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.