Alcoholic Anonymous clubs are described as a fellowship of men and women who gather together to share their experiences, hope and problems towards overcoming alcoholism. The basic foundation of these meetings is that they have no affiliations with any religion, denomination, political party or institution. The journey towards overcoming alcoholism is not a one-day event, and members of an AA club celebrate the milestones made by each individual by giving them chips.
The chip reward system can be traced all the way back to the year 1955. The practice began when alcoholic recovery addicts were given plastics that resembled chips. Over time the design has evolved from providing colored poker chips to developing coins specifically for members of Alcoholic Anonymous clubs.
The aim behind the giving of the coins is to remind the member that the journey they are taking against alcoholism is a commitment to themselves and not to the group. The chips serve as an inspiration to remind a member how long they have been sober and how far they have come in the recovery process. The truth is that having a chip is not a guarantee to quitting alcohol addiction, but studies have shown that there is an association between the presence of a chip and a stronger resolve to quit alcohol.
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The fact is that the chips come in different colors with each color indicating a particular duration of abstinence from alcohol use. The white chip is for someone who has abstained for one day or twenty-four hours and it is also called the desire chip since it is used to help the person pursue their desire to stay sober for 24 hours. Apart from that the white chip is also used to give relapsers hope that they can still get a chance to be free from alcohol addiction by sticking in the programme. It is worth remembering that the other coins are for the following sobriety duration: silver is for 30 days or one month, dark gold chip for two months or 60 days, yellow chip for half a year or six months, green chip for nine months and blue chip for one year of sobriety. It is an interesting fact to note that most chips after one year of sobriety come as bronze chips or novelty chips.
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The surprising thing is that the practice of awarding chips has evolved, and some groups have even begun awarding medals to their members. The medals can be won in public to display the duration that the members have been sober. The medals are customized, and they come engraved with the length of time that one has been sober. Some of the materials used to make then medals are wood, leather, plastic, common metals or even rare metals.
It inconsequential whether an AA club decided to use medals or chips or both, the important thing is the message they convey to their recipients.