Is Bill Wilson still relevant?

Probably one of the most common struggles of people who attempt to read and comprehend Alcoholics Anonymous is how dated Bill Wilson’s story appears. After all, Bill is a white, middle-aged, married stock-broker-turned-golf-enthusiast living in New York during the 1920’s. Many people have questioned whether he’s outdated or even irrelevant. Myself included.

If you’re already familiar with my story, you know I got sober at the age of 20.  I found very little in Bill’s Story which resonated with me.  It wasn’t until someone taught me how to look, that I was able to appreciate two aspects of Bill’s Story which I believe make him relevant to EVERY alcoholic regardless of age, race, creed, etc…

I’ll touch on that in a moment, but first I’d like to share something else that’s personal with you.

I’ve always had above average intelligence.  I’ve been I.Q. tested twice with a score in the upper 140’s (that’s near genius according to some people).  As such, reading comprehension as never been a problem for me.  I read at a six grade level while only in third grade, I’ve been known to read dictionaries for fun, and, to this day, I still enjoy diagramming sentences.  Nerdy, I know…. and not even in a cool way.

Now, I don’t share any of this to impress you, but simply to impress upon you the significance of what I’m about to say:


That’s right. I couldn’t make heads or tails of it.  That’s because the Alcoholics Anonymous: The Story of How Many Thousands of Men and Women Have Recovered from Alcoholism is ultimately a text book (it’s preface tells us so), and, like any text book worth it’s salt, it is nearly impossible to make much use of it without a teacher.

Which is one of the reasons I created Big Book Wizard and, more specifically, the new online big book study Monday Morning Magic.

( By the way, if you’re interested in joining us and/or receiving the study notes CLICK HERE TO JOIN THE GUEST LIST )

…But I digress.

Last week we started Bill’s Story and, as part of the aforementioned study notes, I sent the following pointers to my Guest List members.  I found them critically useful in helping myself and others relate to Bill Wilson.  These are:

The Two Ways Every Alcoholic Relates to Bill Wilson

  • Bill’s drinks whether times are good or bad.  He drinks while he’s in war.  He drinks when he returns home.  He drinks when he flunks out of law school.  He drinks when he makes millions on wall street.  He drinks when he loses said millions.  He drinks when he gets a second chance, etc…
  • Bill’s drinking becomes progressively worse.  Here I don’t mean the external factors of his life (joblessness, homelessness, etc..), although he certainly experiences his share of those.  Instead  I mean to point out Bill’s drinking goes from “taking an important an exhilarating part” in Bill’s life, to liquor ceasing to be a luxury, and culminating in “alcohol was my master.”

Even at the age of 20, I could identify these two patterns.  The details may have differed, but I could see these two similarities — the similarities which matter most.

Ever feel concerned about your recovery?

I’ve developed a printable checklist to help you stay mindful of your efforts.  

One Comment on “Is Bill Wilson still relevant?

  1. Hi again,
    Sorry to be so ‘responsive’. (I’m not really…lol) I have a lot of free time on my hand this morning and way too much coffee…
    Now with this one, I must disagree- respectfully so. ‘Bill’s Story’ was about the only thing I could relate with and find comfort in when I first came in. Probably not the healthiest thing, but one must admit, a lot of ‘oneupsmanship’ can be found ‘in the rooms’, or more accurately ‘onedownmanship’. “Yeah, you think that’s bad, I’m such an alcoholic that I…..”
    Big Book says, point blank, if you’ve ever had the phenomena of craving, you’re an alcoholic. Period. As far as ‘how far down the scale we’ve gone’, it’s rather inconsequential, except we are able to utilize this by helping ‘raise the bottom’ to help others hopefully not have to go to the depths that some of us had, as found in the 12 & 12, page 23.
    In my very first meeting of AA, a girl who had 8 years of sobriety and then lost it; got drunk, got in a car accident, killed two of her children in doing to and paralyzed half of her body, said to me with great anger an fervor combined, “Ron, as bad as it got for you ‘out there’, you CAN’T imagine how bad it can get.”
    I’ve abundantly supported the prophesy in my own struggles both within and without of AA.
    I hope I never forget these words.
    To me, this is the exact sentiment that ‘Bills Story’ whispers and screams to me, simultaneously.
    Bill didn’t have the option of going into a 28 day program. He didn’t have ‘Antabuse’ or ‘Vivitrol’ or Intensive Outpatient. Bill had death to look forward to. And eventually welcomed the idea. Bill’s Story, to me, is both a horror story, and a story of pure, unadulterated, unsolicited hope. “Hey, look guys. We don’t have to die today in our own vomit. We found a way out!”
    And as far as the ‘old fashioned’ language or points of reference, the ‘antiquity’ of them both comfort me and assure me, as ‘smart’ as I think I am, as ‘worldly’ and ‘technologically advanced’ we think we might be, my story can’t hold a candle to Bills.
    And please don’t take this as a slight. It’s certainly not meant to be. You got sober when you were 20? Which means, even if you started drinking ‘alcoholically’ by the time you were 3, your story doesn’t hold a candle to his either. Again, I mean no disrespect by that.
    I for one, do not ‘worship’ or ‘idolize’ our founders, or AA as a whole for that matter. The problem with Alcoholics Anonymous is that, well, its filled with Alcoholics. But I don’t disrespect them either. I, too, have a heightened IQ, or at least, I used to.. But my own intellect, experience and ‘enlightened’ perspective pales in comparison pales to those who have painstakingly forged the path that I am now on. Bill was, by his own admission ‘plagued by waves of self-pity and resentment’ for an elongated period of time in his sobriety. When that happened, he would find a hospital and a dying alcoholic to ‘work with’. Me, I go to a meeting a whine about it, maybe do some service work, make some coffee.
    I have it good.

    Thanks again for your toil. I appreciate you ‘service’.
    Ron B

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