Bill W.: A Biography of Alcoholics Anonymous Cofounder Bill Wilson

Macmillan, Oct 12, 2001 - 256 páginas
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When Bill Wilson, with his friend Dr. Bob Smith, founded Alcoholics Anonymous in 1935, his hope was that AA would become a safe haven for those who suffered from this disease. Thirty years after his death, AA continues to help millions of alcoholics recover from what had been commonly regarded as a hopeless addiction. Still, while Wilson was a visionary for millions, he was no saint. After cofounding Alcoholics Anonymous, he stayed sober for over thirty-five years, helping countless thousands rebuild their lives. But at the same time, Wilson suffered form debilitating bouts of clinical depression, was a womanizer, and experimented with LSD.

Francis Hartigan, the former secretary and confidant to Wilson's wife, Lois, has exhaustively researched his subject, writing with a complete insider's knowledge. Drawing on extensive interviews with Lois Wilson and scores of early members of AA, he fully explores Wilson's organizational genius, his devotion to the cause, and almost martyr-like selflessness. That Wilson, like all of us, had to struggle with his own personal demons makes this biography all the more moving and inspirational. Hartigan reveals the story of Wilson's life to be as humorous, horrific, and powerful as any of the AA vignettes told daily around the world.


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BILL W.: A Biography of Alcoholics Anonymous Co-Founder Bill Wilson

Crítica de los usuarios  - Kirkus

A readable, informative, succinct, respectful, but nonreverential biography of Bill Wilson (1895-1971), the guiding spirit and organizer of Alcoholics Anonymous, the hugely successful (millions of ... Leer comentario completo

Bill W.: a biography of Alcoholics Anonymous cofounder Bill Wilson

Crítica de los usuarios  - Not Available - Book Verdict

This intensely personal biography of Bill Wilson and the worldwide organization he cofounded looks at the man and the movement from the inside out. Hartigan, former secretary to Wilson's wife, Lois ... Leer comentario completo


The Poster Boy
In This Corner
Powering Up
Trying Harder
Its Over
Loyalty Beyond Measure
On the Street
Spreading the News
Works Publishing
From Manuscript to Book
Settling In
The Blackness Returns
Spiritual Explorations

What Was It?
The Crusaders
A New Man
The Meeting
The Manager
Two Programs
The Steps Revisited
The Other Woman
Expanding Horizons
Where to Find Help
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Acerca del autor (2001)

Bill W.
1 IN THIS CORNER The thing people who knew Bill Wilson seem to admire the most about him was his mind. Bill was a highly intelligent and talented individual with an eclectic approach to problem solving. He was unhesitant about taking what already existed and adapting it to suit his purpose. He was also capable of engaging in an extended process of profound, original thinking. When something interested him, he was a prodigiously hard worker, but he had a seemingly constitutional inability to behave like other people. If you needed someone who could show up every day and do what needed to be done, Bill Wilson was not your man. Whenever this was required of him, he failed. Lois was in many ways Bill''s opposite. He was well over six feet tall, while she barely topped five. Bill was all length and lean, while Lois, always more filled out than he was, in her middle years tended to be stout. Both had brilliant, iconoclastic minds and a quick and original sense of humor. Both were very good people. Bill was born November 26, 1895, Lois March 4, 1891, and in some ways they were products more of the nineteenth century than of the twentieth. They were fiercely ambitious, but for them, doing well had little to do with material success. For Bill Wilson and for Lois Burnham Wilson, the doing well that truly mattered was the result of good works. Bill was compulsive, given to emotional extremes. Even after he stopped drinking, he was still a heavy consumer of cigarettes and coffee. He had a sweet tooth, a large appetite for sex, a major enthusiasm for LSD, and, later, for niacin, a B-complex vitamin. Lois was, by nature, abstentious. Although no one would accuse her of being plodding, she was nothing if not steady. She never smoked, had virtually no interest in sweets, drank two cups of coffee a day, never slept with any man except Bill, and gave up sex altogether with menopause. When Bill joined with Gerald Heard, Aldous Huxley, and others in their early experiments with LSD, Lois didn''t have the slightest curiosity about it. When at Bill''s urging she finally took LSD herself, she claimed not to have felt a thing. Of those who witnessed her one attempt at tripping, only Bill, who desperately wanted her to experience what he was, ever contradicted her version of the event. Lois drank, but her idea of drinking was to have a scotch and water, orin the summer months a gin and tonic, before dinner. The only time she or anyone else could recall her ever getting drunk was when she did so deliberately, in an attempt to show Bill how ridiculous he looked when he was. When, at the age of ninety-five, her doctor told her that she would be better off if she did not drink at all, she stopped completely and never looked back. Lois''s steadiness did not keep her from being an interesting and engaging woman, with a willingness to flout convention that was every bit a match for her husband''s. She had her enthusiasms, but they were as unvarying as her devotion to Bill. Perhaps the biggest way in which Bill and Lois differed had to do with their backgrounds. Anyone who cared to could justifiably accuse Lois of marrying below her class. Bill was always very much aware of this, but he was neither as lowborn nor as uncultured as he felt himself to be. Lois''s family never regarded him as their inferior. On the contrary, they welcomed him into the fold and treated him like one of their own. Bill came from a long line of "real" Vermonters, Vermont born and bred. His father''s family had for generations worked in the marble quarries of Mount Aeolus as foremen and managers. His father''s father, William Wilson, Bill''s namesake, had married into another old Vermont family, the Barrows. Several generations earlier, a Barrows had built the largest house in East Dorset, a small town halfway between Rutland and Bennington in southwestern Vermont. Bill''s great-grandfather Barrows converted the house to an inn that functioned as the community''s social center. The Wilson family was known to produce great "public" people. Wilsons were pleasant and sociable, great storytellers, and widely admired, but they were not good at more intimate relationships. The same alcohol that made them outgoing with strangers or casual acquaintances seemed to leave them incapable of admitting the need for, let alone sustaining, deeper human contacts. Bill''s paternal grandfather renamed the Barrows House the Wilson House, now famous in AA circles as the birthplace of Bill W. Bill saw a lot of his paternal grandfather, William Wilson, and his paternal grandmother, Helen Wilson. In time, Bill would have more in common with his grandfather Wilson than his name. As the highest point visible from East Dorset, Mount Aeolus had great symbolic value. Bill said one of his early recollections was of looking up from his crib, seeing the "vast and mysterious" mountain, and wondering whether he would ever climb that high. Many years later, in attempting to describe the spiritual conversion he had experienced in December 1934, Bill said he "felt lifted up, as though the great clean wind of a mountain top blew through and through." Bill''s grandfather Wilson also linked Mount Aeolus to a profound spiritualexperience. William Wilson may have preferred inn keeping to quarrying, but inn keeping is seldom the right occupation for a hard-drinking man. His attempts to control his drinking led him to try Temperance pledges and the services of revival-tent preachers. Then, in a desperate state one Sunday morning, he climbed to the top of Mount Aeolus. There, after beseeching God to help him, he saw a blinding light and felt the wind of the Spirit. It was a conversion experience that left him feeling so transformed that he practically ran down the mountain and into town. When he reached the East Dorset Congregational Church, which is across the street from the Wilson House, the Sunday service was in progress. Bill''s grandfather stormed into the church and demanded that the minister get down from the pulpit. Then, taking his place, he proceeded to relate his experience to the shocked congregation. Wilson''s grandfather never drank again. He was to live another eight years, sober. Bill''s mother''s family included doctors, lawyers, teachers, and storekeepers. At the turn of the century, about three hundred people lived in East Dorset, many of them in houses owned by Gardiner Fayette Griffith, Bill''s maternal grandfather, who was known as Fayette. Fayette''s cousin, Silas Griffith, made his fortune in lumbering and was Vermont''s first millionaire. Fayette himself had gone into lumbering, importing lumberjacks from Canada to harvest hardwoods in the mountains near East Dorset. His other interests included farming and real estate. He even owned East Dorset''s water supply. Bill''s grandmother Ella Griffith was a much less forceful personality than her husband, but she was kind and loving toward Bill. Clarence Griffith, Bill''s uncle, had died the year before Bill was born, and Bill seems to have played a surrogate role for the senior Griffiths. Fayette doted on Bill''s every accomplishment and saw to it that he had everything a boy could possibly desire, including his own horse and, unusual for the time, a motorcycle. Fayette also provided Bill with a kit from which he built one of the first crystal radio sets in Vermont. Fayette was a great reader, and he encouraged his grandson''s interest in reading. Bill would later recall going on "reading jags" at an early age, during which he would go to bed more to read than to sleep. Fayette also tried to impart to Bill his own strong work ethic. Bill worked on his grandfather''s dairy farm, made maple syrup every spring, and became skilled enough in woodworking to make his own bows and arrows, skis, and sleds. He also tried unsuccessfully to build a glider, in imitation of the Wright Brothers. Bill''s father, Gilman Wilson, and his mother, Emily Griffith, were widely liked and admired. They had known each other all their lives, and they had a lot in common, including exceptional intelligence and ambition. Giventhe limited extent of their acquaintance with the world beyond Dorset Township, their marriage seemed inevitable. But as uncommon as divorce was in that time and place, they found it as inevitable when their differences began to grate. Some people can truthfully say of one of their parents that he or she was not the sort of person who should have had children. In Bill''s case, this seems to have been true of both his parents, for they seem always to have been more interested in their own lives than they were in Bill''s or his sister''s. Their marriage was a stormy one. After their divorce when Bill was eleven, his father took a job in western Canada, and Bill did not see or hear from his father for nine years. His mother, who had been absent for extended periods, moved to Boston to study and practice medicine, leaving Bill and his sister, Dorothy, an intelligent and pretty girl several years his junior, with her parents. Bill saw very little of his mother after that. Understandably, both his parents'' behavior toward him marked him in ways that would affect him the rest of his life. Bill''s family did not have the educational background Lois''s did, but his father had been to college, and his mother was a teacher before she married. The Griffiths lived next door to the town library, and Bill had free run of it. Bill was exposed to music at an early age, and his family encouraged his aptitude for science and invention. While he began his education in the two-room schoolhouse in East Dorset, from age eight to age eleven, he also attended school in the nearby Vermont city of Rutland when his

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