The Interesting History of the Sobriety Medallion

The Interesting History of the Sobriety Medallion

Taking the first step towards sobriety is difficult, but ultimately the right decision for you and your loved ones. Alcoholism is a difficult disease to battle, but ultimately recovery is possible with the support of a like-minded community. 

If you're new to Alcoholics Anonymous, you may be wondering about the sobriety medallion tradition, what it means, and how it got started. It's easy to see how someone new may not understand the ins and outs of Alcoholics Anonymous and its traditions. 

If that describes you, keep reading! We unpack the history of sobriety medallions for you below. 

What Are Sobriety Medallions? 

Sobriety medallions, or AA chips, are used to mark significant achievements. Receiving a medallion can be motivating for the recipient and give them the motivation to continue on their recovery. 

AA chips have different colors to signify how long someone has been sober. For example, a white chip represents 1 day, or 24 hours, of sobriety. It's given to give the recipient hope for the journey ahead. 

Typically, the chips celebrating longer periods of sobriety are made of higher-quality materials. 

History of the Sobriety Medallion

Alcoholics Anonymous began in 1935 by Bill W. and Dr. Bob. But the practice of giving chips as markers of sobriety is a bit unclear. In fact, there are several popular legends of how this tradition began. 

Elmira, New York

Starting in 1947, there is a record of the Alcoholics Anonymous group in Elmira NY giving chips as keepsakes for significant milestones on the road to recovery. They drew the practice from the Oxford Group, where followers celebrated the anniversary of their spiritual rebirth. 

Portland, Maine

Another legend recognizes that a recovery group in Portland, ME were the first to use sobriety medallions. They started by distributing poker chips as the first AA chips. But from there, the practice grew and spread. 

Sister Mary Ignacia

Sr. Ignacia was a nun in Akron, Ohio who worked with Dr. Bob. There, she helped admit and work with alcoholics who were admitted to the hospital. 

Upon the patient's release, Sr. Ignacia would present them with the Sacred Heart of Jesus medallion. This was created to mark devotion, and other variations include images of saints, places, events, or even show various life events such as communion. 

Starting in 1939, Sr. Ignacia would use the Sacred Heart medal as a symbol of the patient's commitment to sobriety and devotion to God. However, they had to return the medal if they started drinking again. 

Celebrating Sobriety

Many people around the world share their testimony of alcoholism, recovery, and sobriety as part of Alcoholics Anonymous. Receiving and displaying a sobriety medallion is a great way to mark significant anniversaries, as well as take pride in the daily work you've put in. 

No matter the reason you found yourself at AA, we hope you'll check out our shop for more sobriety medallions for your road of recovery!