Dr Wilson and Mr Hide

By life-j

Biographies of Bill Wilson, while not telling us anything which is actually untrue, do tend to look mostly at the Saint Bill, “plus a few problems too hard to overlook”, such as his infidelities, his chain smoking, his depression, all touched upon as lightly as possible in order to not ruin the myth.

What I’m going to do here is to fictionalize his story a bit, and hope that my version comes in about as true as all the others. I’m taking some artistic license.

I’m presuming there are indeed sides to Bill’s story that everyone is trying to hide.

So here we go.

Bill Wilson got disenchanted with AA quite early. But since everyone had put him up on a pedestal, he had to play the part. He had, after all, landed a job for life and had a good book contract. But the prospect of leading an organization which went in a completely different direction than he honestly had intended did bother him.

Nowadays most AA folks generally presume that everything Bill said in his early writings, such as the Big Book was right.

The earlier the writing – the more ignorant he was at the time – the more right he was.

His later writings and talks, which show that Bill had changed and grown like we all do in recovery – that gets less attention. As individuals we must change and grow, but as a fellowship we don’t want the confusion.

How did it get to this?

At Steppingstones Bill had an office built for himself on a hill above the house. Seems quite telling that he named it “Wit’s End”, rather than say “serenity acres” – he must really have been suffering? Why would he call it that? “Hi, is Bill home today?” “He’s at wit’s end”. Make a joke of the truth if it is the best you can do. But an article by Susan Cheever in the Fix 04-16-12 gives us a clue:

I interviewed Tom Powers before he died at his All Addicts Anonymous (AAA) East Ridge retreat, in Callicoon, New York, where he had established his own sober community after angrily leaving AA in 1958. Powers said that he could no longer tolerate Bill Wilson’s philandering; he also had reason to think Bill was a thief. While Powers’ judgmental voice is evident in the Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions, Bill’s mood had also become much darker. After 15 years leading AA, he was tired; he felt an enormous burden of responsibility and expectation. In fact, he introduced a resolution that passed in 1955 to turn AA over to its members.

Bill tapped AA friend Tom Powers, who had worked in advertising and lived nearby in Chappaqua, and magazine editor Betty Love [to help write the 12 and 12]. The three met in the morning in Wit’s End, the cinderblock office Bill had built on a ridge above his house. Soon after they began the work, Bill was felled with the third disabling depression of his life, which he called a “period of blackness.” Some mornings, Tom Powers later told me, Bill would just put his head down on his desk and weep while Powers and Love tapped out the new steps on Bill’s typewriter.

By the early 50s Bill had gotten tired of leading an organization he no longer truly believed in. And this is why he tried to turn over leadership of the organization to the fellowship, in the hope that it would set itself right. Turned out that the fellowship was even more conservative, more religion abiding, and set itself wrong with a vengeance.

Bill became a puppet, wheeled out at conferences to give the same talk about god every year, and the only thing new was some warnings about rigidity. The one thing they didn’t want to hear about. Bill had really tried to be heard at the 1953 conference, but without much success. Bill’s frustration really comes through in the conference report:

Bill said he proposes to consider “whether this program of ours is frozen as solid as an ice cube, or whether there is any elasticity in it, whether we are going to get into this business of insisting on conformity, whether we are going to get into the business of creating an authority that says: ‘These Steps and Traditions have to be this way.’”

In one country the steps have been altered somewhat in phrasing and reduced to seven. “Do you think we should tell those people: ‘You can’t belong to Alcoholics Anonymous unless you print those Twelve Steps the way we have them?’ No. They are merely going through the old pioneering process we had to go through ourselves.”

“Where variations of the Traditions are concerned, we’ve gone up and down like a window shade. We even have a Traditions that guarantees the right of any group to vary all of them, if they want to. Let’s remember, we are talking about suggested steps and traditions. And when we say each group is autonomous, that means that it also has the right to be wrong.”

