The Funny Spirituality of Bill Wilson and A.A.
by A. Orange

Keeping an open mind is a virtue,
but not so open that your brains fall out.

— James Oberg


In the "Big Book", Alcoholics Anonymous, in the chapter "The Family Afterward", on page 135 (3rd and 4th editions), we read:

      Whether the family goes on a spiritual basis or not, the alcoholic member has to if he would recover. The others must be convinced of his new status beyond the shadow of a doubt. Seeing is believing to most families who have lived with a drinker.
      Here is a case in point: One of our friends is a heavy smoker and coffee drinker. There was no doubt he over-indulged. Seeing this, and meaning to be helpful, his wife commenced to admonish him about it. He admitted he was overdoing these things, but frankly said that he was not ready to stop. His wife is one of those persons who really feels there is something rather sinful about these commodities, so she nagged, and her intolerance finally threw him into a fit of anger. He got drunk.
      Of course our friend was wrong — dead wrong. He had to painfully admit that and mend his spiritual fences. Though he is now a most effective member of Alcoholics Anonymous, he still smokes and drinks coffee, but neither his wife nor anyone else stands in judgement. She sees she was wrong to make a burning issue out of such a matter when his more serious ailments were being rapidly cured.

This sad story is supposedly an example of a man who is living his life "on a spiritual basis", while the rest of his family does not. And it is somehow supposed to show us a man who is convincing his family of his new sober status. By smoking and getting drunk. Go figure.

The man is addicted to tobacco, and he is smoking himself to death. His concerned wife is trying to save him from emphysema and lung cancer, but the "anonymous" author Bill Wilson labels her "intolerant" because she "really feels there is something rather sinful about these commodities."

Notice how the author Bill Wilson grouped coffee and tobacco in the same category, as mere "commodities", so that the wife would appear more intolerant. Bill also refused to look at the numerous health aspects of smoking, or the stink, or the second-hand smoke, or the expense; he only said that she feels that "these commodities" are "rather sinful." Bill implied that the housewife was just an intolerant uptight killjoy Puritanical nag.

Notice the powerful hidden assumption in this sentence: "He admitted he was overdoing these things, but frankly said that he was not ready to stop."

Oh? Somebody can continue doing whatever he is doing just because he frankly says that he isn't ready to stop?

When was the last time that you heard an A.A. recruiter accept that as a valid excuse for someone to continue drinking alcohol?

  • Can an alcoholic who is drinking himself to death say, "Frankly, I know I'm over-doing it, but I'm just not ready to stop, right now"? And that makes it okay for him to continue drinking?

  • Can a coke fiend who is smoking and snorting cocaine all of the time say, "I know I'm over-doing it right now, but frankly, I'm not ready to stop just yet"? And that makes it okay for him to continue tweaking?

  • Can a junkie who is shooting heroin all of the time say, "I know I'm over-doing it right now, but frankly, I'm not ready to stop right now"? And that makes it okay for him to continue doping?

Sometimes, the "anonymous" author, Bill Wilson, showed flashes of sheer genius for foisting a mountain of bull, untruths, and false assumptions on the reader with just a few cleverly-worded phrases, and this is one of those times.

(By the way, arguing that "Frankly, I'm not ready to quit just yet" is the propaganda trick of Arguing For Delay: "Let's not be hasty. Let's not do anything right now. Let's think about it some more. I'm not ready just now. I'm not prepared to do anything. Maybe later.")

Note that tobacco is the deadliest of the four drugs mentioned there, if you do a body count. Heroin and cocaine kill 5 to 10 thousand Americans per year each; alcohol kills 100 thousand, and tobacco kills 420 thousand Americans per year. So if someone can keep on smoking tobacco until it kills him just because he "frankly" isn't ready to stop it just yet, then why shouldn't he be able to continue taking any drug on Earth, including alcohol? Why make a big deal out of the number two or number three killer drug if the number one killer drug in America is perfectly okay, and quite compatible with a life lived "on a spiritual basis"?

Then, when this allegedly "spiritual" A.A. member became annoyed at his wife's attempts to save his life, he threw an angry temper tantrum and drank alcohol. Then "He had to painfully admit that [he was wrong] and mend his spiritual fences."

