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AA chips, or "sobriety tokens," are small, round-shaped tokens given to members of a 12-step program after a certain number of months of sobriety. Sobriety tokens often mark the impressive achievements of people in sobriety and recovery.
Receiving a sobriety token is usually gratifying to the person in recovery, helping them stay motivated during their recovery. They often remind the person of the struggles they overcame and the success they achieved.
While sobriety tokens usually have the same overall meaning, they may have special significance to those receiving them. If you or a loved one is recovering from addiction, it may help to understand what these recovery gifts signify.
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Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) is an international fellowship of people with a drinking problem. It’s open to anyone who wants to quit drinking, and members are encouraged to attend AA meetings. The only eligibility for membership is a desire to stop drinking.
Open meetings are welcome to members of the public. However, closed meetings are for AA members only. Only those with a drinking problem can become AA members or attend closed meetings.
Contrary to popular belief, AA does not have a hospitalization program. However, some hospitals may incorporate AA meetings into their treatment initiatives.
Al-Anon is a group similar to AA. It’s for the family members and friends of those struggling with an alcohol problem.
Many compare AA and NA, as they adhere to a 12-step program. However, NA focuses more on drug addiction, including illegal substances and prescription medications.
There are plenty of benefits for people involved in mutual support groups like AA. People in support groups are more likely to remain abstinent than those who attempt to quit drinking alone.
Additionally, people seeking professional treatment or counseling for their drinking problems sometimes experience better results if they include participation in AA meetings and their treatment program.
AA and other manualized 12-step recovery programs can result in higher rates of continuous abstinence over months and years compared to other treatments like cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT).
Other benefits of AA include:
During AA meetings, members share their experiences with others who need help with a drinking problem. Open meetings welcome non-members to listen, while closed meetings are only for AA members.
Open AA meetings are usually ‘speaker meetings.’ These involve AA members sharing their experiences regarding drinking.
Most AA meetings are closed for members only. Members typically share their experiences regarding a topic the discussion leader chooses.
Some AA groups are held for a specific purpose like the 12-step study groups or beginners’ meetings hosted to teach newcomers about the basics of the program.
AA’s General Service Office also coordinates activities and oversees the distribution of AA-related literature. The AA newsletter responds to letters requesting program information and collaborates with alcoholics overseas.
AA chips celebrate successful recovery milestones. All AA groups are autonomous, so honoring sobriety milestones differs depending on the local group.
Many fellowships provide chip or medallion nights to celebrate those receiving a token. Other fellowship groups hand them out during AA meetings.
Many AA groups also offer new members a 24-hour coin. The 24-hour chip represents the initial decision to live a sober life.
Although each group works differently, sobriety chips are usually given to members at various points during their first year of recovery. For instance, you might receive sobriety chips for the following milestones:
Afterward, you’ll receive a chip for every year you remain sober.
You won’t get your coins revoked if you relapse during your AA journey. AA recognizes that relapsing is part of the recovery process for any patient, instead stressing the importance of their sobriety in the near future.
Collecting the chips are meant to make AA members feel supported, motivated, and loved. It is also a reminder that you are not fighting alcoholism alone.
The practice of handing out sobriety chips dates back to a tradition within the Oxford Group. This group is a religious movement heavily involved in the early days of AA.
Group members would obtain a sobriety coin for every spiritual milestone and continued commitment to God. However, the sacred heart medallion predated AA coins and was common within the Father Mathew Temperance Movement of the 1840s.
The first recorded use of a sobriety chip in AA was in 1942 when Doherty S. introduced the concept of a "surrender" coin. Newcomers received this sobriety coin immediately after becoming an AA member and promising to stay sober.
In the late 1940s, members began using AA sobriety coins alongside a Serenity Prayer that reads, “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”
In the 1950s, AA started giving members chips after a number of months of sobriety.
Alcoholics Anonymous medallions and coins are small, round tokens. They're available in a selection of different colors and materials, representing various sobriety milestones, for example:
The materials include aluminum and brass, sometimes with gold or silver plating. Some tokens may even feature crystals.
An AA chip’s color refers to the number of months of sobriety a person has been through. They mark a person’s milestone as they work toward recovery and sobriety.
The AA chip colors include:
These sobriety milestones typically celebrate a specific number of months of sobriety. They also applaud a person’s ability to do the following:
A member could also expect to receive recovery medallions and coins when they enter an alcohol treatment program.
Many celebrities have been vocal about their recovery journey; some have completed AA 12-step programs. Below are a few notable names in AA culture who continue to live an alcohol-free life:
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People in recovery can receive sobriety chips in a few different ways. Many people get AA chips at recovery meetings, after a treatment program, or if they’ve remained sober for a particular time.
If you're a member of an AA group that does not hand out sobriety chips but would like to be part of the tradition, switching to a different group that uses them is possible.
You aren't required to do anything specific when you receive an AA coin. Its primary purpose is to remind you of your daily decision to maintain sobriety.
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