Saturday, July 9, 2011


A few things I’ve been reading lately, and some discussions at a few meetings I’ve been to got me to thinking. What’s the role of Bill Wilson in AA today as opposed to the role of the Big Book, the 12 and 12, etc?

The subject actually came to a head with some of the sophomoric (sorry, MA) comments I came across while reading ST. I saw a lot of references to the “prophet Bill Wilson” and other such nonsense made with the insinuation that Bill is a God-like figure to those in AA, someone to be worshipped and glorified.

Now, either I’ve always gone to the wrong meetings or I never got the memo. But this is news to me.

This blog, and every meeting I’ve ever attended, focuses on AA as a recovery program contained in the first 164 pages of the Big Book. 16 of those pages cover Bill’s Story, hardly a paean to someone worshipped and glorified. I seldom if ever hear “Bill Wilson said…” and often hear “ The Big Book says…” even though Bill wrote the Big Book.

Yeah, we also have the “As Bill Sees It” and a few biographies/autobiographies, but again, I never get the feeling that Bill Wilson as an individual is that important to the program. It’s what he wrote – his thoughts and ideas - that matter.

So my question is, just how important in today’s AA is Bill Wilson? How many of us think of the man when we read the Big Book? I have my personal views of Bill as a man, but I also acknowledge his both his brilliance in coming up with the AA program and his willingness to listen to the advice of others when he was creating the program.

Personally, I read the Big Book as I read any other important reference material - for the content, not because of the author. I have the utmost respect and admiration for what Bill accomplished. I But do I worship him? Hardly.



  1. Good point.

    They have smashed every one of Bill's accomplishments... from his "belladona induced spiritual experience" to his deathbed "give me a hit of booze" rant.

  2. I think Bill was on his A game from the time he got sober to the time they wrote the Book. After that, I would imagine he was instumental to the forming and presentation of the 12 traditions and the 12 concepts. I'm not so much of a fan of the 12 x 12. The 144 has some problems the way it's presented and the way I've seen it used. There are some good pieces in it... here and there. I don't like the way it concluded and explains. The Big Book doesn't do that.

    I am really more of a Dr Bob guy... but W had his moments.

    The 164 is something that I am really impressed with. But I'm still not as impressed with the last 4 chapters. They may be very helpful to some... but they seem just a tad off the beam to me. If Bill wrote those, as he primarily wrote all that prior... with the rest of the folks helping with the editing, I just don't think he was charged with the same stuff he had when he wrote Chapter 5.

    I also like Dr Bob's Nightmare. He was a great compliment to Bill, imo.

    Can I put up a youtube vid of Bill here?

    P.S. Oh, btw, deja fucking vue.

  3. Historian agree that the meeting of Bill and Dr. Bob is one of the most important events of the 2oth century.

    As far as Bill worship goes, a lot of people do. I don't, I relate to him and recognize his brokenness for what it is, part of the human condition.I don't feel better or less than Bill. I do believe the 12 step program saved my life and profoundly changed me.

    I used to be a womanizing slimeball, I have recovered from this, I think Bill was plagued with this all his life. Humans are faulty.

    AA is filled with sheep who blindly accept everything without investigating. I wish more people knew about the LSD experiments, ouji board seances, womanizing etc...then maybe they would look past the man, and attempt to seek the source he himself was looking for..God

  4. "...then maybe they would look past the man, and attempt to seek the source he himself was looking for..God"

    Damn Rob! You're a regular Ernest Freaking Hemingway.

    That was pretty damned profound.

  5. I don't give a rat's ass about how folks at ST, Orange etc. look at Bill. Issue is how they think we look at Bill, and again I really don't care. But it did get me to thinking how do those in AA look at the guy.

    I look at his brokenness as a reflection that the guy was only human, and in a lot of ways a pretty weak one. But look at what he accomplished in spite of his faults!

    I think that Rob's sheep come from the fact that most AA members will read only the Big Book and maybe ASBI and the 12 and 12. They know nothing of Bill's life or the history behind AA. But I fear that being the sheep that they are, they'd run if they found out that Bill was only a man. They'd never get past that point, as Rob so poetically put it.

    As to the last 4 Chapters, "To Wives" would have been a hell of a lot more impressive had Bill let Lois write it, but I don't think he wanted to listen to what she had to say. He never did before.

    And in the original manuscript, the "To Employers" chapter is so marked up it's hard to see what Bill originally wrote. But considering all the editorial comments there, they must have thought this was a big issue at the time. I wonder how many members of AA would bring a copy of the Big Book to work and ask their boss to read that chapter?