Baloney. Even when he was on his knees, confessing his wrongs to God and "mending his spiritual fences", he secretly grinned from ear to ear, and said, "I WON! I get to keep my tobacco addiction. I really scared the Hell out of the old bitch, and now she won't be bothering me about my smoking any more!" And she doesn't. He is now free to commit suicide by cigarette. (If he really wanted to "mend his spiritual fences", why didn't he "make amends" by quitting smoking?)

Then, this story says, his wife sees the error of her ways, and confesses that "she was wrong to make a burning issue out of such a matter" (horrendous pun!) — that she was wrong to worry about his potentially fatal tobacco addiction "when his more serious ailments were being rapidly cured."

That's a typical Buchmanite happy ending for a story: it ends with everybody confessing that they were wrong. Baloney.

And what "more serious ailments" were being "rapidly cured"? Obviously not his alcohol drinking, because he just got drunk, using alcohol to get his own way. He holds drinking over her as a blackmail weapon that he can use on her again any time she threatens his tobacco addiction. So just how is this guy's behavior "spiritual"?


Bill Wilson and Lois after Doctor Bob's funeral

What we are seeing here is not spirituality, but rather, the naked face of the Addiction Monster, that dark ghoul who says, "I don't care what the cost is, or who dies, I want my fix." Indeed, that ghoul is the same monster as the one who craves alcohol, and while it has been temporarily weaned off of alcohol, it is still alive and well, feeding itself with tobacco. And there is no way in Hell that it will tolerate someone cutting off its last food source. It will fight. It doesn't even care if its own host is dying from the effects of tobacco, it still wants its fix.

A big part of the message that Bill Wilson is trying to sell us here is the idea that us good-old-boy A.A. members should be able to indulge in anything we want to, just as long as it isn't alcohol. Since we so nobly gave up drinking alcohol, we richly deserve life's other little pleasures. Both Bill W. and Doctor Bob were heavy smokers, so they said over and over again that smoking is an okay vice. According to Bill Wilson, dying of self-inflicted emphysema, lung cancer, and heart disease is perfectly okay, and completely compatible with a spiritual life, just as long as you do it sober. Bill just didn't want to quit smoking, so he rationalized his nicotine addiction, and said that he didn't really need to quit smoking — "It's just a minor bad habit, just a commodity like coffee, you know..."

And Bill W. did eventually die from that "okay" vice — from emphysema and pneumonia — desperately, futilely gasping for another breath from an oxygen mask. He didn't quit smoking until it was far too late for him, and tobacco had destroyed his lungs.

Score another victory for the Addiction Monster.

Francis Hartigan, Lois Wilson's private secretary, wrote:

By the time Ebby Thacher died in 1966, a victim of emphysema, Bill had been trying to quit smoking for more than twenty years. He'd also known since the early sixties that he had emphysema himself. Smoking had begun to impair his health in the 1940s, in the form of frequent colds and chronic bronchitis, and his breathing was noticeably labored from the mid-1960s onward. Yet even when his breathing became so problematic that he needed frequent doses of oxygen to get through the day, he smoked.
      A number of visitors to Stepping Stones during Bill's last years report witnessing scenes in which Bill would be trying to decide whether to have more oxygen or another cigarette. Inevitably, the cigarette won out. Bill was thought to have finally quit smoking early in 1969, by which time his bouts with bronchitis had become struggles with pneumonia, but several people confirm that he was still smoking even after most everyone thought he had quit. He hid cigarettes in his car, and for as long as he was still well enough to drive, he smoked.
      It seems beyond comprehension, but the evidence is inescapable.   ...   [Bill Wilson] literally smoked himself to death.
Bill W., A Biography of Alcoholics Anonymous Co-Founder Bill Wilson, Francis Hartigan, page 208.

Bill Wilson didn't bother to print a retraction, to warn his fellow A.A. members about tobacco, when he found out that he was dying. Bill was far too egotistical to admit that he had been wrong.

Bill Wilson died January 24, 1971, of emphysema and pneumonia.

In addition, there is now a lot of evidence that smoking makes all cancers worse, even if tobacco didn't cause the cancer in the first place. Tobacco smoke contains something like 50 different carcinogenic chemicals, and just the restriction of blood flow in the capillaries that tobacco causes makes it harder for the body to get blood with white blood cells and antibodies to the cancer, to attack and kill the cancer. Tobacco also cripples the immune system, which would also like to kill the cancer.

