Step people who study A.A.'s Big
Book are, of course, familiar with
Bill Wilson's medical mentor, Dr.
William Duncan Silkworth. Bill called
him the benign "little doctor
who loved drunks." Silkworth,
a psychiatrist, had treated thousands
of alcoholics and was director of
Towns Hospital in New York where
Bill had several times sought help.
Though Silkworth had explained the
disease of alcoholism to Bill, Bill
continued to drink until he met
his "sponsor" Ebby Thacher,
who had recovered through the spiritual
program of the Oxford Group. Ebby
had also gone to Calvary Rescue
Mission, run by Dr. Sam Shoemaker's
Calvary Episcopal Church in New
York; and Ebby had there made a
decision for Christ. Wilson went
there for the same purpose and,
according to a conversation the
author had with Dr. Shoemaker's
widow (Helen Smith Shoemaker), Bill
Wilson made a decision for Christ
at the Rescue Mission. Bill stayed
drunk for a few days and then checked
into Towns Hospital and again sought
help from Dr. Silkworth. And it
was during this stay, that Bill
took the life-changing steps of
the Oxford Group, had his "hot
flash experience," reported
it to Dr. Silkworth, and was told
by Silkworth that he (Bill) had
better hang on to what had happened
to him. Silkworth later was asked
to write the "Doctor's Opinion"
that opens the basic text of the
Big Book. Silkworth's picture appears
in A.A.'s Pass It On, the biography
of Bill's life.
before his death, the author spent
an hour with Dr. Norman Vincent
Peale, friend of A.A., the Rev.
Sam Shoemaker, and Bill Wilson.
Dr. Peale told me of the conversations
he had with Bill Wilson about Bill's
conversion. However, until 1997,
I had never heard the following
account by Peale about Dr. William
Duncan Silkworth. It can be found
in Norman Vincent Peale, The Positive
Power of Jesus Christ (New York:
Foundation for Christian Living,
1980), pp. 60-61. It appears under
the title "The Wonderful Story
of Charles K.":
a businessman in Virginia, had become
a full-fledged alcoholic; so much
so that he had to have help, and
fast, for his life was cracking
up. He made an appointment with
the late Dr. William Duncan Silkworth,
one of the nation's greatest experts
on alcoholism, who worked in a New
York City hospital [the Charles
Towns Hospital]. Receiving Charles
into his clinic as a patient, the
doctor gave him treatment for some
days, then called him into his office.
"Charles," he said, "I
have done everything I can for you.
At this moment you are free of your
trouble. But there is an area in
your brain where you may hold a
reservation and that could, in all
likelihood, cause you to return
to your drinking. I wish that I
might reach this place in your consciousness,
but alas, I do not have the skill."
doctor," exclaimed Charles,
"you are the most skilled physician
in this field. When I came to you
it was to the greatest. If you cannot
heal me, then who can possibly do
so?" The doctor hesitated,
then said thoughtfully, "There
is another Doctor who can complete
this healing, but He is very expensive."
all right," cried Charles,
"I can get the money. I can
pay his fees. I cannot go home until
I am healed. Who is this doctor
and where is he?"
but this Physician is not at all
moderate as to expense," persisted
Dr. Silkworth. "He wants everything
you've got. He wants you, all of
you. Then He gives the healing.
His price is your entire self."
Then he added slowly and impressively,
"His name is Jesus Christ and
He keeps office in the New Testament
and is available whenever you need
Peale then describes the healing
of Charles through the power of