“My feeling is that the more we insist on conformity, the more resistance we create. But if the Traditions and Steps reflect accurately what our experience has been, the alcoholic, no matter where in the world he may be, will eventually adopt the principles that will work the best for him. If our principles are correctly stated, he will adopt them. If any improvements are to come, who can say where they may come from?”

Just take one problem – not too serious – and let us try to think how we would behave if it occurred. I know an author who is a humorist on the sarcastic side. Two or three years ago he got material together for a funny book about A.A. which would have roundly ridiculed us. The book was never published, because he found too many of his old writing cronies in AA, and they discouraged him. But suppose he had published this book?

You know what our first reaction would have been. It would have been a reaction of great rage. “He can’t do this to us!” But does that necessarily have to be our reaction? When we are unfairly critizised, loudly critizised at some time in the future, or are actually attacked, are we prepared to take such attacks in silence, and in dignity, with no thought of retaliation? – And if there is any truth in such an attack, can we humbly say, “That is so. This society stands corrected.”?     (1953 Conference Report, underlining emphasis in the original)

He really tried to open the fellowship up to new ideas, but it fell on deaf ears. He gave up the fight.

By the time he wrote “The Dilemma of no Faith” in 1961 I can’t but wonder if he had gotten so far out of touch with the “allowable reality”, that indeed he had no more faith himself, but only pretended to, talked the talk, walked the talk, because he didn’t want to rock the boat anymore.

And yet there was this book Thomas B tells about – that around 1990 Nell Wing, Bill’s secretary for 30 years, and AA’s first archivist, told him that she and Bill had been working on a secular book which they hoped would be used instead of much of the original literature. We have not found any indication yet that such a manuscript exists, but this information at least comes from very close to the source, and would support the point of view that even though Bill may still have been a believer, his wheels were spinning hard, looking for a way to modify the program away from the religious dogmatism which so many were trying to cement into place.

This book has gone missing. Why would they work on it in the first place? Well obviously there is and was a need for it, but the big question is why it has disappeared, and why they may have worked on it more or less in secret. This makes one think that there may have been a core group in AA’s governing structure (which we supposedly do not have) that was really bent on keeping AA on a religious footing. How were they doing it? I don’t know. With at least some new, unbelieving members of the GSC being elected nowadays, maybe it will change in time. But a related cause for concern is the lawsuits that were made to keep AA literature pure, both in Mexico and Germany. Several hundred thousand dollars were spent on this.

As adamant as regular AA members are about the purity of the program, and about not using outside literature, it would stand to reason that there is a similar adamancy about it in headquarters and among the trustees.

Bill was a salesman. Think about how he put the program together, reflecting on himself. It was all about our (based on his own) faults and about making amends. He must have had a lot of faults, and a lot of amends to make. This would paint a picture of a selfish, manipulative, dishonest kind of person. Note that not all alcoholics are like that. There are a lot of shy, depressed introverted drunks, who didn’t ever have it in them to do the things Bill must have been doing during his stockbroking career.

If Bill had been abused in his early life, the program he put together would have been about forgiveness instead of about amends.

But the program reflected Bill’s own needs as he saw them at 3 years sober, and he presumed all drunks were just like him. Why wouldn’t he, at 3 years sober? I was every bit as ignorant and self-centered at 3 years sober as Bill was, though I came more from the abused category myself. And it is easy for me too, to think that everyone is just like me.

At three years sober, Bill was largely unrecovered. He steamrolled his preferences for the Big Book as well as he could. If he had been willing to listen to the agnostics in the group, the big book would have come out entirely different. Later, did he indeed keep his faith in his god, or did he just spend the next 30 years pretending?

It would make sense to ask why he had these bouts of depression. Yes there are medical reasons sometimes, but often it is just mental and emotional. Did he discover that the program he had made indeed was not as good for recovery as he thought it was as a 3 years dry egomaniac?

There are days I wonder if the “depression” really is a euphemism for “Bill wanted to change the program to something non-religious and simple, but they wouldn’t let him”.

One could go so far as to say he really had blown it, making a program with so many elements that do not work, that he had already cut a lot of people off from recovery. The fault, down the road, would eventually not so much be his, once others took over the real control from him, but it would have bothered him that he was the one who had set it in motion. Was all this the source of his depression? “Bill, you really fucked up!”?