Doctor Bob died of prostate cancer, while puffing on those cigarettes to the bitter end.

Score another victory for the Addiction Monster.

Notice the biased viewpoint and slanted language:

  • The guy in this story was called "our friend" and "a most effective member of Alcoholics Anonymous", even after he threw his angry temper tantrum and got drunk. (That is the propaganda technique called a "Stroking Ploy".)
  • His clean and sober wife, on the other hand, was described as "one of those persons..." You know, one of those intolerant Puritanical nagging bitches... Why, she drove him to drink; any guy can see that.

Not!

This story also features some very bad amateur psychology: "...her intolerance finally threw him into a fit of anger."

No, it didn't. The truth is just the opposite. He chose to become angry. He made no attempt at self-control. He allowed his feelings of irritation to turn into anger — he even pushed them to it — because he felt that his tobacco addiction was being increasingly threatened by his wife's persistence, and he didn't want to give it up. He chose to throw a big angry drunken temper tantrum, and roar loudly, to tell his wife in no uncertain terms that he wasn't going to give up his beloved drug addiction, and if she pressed the point, he would get drunk, just to spite her. His actions said, "If you don't let me smoke all I want, then I'll drink myself to death, and it will all be your fault. So there!"

And he succeeded in his infantile game of brinkmanship. He defeated her so totally that she never criticized his smoking again, and Bill says that she confessed that she was wrong to have even tried to get him to quit smoking.

Score one more victory for the smug good old boys club.

This story is so stupid, so tragic, so vicious, and so inappropriate, that only someone who has totally pickled his brain with too much alcohol for too many years could possibly think that this is a good story to put in the Big Book as an example of an A.A. member living a spiritual life while his wife doesn't. But, alas, that's what Bill Wilson did.

What's also rather amazing is how many A.A. members think that The Big Book is received wisdom, the indisputable Word of God, as given to Bill Wilson. I guess their brains got pickled too.

(Well, unless that part about us good old boys being able to indulge in anything we want includes the right to bed the entire Swedish bikini ski team... Maybe it is divine wisdom.)

{And that joke isn't so far off: Bill Wilson felt entitled to quite a number of mistresses over the years, and even gave ten percent of Lois Wilson's inheritance to his favorite one, Helen Wynn, after Lois spent so many years working to support Bill while all that he did was steal more money out of her purse to go buy more booze.}

The story above would have us believe that the way to live a spiritual life, and the way to convince your family that you are now sober for life, is to smoke yourself to death while ignoring the pleas of your concerned wife, and then drink alcohol and throw drunken temper tantrums to get your own way, and then blame it all on your wife's nagging. That is simply crazy.

(One can only imagine what Bill Wilson's real home life must have been like, since he was a chain smoker, just like the guy in the story — a chain smoker with a nasty temper who got drunk and threw screaming temper tantrums to get his own way.

Just how autobiographical is that story, anyway?)

The choice of that story for inclusion in the Big Book, especially in that context, is such clear evidence of something terribly wrong with Bill's mind that it is hard to ignore, and the other A.A. members have had to go out of their way to manage to ignore it for sixty years. (And to not change it through three new editions of the Big Book?)

In 1947, the popular newspaper columnist Westbrook Pegler referred to the A.A. founder as "wet-brained", and his followers as "effectively deluded".22 It's easy to see why.




William Griffith Wilson
There is no doubt about who the "anonymous" author of the Big Book was: It was Bill Wilson. Several of the other early A.A. members helped in the preparation of the book "Alcoholics Anonymous": chapter 1, Bill's Story, was possibly written or rewritten by Joe Worth, and chapter 10, To Employers, was definitely written by Henry "Hank" Parkhurst, and chapters 2 to 9 and 11 were somewhat the product of teamwork, but Bill Wilson was the principal author, if not the only author, as well as the guiding light and the editor-in-chief of most all of the non-autobiographical chapters, the famous "first 164 pages" of the Big Book. And Bill Wilson claimed sole ownership of the copyright of the whole Big Book, and also took most of the royalties from the sales of the book for himself and Doctor Bob.

The Big Book clearly shows that Bill Wilson was insane. Not just a little bit crazy, not funny crazy, but really crazy, genuinely insane, clinically diagnosable. Mr. Wilson was suffering from paranoid delusions of grandeur and a messianic complex, or a narcissistic personality disorder — or perhaps some crazy combination of all of them.

