A.A. Member Writings

A.A. Member Writings

A Most Important Piece of Paper

Towns Hospital

The afternoon of December 11th, 1934, at the age of 39, Bill Wilson staggered up the steps and through the doors of Charles R. Towns Hospital, 293 Central Park West, NY, NY for the last time as an inebriated drunk, waving his last bottle of beer at Dr. "Silky" Silkworth as he was met in the hall. He had been there two times previously to dry out. Bill was admitted at 2:10pm, and so began the history of Alcoholics Anonymous in Sobriety. From that moment Bill never took another drink of alcohol. That beginning is recorded for all time on this piece of paper.


Towns Hospital Record of Admission and Discharge of Wm. G. Wilson

It also records for posterity the time frame of Bill's spiritual awakening that began the process of Bill recognizing the importance of carrying the message of sobriety to other drunks in order to stay sober himself.

Ebby Thatcher, an old drinking buddy, now sober, had visited Bill in his kitchen in November 1934, had explained the Oxford Group teachings to Bill, who was drinking at the time, and planted the seed that would grow into Alcoholics Anonymous. What Ebby conveyed to Bill is the basis of what we know today as the 12 Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous.

"I learned that I had to admit I was licked; I learned that I ought to take stock of myself and confess my defects to another person in confidence; I learned that I needed to make restitution for the harm I had done others. I was told I ought to practice the kind of giving that has no price tag on it, the giving of myself to somebody. Now, I know you are going to gag on this, but they taught me to pray to whatever God I thought there was for the power to carry out these simple precepts. And if I did not believe there was any God, then I had better try the experiment of praying to whatever God there might be. And you know, Bill, it's a queer thing, but even before I had done all this, just as soon as I decided that I would try with an open mind, it seemed to me that my drinking problem was lifted right out of me." - AA Comes of Age, 58-59.

And now, a few weeks later, Bill found himself once again in the hospital for alcoholism, totally inebriated and helpless, suffering through the barbiturate and belladonna "purge and puke" treatment of that day for drying out a drunk.

He had been in bed a short while he heard the doctor talking to Lois by the door, saying that if her husband came out of this episode and did drink again, he did not honestly believe he would live six months. When he heard these words he was immediately carried back to his talk with his friend Ebby and could not dismiss the idea that although Ebby might be batty with religion, he was sober and he was happy. He kept turning this over in his mind, in a mild delirium, and came to a vague conclusion that maybe Ebby did have something in a man's helping others in order to get away from his own obsessions and problems.

On his second day at Towns, Ebby, still sober, visited Bill, once again laying out what he had previously told Bill, then left. Struggling with his helplessness and his ego, sinking into a deep depression of incomprehensible demoralization, Bill finally surrendered the evening of the 14th, and the Spiritual Experience occurred, freeing not only Bill from the grips of Alcoholism, but countless millions of us down through the years to the present day.

The following day, Ebby brought Bill a copy of William James' Varieties of Religious Experience and Bill devoured it, discovering the answer to, and significance of, his Spiritual Experience. Complete hopelessness, deflation at depth, and total surrender to a Power that none of us understand, and then it happens! The result of One Alcoholic talking to Another! The carrying of the 12th Step Message! That without each other, without continued surrender to our Higher Power, without continued practice of the Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous, we are doomed to insanity, incarceration and death! There is no reprieve through our own will power!

Bill was released the morning of the 18th of December, immediately associated himself with the Oxford Groups, immediately began the practice of the steps and working with other alcoholics, a practice that continued for his lifetime, until his death January 24, 1971. He carried the message to my prime sponsors, Tex R., Cliff W., Chuck C., in the process, so that I too would hear the message and would recover from the alcoholic's seemingly hopeless state of mind and body.

So many times since then recovered alcoholics have repeated this message to newcomers:

"The power and ways are given to us to be passed on to others. To think or do anything else is pure selfishness. We only keep them and get more by giving them away, and if we do not give them away, we lose them. What I have done, you can do too . . . if you live as I have lived in sobriety and do as I have done, applying the 12 Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous to my life in all my affairs."

Yes, that is a most important piece of paper, for from it, nearly 40 years later, began my life in sobriety, February 28, 1974. A wonderful sober life of 12331 One Days At A Time 'til today. I am most grateful.

From the website of Barefoot's World

 

Back to Table of Contents


In practicing our Traditions, Alcoholics Anonymous World Services, Inc. has neither endorsed nor are they affiliated with Silkworth.net. Alcoholics Anonymous®, AA®, and the Big Book® are registered trademarks of Alcoholics Anonymous World Services, Inc.