La Hacienda's Treatment and Recovery Blog

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What Bill W and Dr. Bob Did Matters

By Chris Raymer

Act as if what you do matters. Why? Because it does.  –William James

December 11 marks the day Bill Wilson, co-founder of  alcoholics Anonymous, took his last drink in 1934 when he was 39. After finishing  a final beer, he entered Towns Hospital for the last time. (Depending on who  you talk to, it was his third or fourth trip to treatment.)

Carrying two philosophy books (including William James’  Varieties of Religious Experience)  and the simple willingness to follow some suggestions, he started the life-changing  journey so many of us–millions of us– have undertaken.

A  Friend’s Advice

Ebby Thatcher, one of Bill’s old drinking buddies, had  contacted him two weeks earlier to discuss Ebby’s new-found sobriety. Only  sober two months, Ebby believed what he had learned from Rowland Hazard could  help Bill as well.

Ebby outlined for Bill a simple spiritual program of action  that was to become the basis of hundreds of 12 step fellowships.

With Ebby’s help, Bill W worked the steps, emphasizing  the need to work with other alcoholics to  grow spiritually. Yep, there was the key to it all: self-sacrifice for others!

A  Fateful Meeting

Bill left treatment and immediately started trying to  help other alcoholics. Six months sober but facing relapse, he met our other  co-founder, Dr. Bob Smith. Here’s Bill’s description of the occasion from Language of the Heart:

“I found myself in Akron, Ohio, on a business venture which promptly  collapsed. Alone in the town, I was scared to death of getting drunk. I was no  longer a teacher or a preacher; I was an  alcoholic who knew that he needed another alcoholic, as much as that one could possibly need me. Driven by that urge, I  was soon face to face with Dr. Bob.”

Dr. Bob promised a “short” visit with Bill, but it  turned into an intense five-hour conversation!

After a brief relapse, Dr. Bob had his last drink on  June 10, 1935, now recognized as AA’s birthday.

An Amazing Legacy

None of these fine folks could have known that their  willingness to help others would lead to so many changed lives! Not only did  they impact countless alcoholics who would live  but also the millions of family members harmed by our disease.

So many of us are alive today because these guys took  the actions necessary to pass it on. Breathtaking to realize  we are all a part of this legacy, each in our way.

Happy anniversary, Bill!

Chris  Raymer rejoins the La Hacienda staff this week as Recovery Community Director.