Wilson was insane while he was drinking: he was suicidally drinking immense, almost superhuman, quantities of cheap rotgut whiskey or gin, one or two or even more fifths of it per day — "Drinking to Die" is what A.A. calls it. In the Big Book, (chapter 1, page 5, 3rd edition) either Bill Wilson or Joe Worth wrote in Bill's Story:
     "'Bathtub' gin, two bottles a day, and often three, got to be routine."

The Prohibition-era "Bathtub gin" was infamous for being poisonous. It was occasionally contaminated with methyl alcohol ("wood alcohol"), which is terribly poisonous, and causes immense neural damage, if not blindness and death.

Then malnutrition and thiamine deficiency can lead to a horrifying condition called Wernicke-Korsakoff Syndrome where you suffer such massive brain damage that you lose your short-term memory and ability to learn or remember anything new.

The A.A. saying is, "John Barleycorn promises us insanity or death." And it's true.

Even Bill Wilson himself reported that problem. Bill recorded a set of autobiographical tapes before his death, which the Hazelden Foundation then used as source material to write an "autobiography" of Bill Wilson. Bill quoted Dr. William D. Silkworth as saying, in midsummer 1934, that he had originally had some hope for Bill, but...

"But his habit of drinking has now turned into an obsession, one much too deep to be overcome, and the physical effect of it on him has also been very severe, for he's showing some signs of brain damage. This is true even though he hasn't been hospitalized very much. Actually I'm fearful for his sanity if he goes on drinking."
Bill W., My First 40 Years, Bill W., page 116.

Bill wrote that Dr. Silkworth said that about Bill to Bill's wife Lois when Bill was hospitalized for detoxing at the Charles B. Towns Hospital in New York during the summer of 1934. After that, Bill stayed sober for a few months, but then returned to suicidal binge drinking.

Bill also described his third detoxing at Towns Hospital in the Big Book,

After a time I returned to the hospital. ... My weary and despairing wife was informed that it would all end with heart failure during delirium tremens, or I would develop a wet brain, perhaps within a year. She would soon have to give me over to the undertaker or the asylum.
The Big Book, 3rd edition, William G. Wilson, Chapter 1, page 7.

Then, while Bill Wilson was hospitalized for detoxing, from December 11th to 18th, 1934, at Charles Towns' Hospital in New York yet again, for the fourth time in just a little over a year, after yet another drinking-to-die binge, Dr. William D. Silkworth gave Bill Wilson Charlie Town's specialty of the house — a hallucinogenic quack medicine "belladonna cure" for alcoholism (that was also supposedly good for curing morphine addiction, bed-wetting, kleptomania, "cafeinism", or whatever else ails you). When the drugs hit, Bill Wilson flipped out and "saw the light", and saw "the God of the preachers", he said, and got religion. It seems like his "spiritual experience" and his miraculous conversion came in time to save his liver, but not his brain.

Note that even Bill's reporting of Dr. Silkworth's diagnosis of brain damage reveals Bill's delusions of grandeur. Bill Wilson thought that it was a joke, just another alcoholic war story to brag about. Bill thought that he was above minor problems like brain damage. Other men might go insane from alcohol-induced brain damage, but not Bill Wilson. It couldn't happen to a tough guy like him:

Assume on the other hand that father has, at the outset, a stirring spiritual experience. Overnight, as it were, he is a different man. He becomes a religious enthusiast. He is unable to focus on anything else.   ...   There is talk about spiritual matters morning, noon and night.
...
They suspect father is a bit balmy!
      He is not so unbalanced as they might think. Many of us have experienced dad's elation. We have indulged in spiritual intoxication.
The Big Book, 3rd edition, William G. Wilson, Chapter 9, pages 127-8.

We have found nothing incompatible between a powerful spiritual experience and a life of sane and happy usefulness.
The Big Book, 3rd Edition, William G. Wilson, page 130.

Denial, denial, DENIAL.
De Nile isn't just a river in Egypt.

And note how Bill Wilson's flawed memory twisted and warped Dr. Silkworth's words — Bill has Silkworth saying of Bill,

"... he's showing some signs of brain damage. This is true even though he hasn't been hospitalized very much."

Since when does hospitalization cause brain damage?!
It's guzzling rot-gut whiskey and bathtub gin outside of the hospital that causes the brain damage.