But Bill at 3 years sober had really very few resources. No old-timers to lean on. He had read a handful of books, which at 3 years sober made him think he knew everything.

He had to embellish everything. “More than one hundred men and women” were in fact around 70-75. Most of those had just put a few months together. While this is good of course, we know how fragile a few months of recovery are, and especially back then when it was only the blind leading the blind, it would have been even more so. And many of them did indeed relapse. Several committed suicide. There were only 8 people with more than 6 months sobriety. Hardly enough success to build a movement on, but Bill was determined to do it anyway, and right there and then.

Granted, this is what pulled our fellowship together, but it really did put it on a clay footing.

Bok K writes:

Hartigan also interviewed Tom Powers Sr., Bill’s writing partner on the “Twelve & Twelve,” who stated that “Bill was frequently overwhelmed by the guilt and remorse he felt as a consequence of his infidelities and the turmoil his affairs were causing within the Fellowship.” (Hartigan, p. 170)  Powers insisted that Wilson’s guilt over his infidelities was responsible for his depression. No argument was returned. “You’re right… But I can’t give it up.” (Hartigan, p. 171)

Of course we are also imposing our cultural standards on Bill’s womanizing which strictly speaking we may have no right to do. We take the short view of things. Even though I subscribe to fidelity myself, I must admit I can’t say that womanizing is any more wrong than say, having children outside of marriage, something we have come to think of as entirely ordinary by now, even though it was just as much of a no-no back then.

When therefore Powers and most of AA comes down on Bill so hard, it may be unjustified, and added to Bill’s problems. But still, it caused trouble in the fellowship. Bill faced a lot of judgment.

Personally I think the god stuff weighed more heavily on him in the end.

He had everything, a beautiful house, a wife he apparently couldn’t have sex with, but who stood by him as a mother, and enough income to be comfortable. But he had no peace, so he chain smoked until it killed him.

But the “Dilemma of no Faith” from 1961 is among his last major bit of writing.

Whether this doctor has been fictionalized too, like he did with so many other people in his stories is hard to know. I won’t quote from it here, since it ought to be read at length anyway.

But it is obvious that a lot of soul searching went into this piece.

He still talks of his own faith, but mostly in critical terms.

Bill was an unhappy man. It is probably safe to say he never recovered in the manner which we understand the word.

The epitaph Wikipedia leaves him is probably about as sorry as it really was:

During the last years of his life, Wilson rarely attended AA meetings to avoid being asked to speak as the co-founder rather than as an alcoholic. A heavy smoker, Wilson eventually suffered from emphysema and later pneumonia. He continued to smoke while dependent on an oxygen tank in the late 1960s. He drank no alcohol for the final 37 years of his life; however, in the last days of his life he made demands for whiskey and became belligerent when refused. During this period, Wilson was visited by colleagues and friends who wanted to say goodbye. Wilson died of emphysema and pneumonia on January 24, 1971, en route to treatment in Miami, Florida. He is buried at the East Dorset Cemetery in East Dorset, Vermont.

Bill Wilson started out with a lot of good intentions and simple ideas, few of which were realized. Everything that was realized was religious people’s agendas. No doubt it was his own fault for writing such a god-focused program in the first place, but his simpler ideas about one alcoholic helping another etc., only ever got to be accessories to the religion.


life-j got sober in Oakland in 1988. He moved to a Northern California coastal mountain village in 2002 and helped wake up the sleepy AA fellowship there. He’s been involved in service work of every kind all along, but now thinks the most important work is to help atheists and agnostics feel safe and welcome in AA.

As part of this mission, life-j has written a number of articles on AA Agnostica over the past several years and these are:

To date, he has also written a number of articles for the wonderful website, AA Beyond Belief:

Most of the earlier articles are available in a book put together by life-j. The book can be read and/or downloaded as a PDF right here: My Collected Published AA Stories.

In July of this year, life-j also published a book on Amazon. And an Introduction and Reviews of that book can be accessed here: About Being Here.

life-j has spent parts of his life as a building contractor, part as a technical translator, and has dabbled a bit in art work and writing. He is now semi-retired on a five acre homestead together with his sweetie, and his dogs, chickens, and gardens. This is from the an introduction to his earlier book: “…the doctors have given me one to two years to live. I’m taking it one day at a time. I’m taking a lot of time to write, while I can.”

Thank you, life-j.


25 Responses

  1. Bullwinkle says:

    Each AA fellowship meeting is autonomous, it doesn’t have to answer to any conference or entity. However, due to the ignorance of the vast majority of AA fellowships, the General Service Office, NYC, has manipulated these fellowships into believing that only conference approved literature, which purchased though AAWS Inc, NYC, a publishing company can only be read. Follow the money trail and corruption is usually revealed.

    The text Alcoholics Anonymous is the suggested program of recovery, not the AA fellowship. Page 59, it states, “Here are the steps we took, which are suggested as a program of recovery”. Page 164, it states, “Our book is meant to be suggestive only. We realize we know only a little”. Most AA fellowship members don’t read the text, or if they had, their comprehension is limited. Most follow the group speak, which has a gang mentality potential, especially against agnostics and atheists. Yet, AA history shows that it’s the agnostics and atheists that influenced the final structure of the 12 Step model i.e. “God as we understood Him”. The tenets were from the original 6 Step model that was given to Bill Wilson by Dr. Rev. Samuel Shoemaker.

    • Martin T says:

      There maybe some truth to your rather cynical and harsh portrayal of GSO regarding approved literature, however, I’ve always felt that the policy “protected” us from the onslaught of Bible thumpers who would at every opportunity inject their theology and literature into 12 Step meetings.

      • Bullwinkle says:

        I’ve attended AA meetings all over the USA and Europe, and some meetings don’t purchase or use AA literature. Some meetings in the southern USA whose members are virtually Christian don’t use AA literature, they quote the Bible and tend to shun others that aren’t Christian. However, these Christian groups can do what ever they want, to reiterate, each AA fellowship / group is autonomous. There’s no hierarchy for AA meetings. GSO / AAWS, NYC, has no power over groups that don’t endorse them.

        Alcoholics Anonymous first and second editions are public domain in the USA, but not in Europe. GSO / AAWS, Inc NYC has sued a German, in Germany, but lost part of the case relating to translations other than German. They continued to harass and threaten not only the AA members there and the group he belongs to (AA Big Book Study Group – BBSG). AAEV (the German GSO) and AAWS, Inc. have successfully threatened outside enterprises in their attempt to bankrupt and destroy AA members.

        The truth is frequently an unpopular subject, Martin T, so thanks for identifying my well founded cynicism of which cross referencing AA history supports my view point. Also, thanks for your wording i.e. “maybe some truth”, this indicates the potential for open mindedness.

  2. Bullwinkle says:

    I was born during WWI and have been reading and cross referencing AA history for going on 50 years. Yes, Bill Wilson was very far from a saint. Bill Wilson died from emphysema due to the # one killer, smoking tobacco.

  3. Mike O says:

    This, among many other reasons, is why I’ve recently found myself sliding further and further out of mainstream AA, at least as far as “mainstream AA” is recognizable to me. My local meetings, especially Big Book and “literature” meetings (always conference approved of course) are usually paeans to the great, almighty, divinely inspired and ultimately infallible “Big Book”. This literature is often used as the final and ultimate arbiter of what constitutes “real sobriety”. In a way, it has turned AA into a cult of sobriety with the Big Book as its Bible. Mind you, this is not about not drinking, as any true blue member will tell you that not drinking by itself is merely “dry” time (for “dry drunks”), a nefarious state of “lack of spiritualism” somehow caused by “lack of willingness and honesty” which is little if no better than active addiction itself.

    OF COURSE Bill Wilson had varying opinions about his own program at different stages of his life along the way. He was a complicated and quite frankly, somewhat disturbed man who was more or less flying by the seat of his pants, borrowing heavily from the Oxford Group and its creepy and secretly racist prophet, Frank Buchman. He cobbled together the Big Book as best he could, borrowing themes and language from the Bible as well as respectable Mainline Protestant moralism of the day. He hit the jackpot when the Saturday Evening Post article came out and captured a generation of drunks who had fallen into despair following World War I, Prohibition and the Great Depression as well as the gathering storm of World War II all in quick succession. The “suggestions” quickly became rigid guidelines because the massive and outsized growth of the movement, especially in its early years, demanded structure, guidance and direction to maintain the establishment and development of the organization.

    Don’t get me wrong. I’m GLAD, and yes, even GRATEFUL (though not groveling) for AA’s presence when I was ready to get sober. Its fellowship and some of its teachings were invaluable to me coming in, especially in that first few years of sobriety. However, like all things, after some time I have begun to evolve and question and develop my own ideas and philosophies based on my own readings and experience in recovery. It’s heartening to know that beyond the AA legends, in real life Bill W. himself experienced some of this same process, a sometimes messy and confusing process but one that is real, authentic and human.

  4. Joel D says:

    I’ve been trying to debunk the aura of saintliness that somehow has been ascribed to Mr. Wilson. I choose not to cast aspersions and am grateful that he gathered together a group of similarly suffering sots and found a way that worked to keep their demons at bay. It was through that common bond, a desire to stop drinking, that the FELLOWSHIP developed. What Bill believed (or didn’t) when the Big Book was written shouldn’t be considered relevant today. It’s history and, if you like one, of the first cogent guides for a method of recovery. It was never touted as the only method and Bill’s ideology changed dramatically over the following 40 years. We all change. It shouldn’t and doesn’t matter 80 years on what “The Book” says. I’m sure being help up as a prophet or even Messiah took its toll on Bill. It must have only worsened when he turned the whole kit and kaboodle over to the Foundation only to have it mired in a La Brea like tar heading towards extinction and irrelevance.

  5. Dan L says:

    Thanks life-j. I always enjoy your essays. I have tried to view Bill W. through the lens of being an alcoholic man of his times with all the built in flaws and qualities that come with that. That he was a flawed man has in no way bothered me as much as the AA “fairy tale” that has been built, inevitably around his legacy.

    From my arrival in the fellowship I have been disturbed about the whispers over what occurred in Bill’s final years. The talk about LSD is irrelevant. It was not illegal then and I can testify from personal experience it can give the illusion of not just talking to but actually being god. What upset me was the fact that he demanded whisky – a dying alcoholic asking for whisky? – and was refused thus robbing him of his choice. Who ordered this? Who ordered that it be kept secret? Who subsequently whispered this “discrediting” information to those who would repeat it?

    Somebody in our “honest” fellowship was manipulating not just a dying old man but an entire movement.

    • life-j says:

      Dan, wow, I couldn’t have said that better:

      That he was a flawed man has in no way bothered me as much as the AA “fairy tale” that has been built, inevitably around his legacy.

      But that’s a big part of what I was trying to say with my essay.

  6. Robert says:

    Nicely said.

  7. Martin T says:

    Was your decision to “fictionalize” and “take artistic license” an artful dodge of liability for any possible misinformation or simply a way to put your own spin on Wilson and AA? Thanks for letting us know that Bill drank and smoked himself to death, a depressed and disillusioned alcoholic. It’s sobering to be reminded of how powerful this disease is. Did you mean to imply that Wilson was schizophrenic with the “Dr Wilson and Mr Hide” reference?

    I much prefer the unadulterated facts of Pulitzer Prize winning journalist Nan Robertson’s Getting Better: Inside Alcoholics Anonymous, as a substantiated (by Lois Wilson’s endorsement) portrayal of Bill, as well as Nan’s own recovery story.

