Addressing one of Bill Wilson's Lies in the big book: the Lie about the 25-year previously-abstinent guy who drank himself to death in 4 years.

Addressing one of Bill Wilson's Lies in the big book: the Lie about the 25-year previously-abstinent guy who drank himself to death in 4 years (bb, 32-3). In his chapter entitled, "More About Alcoholism" (bb, pages 29-43), Bill Wilson cites 3 anecdotes for his argument: the long-term-sober newly-retired "potential" alcoholic who drank himself to death in 4 years; "Jim," who mixed whiskey into milk; and "Fred," who previously wouldn't admit that he had "strange mental blank spots" concerning alcohol or was in need of a "spiritual remedy for his problem" because he had "self-knowledge." It has occurred to me how difficult it would be to drink one's self to death in 4 years. And Bill's specific in that this potential alcoholic drank himself into the grave at 59 after drinking for 4 years; his death wasn't an alcohol-related accident. According to the "West Baltimore Group of alcoholics anonymous" website, specifically their "Who / What in big book" page, concerning the people mentioned in the "More About Alcoholism" chapter, Milk "Jim" was aa-member Ralph F. and Self-Knowledge "Fred" was aa-member Harry B. By contrast, the "West Baltimore Group" explains that Bill's "Potential Alcoholic" anecdote "was inspired" by a story from Peabody's "Common Sense of Drinking" published in 1930. Peabody's original is: "Some years ago there lived a man who decided to give up drinking until he could made a million dollars, at which time he intended to drink in moderation. It took him five years-of-sobriety - to make the million; then he began his "moderate" drinking. In two or three years he lost all his money, and in another three he died of alcoholism." (Orange has Peabody here: NOTE: Use Orange's pdf paging: 69/104. Using Peabody's paging, go to [122] - [123]; it's the penultimate paragraph of Peabody's chapter called "Self-Persuasion" which begins at page [99].) These 3 sentences in Peabody read like a recycled Temperance story: 5 years of abstinence brings a Million Dollars, and 5-6 years of drinking brings financial ruin and death. Peabody does not claim to have known this particular man, instead he is repeating a story about a man who lived "some years ago." Here is Bill Wilson's "inspired" re-telling of same: "A man of thirty was doing a great deal of spree drinking. He was very nervous in the morning after these bouts and quieted himself with more liquor. He was ambitious to succeed in business, but saw that he would get nowhere if he drank at all. Once he started, he had no control whatever. He made up his mind that until he had been successful in business and had retired, he would not touch another drop. An exceptional man, he remained bone dry for twenty-five years and retired at the age of fifty-five, after a successful and happy business career. Then he fell victim to a belief which practically every alcoholic has-that his long period of sobriety and self-discipline had qualified him to drink as other men. Out came his carpet slippers and a bottle. In two months he was in a hospital, puzzled and humiliated. He tried to regulate his drinking for a little while, making several trips to the hospital meantime. Then, gathering all his forces, he attempted to stop altogether and found he could not. Every means of solving his problem which money could buy was at his disposal. Every attempt failed. Though a robust man at retirement, he went to pieces quickly and was dead within four years." (bb, 32-3.) Bill's anecdote is about a man who never was. Bill's next words are "this case contains a powerful lesson," and then proceeds to argue for his "once an alcoholic, always an alcoholic" concept and for the idea that alcoholics are brain-damaged because they have a "peculiar mental twist." In conclusion, because "this case" is about a man who never was, these paragraphs are proof of Bill's fanciful ramblings. (For more information, see also & )


Pennywise's picture

Wow! Awesome work! I never knew this!
"One turned up the other day calling himself Boniface." ~ Bill Wilson
catwalksintoabar's picture

Thank you, Penny! :) I don't know enough about the 19th Temperance Movement pamphlets, but my guess is that the *Original Story* came out of Temperance literature and/or sermons. By the way, Peabody's book included the phrase "Halfway measures are of no avail." Peabody died in 1936.

some times it changes in the same person depending on time and circumstances myself - i can't ever imagine moderating crank - but i have moderated other crap on drs orders

I respect each individuals right to differential diagnosis. Individual side effects are unique - maintenance, harm redux, lock down, will power, support, pychology & spirituality may all help unique individuals. "group think" kills unique individuals.

Pennywise's picture

Yes, it would be hard to moderate a drug that keeps you up all night. I mean, if you're tweaking all night, and then you have to go to work, you're pretty much guaranteed to do a few bumps to get through the day. Then you can't sleep again at night from the meth you did to get through work, so the cycle repeats.
"One turned up the other day calling himself Boniface." ~ Bill Wilson
live_free_or_die's picture

Are you saying Bill W. lied? Did Bill W. make stuff up? I had a need to to be up all night several times in college. I was taking speed though.
LFOD's Blog ©2014 AA:MyNotGodHasItCovered® NOT AA: Rational Recovery, SOS, HAMS
catwalksintoabar's picture

I came across a big book study guide, written by Professional big-book-explainers (ie., they charge money for their services), that this particular anecdote about Bill's Man of Thirty explains 6 important facts about alcoholism. I am not sure what these facts are. I know only one fact: Bill took some liberties with Peabody's 3 sentences. If anyone knows any of the remaining 5 lessons that can be learned from Bill's anecdote, please let me know.
d0gmatic's picture

It is entirely possible to die after 4 years of heavy drinking. A compromised immune system, poor liver function, heart disease, severe hypertension and many other conditions can hasten death by alcohol. A perfectly healthy person could die from malnutrition, dehydration leading to pneumonia, respiratory arrest or acute alcohol poisoning. But Bill's retired businessman story reeks of scare tactics. His anecdotal "evidence," like so much of the garbage he wrote, was narcissistic, grandiose and conflated. Pathological liars know nothing of restraint.

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"Sometimes people don't want to hear the truth because they don't want their illusions destroyed." ~ Nietzsche