Nan Robertson also reported Bill having a nasty problem with delusions of grandeur. Bill Wilson's life in the period of 1930 to 1934 was like this:

His hangovers and hallucinations were becoming more frequent. He panhandled and stole from his wife's purse. He would ride the subways for hours after buying a bottle of bootleg gin, talking gibberish to frightened strangers. He threw a sewing machine at Lois and stormed around their house in Brooklyn kicking out door panels. She called him a "drunken sot." He would be sober for days and weeks and then settle into bottomless bingeing. He barely ate. He was forty pounds underweight. His dark, withdrawn periods alternated with delusions of grandeur. Once he told Lois that "men of genius" conceived their best projects when drunk.
Getting Better Inside Alcoholics Anonymous, Nan Robertson, pages 42-43.

Nan Robertson implied that Bill Wilson's delusions of grandeur disappeared after he quit drinking, but Bill's writings do not show that. Neither does the rest of the literature about Alcoholics Anonymous.



The rest of chapter 9 of The Big Book"The Family Afterward" — features more strange, tortured thinking about how the family and Father should function after Father gets sober. The "anonymous" author, Bill Wilson, begins by saying that a recovering man will become either a workaholic or a religious maniac, and that being a workaholic and trying to recover financially is hardly worth the bother. (Funny that we only get those two unpleasant choices: become a workaholic, or become a religious maniac. Why does drinking sound like more fun?)

      At the beginning of recovery a man will take, as a rule, one of two directions. He may either plunge into a frantic attempt to get on his feet in business, or he may be so enthralled by his new life that he talks or thinks of little else.   ...
      We think it dangerous if he rushes headlong at his economic problem. The family will be affected also, pleasantly at first, as they feel their money troubles are about to be solved, then not so pleasantly as they find themselves neglected. Dad may be tired at night and preoccupied by day.   ...   Mother may complain of inattention. They are all disappointed, and often let him feel it.   ...   He is straining every nerve to make up for lost time. He is striving to recover fortune and reputation and feels he is doing very well.
      Sometimes mother and children don't think so. Having been neglected and misused in the past, they think father owes them more than they are getting.   ...
      The head of the house ought to remember that he is mainly to blame for what befell his home. He can scarcely square the account in his lifetime. But he must see the danger of over-concentration on financial success. Although financial recovery is on the way for many of us, we found we could not place money first. For us, material well-being always followed spiritual progress; it never preceded.   ...
      As each member of a resentful family begins to see his shortcomings and admits them to the others, he lays a basis for helpful discussion. These family talks will be constructive if they can be carried on without heated argument, self-pity, self-justification or resentful criticism. Little by little, mother and children will see they ask too much, and father will see he gives too little. Giving, rather than getting, will become the guiding principle.
The Big Book, 3rd edition, William G. Wilson, Chapter 9, The Family Afterward, pages 125-8.

Notice the guilt induction routine:
"The head of the house ought to remember that he is mainly to blame for what befell his home. He can scarcely square the account in his lifetime."
First, Bill Wilson told you, in Step One, that you were powerless over alcohol — "it's a disease — you can't help it", so you weren't responsible for your actions. But now he tells you that it's all your own fault, and you have been so bad that you can scarcely make amends for what you have done, even if you try for the rest of your life. Are you starting to feel guilty?

The next to last paragraph says that "spiritual progress" — in other words, Alcoholics Anonymous — must come before a man's job:
" For us, material well-being always followed spiritual progress; it never preceded."
In Bill Wilson's mind, "spiritual progress" meant going to A.A. meetings, doing his Twelve Steps, recruiting more members for A.A., and convincing yourself of the truth of A.A.'s [Bill Wilson's] beliefs and dogma. So go to A.A. meetings instead of getting a job. And don't get a job that conflicts with the A.A. schedule; A.A. always comes first.

Note that Bill Wilson copied that line, along with the rest of the A.A. program, from Frank Buchman. 'Frank' also insisted that his crazy cult had to come first in his followers' lives, and that joining Buchman's cult was the road out of the Great Depression:

Spiritual recovery must precede economic recovery.
Frank Buchman, in a transatlantic radio broadcast from Stockbridge, Mass., 4 June 1936,
Remaking the World: The speaches of Frank Buchman, Frank N. D. Buchman, page 64.

