treating men and women who were dependent on alcohol and addicted to illicit drugs, many of whom were uninsured with a limited ability to afford professional care. Women and men who found stable recovery through participation in self-help became the foundation for the addiction treatment workforce. Their personal experience with recovery guided others seeking sobriety. Working with alcoholics and drug addicts, moreover, helped newly sober counselors maintain and enhance their commitment to recovery. Chapter 1 of the “Big Book” (Alcoholics Anonymous World Services, 1939, p. 14) briefly reiterates Bill W’s vision and recipe for sobriety.
While I lay in the hospital the thought came that there were thousands of hopeless alcoholics who might be glad to have what had been so freely given me. Perhaps I could help some of them. They in turn might work with others.
Bill W continues, noting that during his first 18 months of his sobriety, working with other alcoholics helped him maintain his sobriety.
I was not too well at the time, and was plagued by waves of self-pity and resentment. This sometimes nearly drove me back to drink, but I soon found that when all other measures failed, work with another alcoholic would save the day. Many times I have gone to my old hospital in despair. On talking to a man there, I would be amazingly lifted up and set on my feet. It is a design for living that works in rough going. (Alcoholics Anonymous World Services, 1939, p. 14)
Maintaining sobriety by helping others gain sobriety continues to be an essential facet of recovery for many women and men. They freely volunteer assistance and provide support both through personal commitment to 12-step programming and through training and employment as alcohol and drug counselors.
When Prohibition ended in 1933 in the United States, an addiction treatment system did not exist. There was little demand for alcohol treatment. Rates of problem drinking and cirrhosis declined dramatically in the United States during Prohibition (Blocker, 2006). The Federal Narcotic Treatment programs in Lexington, Kentucky, and Fort Worth, Texas, were in development. Alcoholics and addicts were sometimes treated in psychiatric hospitals, but in most cases, the drunk tank and the county work farm were the primary system of care. Beginning in 1935 in Akron, Ohio, Alcoholics Anonymous offered a self-help approach to recovery. Individuals in recovery reached out to help others seeking recovery. These early pioneers became the roots of the recovery movement. During the 1950s and 1960s, Councils on Alcoholism formed and evolved from public advocacy organizations