“Read the Book…”
It is Thursday and a whole bunch of us played hookey from St. Matthias tonight to go see “The Bill W” story at Cinema du Parc. My sponsor, myself and another friend headed out early because traffic was a beast, but we still got there early.
The theatre is a quaint little building with two screening rooms, a small sugar shack for candies and popcorn. I noticed out front of our hall that public information had set up a kiosk with pamphlets and questionnaires for folks attending the showing.
The film is doing so good that they are extending the run through next week.
While we were waiting for the film to start a gaggle of women from our home group showed up along with other members we see at other meetings.
The film was a documentary about the founder of Alcoholics Anonymous, Bill W. and I had read a great deal about his life from our library of old timer literature which I have written about here on numerous occasions.
There were members who spoke on camera and historians who had written books on topics like Bill, and other assorted titles. They gave perspective to the story and members shared bits and pieces from their own stories interjected here and there.
But seeing actual film and photos from the early days, from the 1920’s all the way through Bill and Lois’s lifetime was nice. They spent a great deal telling the story of how the Book came to be and how it was financed and how much trouble there was in the beginning – but in time it all worked out.
They went on to tell of group consciences that caused folks problems and issues with the movement because as of yet the traditions had not been written. And there were problems like (for example) a group in Virginia had members who drank during meetings, (I laughed out loud), and another issue was in the days past people of color showed up at meetings and were asked to leave the meetings because of their skin color. Eventually the group took a second vote and admitted them to meetings as “observers.”
Hence the traditions came to be and the groups were taught the 12 traditions that have held the fellowship together for more than 70 years.
It was said of Bill, that he was / is a genius. A man who changed the face of the 20th century in founding our movement and the lives he saved through his work.
The 12 steps – Bill wrote sitting in bed with a pencil and a yellow notepad. The original steps from the (Oxford group) were six in total and now grew to 12, Bill mused that 12 was providential in religious and spiritual circles.
The steps kept us on the path and later the traditions would keep the groups on the path. The divinely inspired notion of “god as we understood him” was a strike of genius. The reach of this notion was widespread.
Many discussions were had by the early members over the wording and verbiage of the passages from the book. And since their writing, hasn’t been changed since.
A good amount of work went into writing chapter 5 – How It Works. This was the script of what A.A. is, how it works, speaks of the suffering alcoholic and explains through the steps how we might recover from this disease of body and mind.
Once the movement got started and began to mushroom out all over the U.S. and later across Canada and then the world, the publishing and dissemination of our literature grew exponentially.
The movement would grow to the point that Bill came to the decision that A.A. would have to be handed back over to the members because Bill and Lois, were living lives in the public and people held them both in highest esteem. And Bill could never escape the needs of so many groups of drunks.
A major theme that comes out of this problem for Bill was that of depression. If you read any historical material on Bill, you will have read that he suffered almost unending deep and dark depression from which he thought he would never recover. But things like LSD and Vitamin B3, were experimental drugs to help cure alcoholism and depression.
Bill had help in a small group of people who worked with him. It was hard in the 1920’s through the 1940’s to get the word out when poverty was a national problem. Bill and Lois lost their home, at one point, and relied on the good graces of members to find places to live and cars to drive.
Towards the end of Bill’s life he was faced with the fact that he wanted to go back to his human life and not be such a “deity” in the eyes of the members. He was stuck on a pedestal that members had place him on and it was such hardship for him – he wanted us to take the reins and let him go be just Bill …
On January 24th, 1971 Bill died at the Miami Heart Institute. He had addressed the Miami A.A. conference with a few short words, but was returned to the hospital where he died later that day.
Over 2 million people are counted in our numbers, in hundreds of languages and located in countries and territories all over the world. And it all came down to this one man, Bill Wilson.
We owe him and Lois a debt of gratitude for their work and their lives and testimony. Because had Bill not had that spiritual experience and meet the men he met in his life, A.A. would never have gotten off the ground.
There are scattered all over this blog articles and writings that I have written over the years that give testimony of how A.A. found it’s legs, who helped pass the message and those who were responsible for the spreading of the A.A. message.
The old timers would tell you to Keep Coming Back…
The book says “I earnestly advise every alcoholic to read this book through (the Big Book) and though perhaps he came to scoff, he may remain to pray.”
William D. Silkworth, M.D.