The last paragraph of that large Big Book quote above describes a family where everyone becomes a good little Buchmanite and confesses everything in family meetings:

"As each member of a resentful family begins to see his shortcomings and admits them to the others, he lays a basis for helpful discussion.   ...   Little by little, mother and children will see they ask too much, and father will see he gives too little. Giving, rather than getting, will become the guiding principle."

Bill Wilson was being grossly unrealistic there. Bill was just painting a picture of a happy "Dick and Jane" dream world where the whole family happily practices Buchmanism.

Bill and Lois had no children, so Bill had no experience with having some scared, abused children of an alcoholic in his house. But Bill certainly had plenty of experience with being the abused son of an alcoholic father who abandoned his family when Bill was just a boy, and then Bill felt that his mother abandoned him too, leaving him to be raised by his grandparents. And Bill's mother had very serious mental problems of her own — she ended up in a mental hospital later in life. Bill Wilson seems to have gone into deep denial about the whole thing, and blanked most of that out of his memory. That is typical of narcissism — just suppress the feelings of rejection, humiliation, and helplessness, and deny that one was ever hurt; just live in a dream world where everything is wonderful.

Bill does not appear to have had a clue about how abused children of an alcoholic will never get together with Father for a happy little confession session where everybody admits his wrongs and "moral shortcomings". They will think, "Anything you say can and will be used against you the next time Father gets drunk, so don't say anything, not ever." So those happy little Ozzy and Harriet family talks are as unlikely as snow in July, in Texas. That was just some more deluded wishful thinking on Bill's part, imagining that the family members will all somehow turn into happy little Buchmanites who are just tickled pink at the opportunity to have family meetings and confess all of their sins, defects, and shortcomings to each other.

Also notice how Alcoholics Anonymous (Wilson-style Buchmanism) is supposed to be the religion of the whole family, not just a quit-drinking program for Father.

Dr. Alexander Lowen describes the development of a narcissistic personality disorder in a way that is reminiscent of Bill Wilson's childhood:

All of us are vulnerable to being hurt, rejected, or humiliated. Yet not all of us deny our feelings, try to project an image of invulnerability and superiority or to strive for power. The difference lies in our childhood experiences. As children, narcissists suffer what analysts describe as a severe narcissistic injury, a blow to self-esteem that scars and shapes their personalities. This injury entials humiliation, specifically the experience of being powerlessness while another person enjoys the exercise of power and control over one. I don't believe that a single experience shapes character, but when a child is constantly exposed to humiliation in one form or another, the fear of humiliation becomes structured in the body and the mind. Such a person could easily vow: "When I grow up, I'll get power, and neither you nor anyone else will be able to do this to me again." Unfortunately, as we will see, such narcissistic injuries happen to many children in our society because parents often use power to control their children for their own personal ends.
Narcissism, Denial of the True Self, Alexander Lowen, M.D., pages 76-77.

And Bill's completely unrealistic picture of the alcoholic's family life is explained by denial:

The narcissist faces the risk of being overwhelmed by feelings and going wild, crazy, or mad, should his defense of denial break down. This is especially true of anger. Every narcissist is afraid of going crazy, because the potential for insanity is in his personality. This fear reinforces the denial of feeling, creating a vicious circle.
Narcissism, Denial of the True Self, Alexander Lowen, M.D., page 155.

That also explains Bill's strange attitude about anger. Bill insisted that you couldn't be angry at all — no matter what the reason — that it was very "unspiritual" to be angry about anything:

It is a spiritual axiom that every time we are disturbed, no matter what the cause, there is something wrong with us. If somebody hurts us and we are sore, we are in the wrong also. But are there no exceptions to this rule? What about "justifiable" anger? If somebody cheats us, aren't we entitled to be mad? Can't we be properly angry with self-righteous folk? For us in A.A. these are dangerous exceptions. We have found that justified anger ought to be left to those better qualified to handle it.
Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions, William Wilson, page 90.

And Dr. Lowen explained the suppressed anger this way:

The need to project and maintain an image forces the person to prevent any feeling from reaching consciousness that would conflict with the image.
Narcissism, Denial of the True Self, Alexander Lowen, M.D., page 48.