    The founding members were long gone by the time I found AA in 1985, but in 1990 while living in Puerto Vallarta, MX I became acquainted with Dr David A. Stewart (not of the Eurythmics fame) who had retired there and was a “regular” at the Cine Bahia Alano Club 12 Step Meetings. Apparently he was a founding member of NA and a major contributor to the recovery field professionally and as an author. His most successful book, Thirst For Freedom, was published by UC Berkeley and Hazelden in the 1960’s, later by Amazon. Now in his 80’s, with 40+ years sobriety, he looked back on that publication with embarrassment as how it parroted the AA party line. While never stating directly that he was an atheist, he did say he thought the Steps could be reduced to 6-7. Entertaining curmudgeon that he was, he also hated the word “recovery” and the medical model. For him, as a doctor of philosophy, it was a philosophical matter of, “You get drunk or you get sober, the choice is yours”, without any moral judgement whatsoever. Way over my head as a well indoctrinated 5 year old. We attempted to start an Employee Assistance Program for the PV timeshare industry but he passed before it came to fruition.

    While I too have evolved away from AA, I still maintain a pragmatic relationship with a Higher Power as recommended by William James, author of Varieties of Religious Experience. The best alternative to the tired theist/atheist argument.

    • life-j says:

      Martin, thanks. I think the best alternative to the tired theist/atheist argument is apatheism: “Whatever, I don’t want to get into that discussion”. Other than that, artistic license is always used in order to get people to think outside the usual, verified circles. The point being that while quite likely it will stray outside the facts – it also may not!

    • Bullwinkle says:

      thirst for freedom, Hazelden, copyright Canada 1960, Musson Book Company Ltd., Toronto, printed in the USA.

      The preface, last paragraph, for me is a gem, it reads “Few people realize that sobriety is an action of insights and skills far beyond mere abstinence. Sobriety is a creative discipline in the art of freedom of growth, and of love. To be yourself is to become yourself.”

      My AA fellowship friend that was a neurosurgeon and clinical pharmacologist who worked at Lawrence Livermore, helped edit and write some of the NA text.

      Thirst for Freedom

  8. John B. says:

    life-j: Another thought provoking post. Yes, Bill Wilson was a flawed human. Much of his behavior after AA became well known does not represent what most of us in recovery would choose to emulate. Womanizer, chain smoker, LSD experimenter. Not good!

    AA has published his later talks and writings. It is evident in later years Bill did make an effort to soften the belief that it is necessary to believe in a rigidly defined God to qualify for AA membership. The essay, The Dilemma of No Faith, is a fairly strong statement to that effect and is printed in full in The Language of the Heart, (p. 251). It seems to me that Wilson had some good intentions back there in 1961, but saw the futility of it all and said the hell with it.

    We all know that all the efforts to delete God up to now have been met with a storm of protest. Susan Cheever’s My Name is Bill (2004) and Francis Hartigan’s Bill W. (2000) are two biographers which do not try to hide Wilson’s flaws, but still give him some pats on the back for creating AA.They both rely heavily on an interview with Tom Powers. Beware! Hartigan interviewed him when he was 88 and Cheever interviewed him when he was 91 (as near as I can tell). Powers split with Wilson in 1958 primarily because the boss refused to address the problem of his sex addiction. His memory probably provided acceptable “gist” of events. Factual detail? No way!

    Here are some facts that support the claim of infidelity. Bill met a lady named Helen Wynn in the mid-1950’s. She was an ex-actress and a real looker. He got her a job at the Grapevine where she proved to be an asset and worked up to be editor. She bought a house about 15 minutes from the the Wilson home and she and Bill remained close up to the last few years of his life. He spent a lot of time at her place – some overnights. Probably not platonic.

    Here’s the clincher. In 1963, Bill negotiated a new royalty contract with AA that stipulated Wynn wold get 10% of his royalties upon his death and Lois would get 90%. This was real money back in those days – total royalties for 1971, the year Bill died in January was $74,098, and the amount progressed upward to $296,957 the last year of Ms. Wynn’s life. At ten-percent, she was doing pretty well. Royalty figures taken from the website Hindsfoot Foundation.