    Continue to Discuss.

  6. Books I must read before I die:

    To Wives, by Lois Wilson

  7. Bill didn't write "To Employers." Henry Parkhurst did. He is the first man mentioned in The Doctor's Opinion. He had been an executive with Standard Oil,lost that job because of drinking. Bill found him in Towns Hospital and he was the first guy that Bill helped get sober after he got back from Akron. Dr; Silkworth said that seemed to be a case of pathological mental deterioration, and he was right. Hank P. was as much or more of a power driver than Bill and he eventually got jealous of Bill getting the limelight. He got drunk shortly after the book came out, at four years sober and never got sober again. He did a miserable, lonely alcoholic death.

  8. So... maybe we get Charlie Sheen to rewrite "To Employers"?


  9. ... and the "other" Charlie to write... The Family Afterwards?

    Doah! Did I say that out loud? That's awful.

    Somebody infract me. I've not been infracted, warned or banned all morning. Hurt me hurt me!

    The coffee is good this morning.

    Make it a blessed day!

  10. Oh, and A Vision for You

    by Denise Milani

    (http://www.czabe.com/index.cfm/act/viewSnicky/sid/702)... 8)

  11. Dear Patrick, Your recent comment regarding Charlie is certainly not up to your usual standards of positive support and motivation that we normally see on this blog.

    You are thereby enfracted! Any further episodes of this nature will be forwarded to Carol on SR for appropriate action. Beware.

  12. Jim, I was wondering who wrote that chapter. Looking at all the corrections/comments in the draft, it's pretty obvious that Bill made most of them by the handwriting. It almost looks as if Bill was trying to revamp the damn thing so that it didn't resemble anything Parkhurst originally came up with..

  13. "I wonder how many members of AA would bring a copy of The Big Book to work and ask their boss to read that chapter?"

    Joe, my friend and housemate Zach is sober today because his boss at the time read that chapter and told that he either go to detox and get off the booze and the benzos and get sober or he'd lose his job. Ron & I found him in detox when we took a meeting there almost eleven years ago.

    Even with Bill's revisions, "To Employers" is probably the best written chapter in the book. And to Hank P.'s credit, the book got published largely due to his efforts and his drive to succeed.

    As for "To Wives," there's some good stuff in it, but it's a hard read for me because the tone of it is so condescending. Bill should never have written it.

  14. Jim,I'm glad that things worked out for your friend Zach, I've heard a lot of stories where the boss offered an option - treatment or leave. It surprising how many chose to quit rather than go into treatment initially. Or maybe not.

    I guess my question is for those already in the program, how many would willingly take the Big Book into the workplace so the boss can read that chapter? Do you think that very many people would be willing to break their anonymity and possibly lose their jobs by giving this to the boss? What would be the point?

    Granted, the chapter is pretty concise and well written, but it's hard to read the original text given all the over writing, deleting, etc. So did Bill make it better or just make it different. Dunno. But of all the chapters, this is the most heavily edited.

    I agree with the condescending attitude in "To Wives". I watched an old interview with Bill and Lois and you want to smack the guy. Yet, all this still doesn't take away from the good he accomplished.

  15. I'd break my anonymity if I thought it might help. I don't have any anonymity at my job anyway.

    Yeah, Bill treated his wife like shit. But before I get down on him for that, I should remember I treated my wife like shit too. Only difference is that she left.

  16. I met my first wife at a bar... as I wasn't a regular church-goer at the time.

    In time, I got sober and then she left me.

    I thought Lois had it goin' on back in the Harley days. She looked like a wild POA to me.

  17. Patrick, love the new pic. You can dress a guy up, but.....

  18. Bill W is to Alcoholics what Paul was to the Gentiles. The message was not original to Bill, it came from Frank Buckman's spiritual awaking brought about by a talk he heard given by a women at a religious convention in Keswick England 1908. Buckman, having resigned from his own ministry due to a resentment towards the board before having the spiritual rebirth, took what he heard, incorporated more ideas from a book about the sermon on the mount and essentially collated those principles into the simple program that Bill borrowed from the Oxford movement. In writing the Big Book Bill also borrowed ideas from several authors including the Bible.

    I'm very grateful for the work that Bill did as well as many other heroes who carried this same simple message. Ebby, with 2 1/2 months of sobriety, carried the simple message, the "spark" that ignited Bill and continues to shine the light on people in 200+ different brands of 12 step programs.

    Never forget, "the river bed is not the river".