That also gives us one cause for Bill Wilson's chronic, crippling, and long-lasting fits of depression:

Suppressed anger is a leading cause of depression.
Anger, Controlling the Fireworks, www.baptisteast.com/ANG001.htm

And another cause for the depression is that narcissists tend become depressed whenever someone contradicts their grandiose delusions. Bill certainly had enough to be depressed over. He could see with his own eyes that his so-called "spiritual program for recovery" had almost a 100% failure rate.

Narcissistic need is tremendous. Just as sharks must continually swim to keep from drowning, Narcissists must constantly demonstrate that they are special, or they will sink like stones to the depths of depression.
Emotional Vampires: Dealing with People Who Drain You Dry, Albert J. Bernstein, Ph.D., page 130.

Unless the subject of the conversation is how great they are, Narcissistic vampires will become visibly bored. One of the main reasons Narcissists wear expensive watches is so they can look at them when someone else is talking.
      Besides boredom, Narcissistic vampires have only two other emotional states. They're either on top of the world or on the bottom of the garbage heap. The slightest frustration can burst their balloon and send them crashing to the depths.
Emotional Vampires: Dealing with People Who Drain You Dry, Albert J. Bernstein, Ph.D., page 136.


Next, Bill Wilson described what happens if the recovering man becomes a religious maniac, rather than a workaholic. Look at this text, and see if it isn't a fair description of a man going insane with an obsessive-compulsive disorder:

      Assume on the other hand that father has, at the outset, a stirring spiritual experience. Overnight, as it were, he is a different man. He becomes a religious enthusiast. He is unable to focus on anything else. As soon as his sobriety begins to be taken as a matter of course, the family may look at their strange new dad with apprehension, then with irritation. There is talk about spiritual matters morning, noon and night. He may demand that the family find God in a hurry, or exhibit amazing indifference to them and say he is above worldly considerations. He may tell mother, who has been religious all her life, that she doesn't know what it's all about, and that she had better get his brand of spirituality while there is yet time.
      When father takes this tack, the family may react unfavorably. They may be jealous of a God who has stolen dad's affections. While grateful that he drinks no more, they may not like the idea that God has accomplished the miracle where they failed. They often forget father was beyond human aid. They may not see why their love and devotion did not straighten him out. Dad is not so spiritual after all, they say. If he means to right his past wrongs, why all this concern for everyone in the world but his family? What about his talk that God will take care of them? They suspect father is a bit balmy!
The Big Book, 3rd edition, William G. Wilson, Chapter 9, page 128.

Parts of that are, of course, ludicrous.

The first paragraph features all of the horrible things that will happen if Father has had a "stirring spiritual experience", perhaps a drug-induced vision of God while detoxing: The family will become increasingly concerned about father's obvious monomaniacal obsession with religion (religion, not "spirituality") — "He becomes a religious enthusiast. He is unable to focus on anything else" — "There is talk about spiritual matters morning, noon and night" — and Bill dismisses the family's apprehension with "They may be jealous of a God who has stolen dad's affections."     "... they may not like the idea that God has accomplished the miracle where they failed."

Yes, somebody is insane, all right. Clinically certifiable. Completely deluded; no contact with reality remaining:
"They may be jealous of a God who has stolen dad's affections."
Really now. First he was an obnoxious drunk, and now he's an obnoxious religious fanatic. When's he going to knock it off and just act halfways normal?

Note the paranoia — Bill can just hear all of the people talking about him behind his back, calling him insane:

Dad is not so spiritual after all, they say. If he means to right his past wrongs, why all this concern for everyone in the world but his family? What about his talk that God will take care of them? They suspect father is a bit balmy!

No joke.

But Bill was apparently incapable of taking their concerns about his sanity seriously. He dismissed their suspicions as just part of their "jealousy of God", or their needless general worrying. The next line Bill wrote was,
    "He is not so unbalanced as they might think",
and then Bill proceeded to rationalize father's behavior:

They suspect father is a bit balmy!
        He is not so unbalanced as they might think. Many of us have experienced dad's elation. We have indulged in spiritual intoxication. Like a gaunt prospector, belt drawn in over the ounce of food, our pick struck gold. Joy at our release from a lifetime of frustration knew no bounds. Father feels he has struck something better than gold. For a time he may try to hug the new treasure to himself. He may not see at once that he has barely scratched a limitless lode which will pay dividends only if he mines it for the rest of his life and insists on giving away the entire product.
The A.A. Big Book, 3rd Edition, William G. