Bill Wilson (1895 – 1971) was the co-founder of Alcoholics Anonymous (A.A.). A.A. describes itself as “an international fellowship of men and women who have had a drinking problem. It is nonprofessional, self-supporting, multiracial, apolitical, and available almost everywhere. There are no age or education requirements. Membership is open to anyone who wants to do something about his or her drinking problem.” In a 2016 report on addiction, The United States Surgeon General stated that, “Well-supported scientific evidence demonstrates the effectiveness of twelve-step mutual aid groups focused on alcohol and twelve-step facilitation interventions.”
A 1995 article in “The New Yorker”, “A.A. AT THE CROSSROADS”, described Bill Wilson’s situation just before his experience: “It was in the detox hospital in 1934 that Bill first arrived at [the] difficult knowledge [that alcoholics shut themselves off from the sunlight of the Spirit]. The epiphany came as his doctors were putting him through the usual regimen: sedating him with belladonna and purging him with castor oil. (Medicine had – and has – made little progress in treating alcoholism since the eighteenth century, when the pioneer physician Benjamin Rush treated a man “habitually fond of ardent spirits” by mixing tarter emetic with his rum.) Left to endure the craving and the cramps in a room that had been cleared of potential suicide instruments, Bill had the experience that broke the cycle:
“My depression deepened unbearably and finally it seemed to me as though I were at the bottom of the pit. I still gagged badly on the notion of a Power greater than myself, but finally, just for the moment, the last vestige of my proud obstinacy was crushed. All at once I found myself crying out, “If there is a God, let Him show Himself! I am ready to do anything, anything!”
Suddenly the room lit up with a great white light. I was caught up into an ecstasy which there are no words to describe. It seemed to me, in the mind’s eye, that I was on a mountain and that a wind not of air but of spirit was blowing. And then it burst upon me that I was a free man. Slowly the ecstasy subsided. I was in another world, a new world of consciousness. All about me and through me there was a wonderful feeling of Presence, and I thought to myself, “So this is the God of the preachers!”
Quoted from “A.A. AT THE CROSSROADS”, “The New Yorker”, March 20, 1995 Issue, by Andrew Delbanco and Thomas Delbanco.
Photo Credit: Bill Wilson (1958) by “Mel B.” of Toledo, Ohio, from www.wilsonhouse.org.
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