delegates from European groups the opportunity to present progress reports and share their respective countries' problems in the hope of finding solutions.
A.A. General Service Office moves uptown in 1992
After 20 years on Park Avenue South, on Manhattan's East Side, G.S.O. New York relocates to 475 Riverside Drive. The date is March 1992. (Serendipitously, the 19-story limestone building was built by the Rockefeller family, so important to the Fellowship's early history.) The G.S.O. occupies the entire 11th floor, with The Grapevine offices one flight up. Every year, hundreds of A.A. members from around the world visit. A tour of the offices and Archives is provided to all visitors; no appointment is necessary.
In a textbook example of country-to-country sponsorship, Mexico succeeds in getting Cuba's first group going in February 1993: Grupo Sueño (Dream Group), in Havana. The year before, Cubans Ciro V. and Juan A. had asked government officials for permission to provide information about A.A. — in their words, “a program without nationalities, a political agenda, or financial interests” — but without success. Once A.A Mexico informs the Cuban government of the particulars of A.A.'s program of recovery, the government changes its mind and welcomes the Fellowship. By the end of 2004, some 200 groups will have become active in Cuba. The arrival of A.A. in the country is celebrated every January, as shown in the poster to the right.
Planting a seed in China
In 1995, retired Chinese physician Dr. Lawrence Luan, who owns a primary health care clinic in Santa Barbara, California, asks the clinic's administrator, who happens to be an A.A. member, to accompany him on a medical business trip to his hometown of Daiwan. To be granted a visa, the administrator must speak on a health topic, and while Chinese authorities request that he address HIV/AIDS, Dr. Luan arranges for him to speak to five doctors at the mental hospital in Daiwan on his subject of choice: alcoholism. The speech is well received, as are Chinese-language copies of the Big Book he presents to the doctors. In 1998, he will share his experience at the Pacific Regional Forum in Sacramento as a member of the International Panel. As a result, a member of the San Francisco Intergroup begins organizing a “messengers” group that will travel to China. Shown to the right is “Alcoholics Anonymous” in Chinese script.
Canada's golden anniversary
During the first weekend of July 1995, more than 6,000 A.A.s and friends from Canada, the U.S., South America, Europe, and Asia gather in Toronto at the Metro Convention Center to celebrate 50 years of Alcoholics Anonymous in Canada. The program includes 34 speaker meetings, 26 panels, 40 marathon meetings, and two talkathons.
Celebrating 60 years
The theme of the 60th Anniversary International Convention — “A.A. Everywhere–Anywhere” — is borne out as nearly 56,000 people from the U.S., Canada, and 85 other countries gather in San Diego, California, in June-July 1995. Among the highlights are an opening-night waterfront dance with fireworks exploding across the bay, an opening meeting that sees Jack Murphy Stadium filled to capacity, and oldtimers recounting stories at the “Forty Years or More Sober” meeting, Saturday night's featured event. Shown at right is the Convention's souvenir book.
First Asia/Oceania Service Meeting
Years after Bob P. of New Zealand conceives the idea of a zonal meeting serving Asian and Pacific Island A.A. groups, the first Asia/Oceania Service Meeting (AOSM) is held in Tokyo in March 1995. Bob P. chairs the meeting, and its “Twelfth-Stepping Your Neighbor Country” theme emphasizes the shared responsibility of carrying the message in this part of the world. Attending are delegates from Australia, Hong Kong, Japan, Korea, New Zealand, and Vanuatu.
With approval of the General Service Board, G.S.O New York launches a site on the World Wide Web on December 22, 1995. With a click, users can now instantaneously access information about the Fellowship in English, Spanish, and French. G.S.O.'s A.A. Website is constantly evolving. In spring 1998, G.S.O. New York shares the experience of computer-savvy A.A.s when it issues a list of Frequently Asked Questions for A.A. entities looking to set up their own website. In 2000, 2006 and 2014 “aa.org” will undergo major expansions.
Se publica La Viña
A Spanish-language edition of The Grapevine arrives in the summer of 1996. In the new bimonthly magazine La Viña, articles translated from The Grapevine share space with original material written in Spanish. La Viña is distributed in North America, Latin America, and Spain, and in ensuing years is welcomed by Spanish-speaking A.A.s worldwide.
A Japanese General Service Board
In Tokyo, a General Service Board composed of eight trustees, including two nonalcoholics, starts operating in January 1996. At the time, an estimated 3,500 to 4,000 members are meeting in 290 groups. Japanese A.A. members visit and support Korean groups and vice versa. The handmade card at right, presented by the Kansai district office to a G.S.O. New York staff member visiting Japan, reads “Willingness, honesty, and open-mindedness are the essentials of recovery.”
Support for French Equatorial Africa
A.A. France's sponsorship of African countries begins with a contact between Jean-Yves M. and a Loner from Cameroon, Donatien B., chief warden of a prison and an alcoholic. He achieves sobriety with Jean-Yves's help and determines to carry the message. Jean-Yves and Jean-François L. travel to Cameroon in 1997 and are surprised to find that Donatien has started a prison group that has grown to 54 members. During his stay, Jean-Yves meets with officials, police directors, and members of the clergy. Yearly trips to Africa by A.A. France from 1998 through 2001 will facilitate the launching of groups in Benin, Chad, and Togo. In the photograph, Cameroon villagers greet a visitor from G.S.O. New York with the customary singing and dancing as his traveling companion (foreground), an A.A. from the Douala group, joins in.
Greeting the millennium in Minneapolis
Some 47,000 people celebrate freedom from the bondage of alcoholism at the eleventh International Convention, held in Minneapolis, Minnesota, in the summer of 2000. The theme is “Pass It On–Into the 21st Century.” One memorable event is Walk-the-Walk, in which a stream of attendees from 86 nations walks the blue line laid down from the Convention Center to the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome on their way to the opening ceremony. The twenty millionth Big Book is presented to Al-Anon Family Groups in a special ceremony.
Al-Anon's first International Convention
Forty-three years after its founding, Al-Anon holds its first International Convention. The time is July 1998, and the place is Salt Lake City, Utah. As the century draws to an end, 24,000 Al-Anon and 2,300 Alateen groups are meeting in more than 110 countries.
Membership tops two million
As the new millennium begins, A.A.'s worldwide membership is estimated at 2,160,013. Another membership milestone in the year 2000 is the number of groups, which for the first time surpasses the 100,000 mark.
Pole to Pole
Even alcoholics in the most far flung parts of the world — the Arctic Circle and Antarctica — have received the Fellowship's message by the year 2000. With the support of Canadian groups, A.A.s meet in Baffin Island and other far-north locales, while members posted to McMurdo Air Force Base in Antarctica organize meetings for military personnel and others who come and go.
A North American milestone
In April 2000, the 50th General Service Conference is held in New York City. Delegates from 92 A.A. regions and areas in the U.S. and Canada, trustees, directors and G.S.O. and Grapevine staff members listen to reports and inspect finances, just as their counterparts had done half a century before. Conference delegates also tour the new General Service Office in Manhattan's Morningside Heights neighborhood.
Sponsorship Down Under
A.A. Australia, active since 1945, helps A.A.s in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, establish Khmer-speaking groups. The country's service office also assists in the establishment of groups in East Timor, New Guinea, and other Pacific locales. The service office in neighboring New Zealand — which for years has translated A.A. literature into Maori (see Serenity Prayer at right), Fijian, Samoan, and other Pacific island languages — launches an initiative to carry the message to correctional facilities in 32 countries in Oceania and the Pacific Rim.