    • life-j says:

      John, thanks for all this additional info. And sounds like you may know, I have often wondered – where is that royalty situation at now? Are there still descendants getting royalties, or does it all go to AAWS now?

      • John B. says:

        life – I am sure everybody is now off the gravy train. Lois was a rich woman when she died – an estate valued at $3.8 million, not counting the appraised value of the home, $1.4 million which accounting allowed to be deducted as a tax obligation. 50 percent of her royalties would go to the Stepping Stones Foundation – this would last 10 years. She died in 1988, therefore you can see the royalties paid by GSO in 1999 were $425,000 less than 1998. The other 50 percent she could will to selected beneficiaries based on certain criteria which the website did not mention. I think there was a minimum age threshold they had to meet. There is a drop-off of about $101,000 from 2006 to 2007 – maybe the last prince or princess died that year. John B.

  9. Jerry F says:

    Good article, life. Thank you.

    One correction. You wrote that the Mexican and German BB fiascoes were intended to keep AA literature pure. Both of those shameful episodes occurred to keep AA wealthy from the sale of AAWS BBs. There was nothing “pure” about the lawsuits instigated by AAWS against members of our fellowship.

  10. John S says:

    Thanks for writing this life-j. I enjoyed reading this. I also thank William Condie for posting the link to the book “Bill W. and Mr. Wilson.” I impulsively purchased it on Amazon and look forward to reading it.

  11. Oren says:

    “Bill became a puppet, wheeled out at conferences to give the same talk about god every year, and the only thing new was some warnings about rigidity. The one thing they didn’t want to hear about.” Thanks, life-j, for this calm, almost sympathetic, perspective on Bill W.

    I grow weary of the internet moral indignation and Bill-bashing by those who wish he had been a “secular saint”, instead of a flawed human animal (much like the rest of us). Of course, I am even more weary of the “HP-thumpers”, who need to believe that AA was divinely-inspired, and that Bill was the HP’s prophet. Your speculative account sounds like it could be very close to what really happened. Thanks for the reasonable, non-judgemental tone you used.

  12. Doris M. says:

    I prefer articles based on a recovering individuals personal experience in recovery. For example, how as an atheist did you re-interpret the steps? If I want fiction, I can go to the bookstore.

    • life-j says:

      Doris, thanks for your feedback. I think personal stories are important too, of course, which is why we have many of those here and at our sister site AABB, too. However, how is AA going to change with only personal stories? Even if I recount at length my personal experience with being ostracized as an atheist I don’t think we will get too far with that.

      Discussing AA’s philosophy, and trying to set our history straight is important for getting out of the mythological swamp we often find AA in these days. It may not so much satisfy individual recovery needs, but hopefully it will satisfy some needs of the fellowship as a whole.

  13. Jim C. says:

    “Even though I subscribe to fidelity myself…”

    Fidelity!… just not yet! Infidelity is awful, just ask my wife and children. My parents divorce was terribly painful. Being untrue to my true self has consequences. All the ones I am aware of; depression, anxiety, excitement, an inability to live in the present, worst of all self hate. If I continue to do what I’m doing I will continue to get what I’m getting… some good some bad, some pleasurable some not so, so this is what it’s like to be a human being human. I don’t remember signing up for this? Might a been punch or dry drunk at the time. And some say I picked my parents! Ha!

  14. John L. says:

    From Wikipedia entry: “He drank no alcohol for the final 37 years of his life; however, in the last days of his life he made demands for whiskey and became belligerent when refused.” This statement is not demonstrably true. It is possible, and indeed likely, that Bill W. was drinking in the last years of his life. When he belligerently demanded that his male nurses get whisky for him, it sounds as though he had been drinking when still able to get whiskey himself. Also, in the last years of his like, he had stopped going to AA meetings, giving the dubious excuse that he would always be asked to speak. Also, Bill used other mind-altering drugs, like LSD, and urged others to take them. Would AA have covered up for him? Yes, it would have, just as it covered up his other bad behavior.

  15. William Condie says:

    This is a great book in the same theme:

    Bill W. and Mr. Wilson

    Bill W. and Mr. Wilson

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