  19. Nice info Colter.

    Weren't the OGs trying to get back to 1st Century Christianity?

  20. Hi McGowdog,

    Yes, the OG's were people that were searching for God but found all the theology, dogma and ritualism in Christianity generally cumbersome. Buckman's simple ideas of absolute surrender to God, guidance by 'The Holy Spirit", confession, restitution, prayer and a dedication to serve others to be like rain on parched earth. The OG's corner stone was that "self" needed to change and that could change the world.

    Bill W and the editorial contributions of other sober OG's like Dr Bob and the three Akronites that sat at his kitchen table and went over the original manuscript line by line as well as the progressives in NY, they all served to fine tune and greatly enhance what the Holy Spirit gave them. That became the Big Book. Praise be to God!

    Im not an AA historian, but I did stay at a Holiday Inne Express last night :)


  21. Well it's good to see another on the path.

    It's good to hear some of this history from a positive light for a change.

    I don't recall why the A.A. groups and the OG had a falling out or in what time frame this happened. What happened to Frank Buckman as time passed?

  22. There are different accounts but I would say aside from the personality issues of Bill Wilson the split was inevitable, the "alcoholic contingent" as the it was known, were becoming somewhat of a stigma within the OG. In NY the drunks would meet separately following the regular OG meeting at Stewart's Cafeteria. In Akron the drunks would eventually move out of T. Henry's living room and to the King School.

    The OG's continued on becoming more pretentious and for "high society" folks. Buckman ran into some issues when he appeared to endorse the Nazis, though his words were taken out of context. Oxford University compelled the OG's to drop the name, they became "Moral Re-rearmament" and still exist today.

    Now, about "the split", I will allow Wiki to characterize:

    The Wilsons' practice of hosting meetings solely for alcoholics, separate from the general Oxford Group meetings, generated criticism within the New York Oxford Group. Oxford Group members believed the Wilsons' sole focus on alcoholics caused them to ignore what else they could be doing for the Oxford Group. While Sam Shoemaker was on vacation, members of the Oxford Group declared the Wilsons not "Maximum," and members were advised not to attend the Wilsons' meetings. In 1937 the Wilsons broke with the Oxford Group. According to the Oxford Group, Wilson quit; according to Lois Wilson, they "were kicked out." Wilson later wrote that he found the Oxford Group aggressive in their evangelism. He objected to the group's publicity-seeking and intolerance of nonbelievers, and those alcoholics who were practicing Catholics found their views to be in conflict with the Oxford teachings. On a personal level, while Wilson was in the Oxford Group he was constantly checked by its members for his smoking and womanizing. The alcoholics within the Akron group did not break away from the Oxford Group there until 1939. Their break was not from a need to be free of the Oxford Group; it was an action taken to show solidarity with their brethren in New York.[45][46]


  23. So, Willie's womanizing didn't sit well during "Absolute Purity Day"?

  24. Clarence Snyder had another explanation for the split between the alcoholics and the Oxford Group. At the time, the Catholic Church (specifically a parish priest in Cleveland) forbade its members from joining the OG, so the Catholic alcoholics were SOL. They couldn't get to the meetings in Akron.

    Clarence tells the story that he brought this to Bill's attention and was pretty much told that it wasn't their problem.

    Clarence, being the crusty guy that he was, announced, on 10 May 1939, that a meeting of alcoholic OG members would be held in Cleveland, at the home of Abby G.. It was to be called Alcoholics Anonymous. You can read the rest of the story in "Not God, A history of Alcoholics Anonymous".

  25. LOL! Yes, Bill's "un-maximum-ness" didn't impress the OG's. And I'm sure it didn't help that he showed up drunk at one of the first OG meetings he attended.

    Considering what the OG was and how AA has evolved, my feeling is that we over specialize in "not drinking". This overemphasis can be realized when one attends an Alanon meeting.


  26. I don't know any other way to contact you.

    I was wondering if you would like to become an author here.

    If so, you can email me. It would work best if you have some "anonymous" type gmail account.

    If not, that's cool. It's good to get your participation here. Several of us are the refuge of the unwelcoming anti/XAers and the unwelcoming MOTR AAers. From what I can tell, we all are part of the "5-%ers".

  27. Just checking, are you asking me? Colter?


  28. Sure, I'm honored to be asked. My X used to say "you can write but you just can't spelll". Is there a topic that you had in mind? I have a recent piece that I did for our local news letter. I can dig that up.

  29. I need you to email me your gmail addr, then I send you a request from here, then when you accept the request, you hit the New Post icon on the top of the page, and you're off and running.