December 11, 1934: William Griffith Wilson enters rehab. Known as Bill, he was born in 1895 at his parents’ home/business called the Mount Aeolus Inn and Tavern. Both parents abandoned the young boy and his sister and they were raised by their maternal grandparents. His paternal grandfather was an alcoholic who never again took a drink after a conversion experience. Bill did well in school and was a determined teenager, but at the age of 17 suffered a deep depression after his girlfriend died from complications of surgery. He met his future wife in 1913 and they were engaged after two years of dating. He went to Norwich University and dropped out after another bout of depression, this time accompanied by panic attacks. He reentered the university and when Pancho Villa entered into US territory, his class was mobilized as part of the Vermont National Guard.
While training for military action, Bill and his comrades were invited into local homes. It was there he had his first drink, which was a beer. There was little effect, but a few weeks later he drank something stronger and found it made him less awkward and shy and he ended up drunk. A few weeks later and he was drinking so much me passed out. He married just before he left to serve in World War I and after the war went to live in New York. He failed to graduated from law school because he was often too drunk to finish the work. He became a stock speculator and found some success, only to lose it all again as his drinking began to interfere with his work.
In 1933, Bill was committed to the Charles B. Towns Hospital for Drug and Alcohol Addictions in New York City. Not once, but four times during that one year. He was under the treatment of Dr. William Silkworth whose theory was that alcoholism was a matter of physical and mental collapse with the patient succumbing to a craving. It was an allergic reaction to alcohol and an obsession with booze. The doctor led Bill to the conclusion that his drinking was a medical problem and not a moral failing, something rather new. In November 1934, Bill met a friend who had been sober for weeks while being helped by the Christian Oxford Group. Bill was interested, but unable to dry out and he was once again soon admitted to Towns Hospital on this date.
Bill was treated with The Belladonna Cure and had a spiritual conversion. He stopped drinking but the temptation didn’t go away. While on a business trip in Akron, Ohio he was seriously considering a drink when he called another alcoholic in order to gain the strength to resist the urge to drink. He eventually turned this concept into Alcoholics Anonymous whose 12 step program has recovering drinkers lean on a higher power and on each other. Bill never had another drink in his life although in his later years, he rarely attended AA meetings as he did not want to speak as the co-founder. He remained a heavy smoker all his life and suffered from lung disease. He died in 1971 at the age of 75 from emphysema complicated by pneumonia. In 1999, Time listed him as one of the most important people of the century.
I had found the elixir of life. (the first time he got drunk)
Even that first evening I got thoroughly drunk, and within the next time or two I passed out completely. But as everyone drank hard, not too much was made of that.
I’ll do anything! Anything at all! If there be a God, let Him show Himself! (during his Belladonna Cure)
Therefore, we did not wish to get in wrong with the medical profession by pronouncing alcoholism a disease entity. Hence, we have always called it an illness or a malady—a far safer term for us to use. – all from Bill W.
Also on this day: What Would You Do for Love? – In 1936, King Edward VIII of England abdicated to be free to marry Wallis Simpson.
Rewriting History – In 2006, Holocaust revisionists met in Tehran, Iran.
UNICEF – In 1946, UNICEF was established.
Indiana – In 1816, Indiana was admitted to the Union.
King’s Treason – In 1792, King Louis XVI of France was charged with treason.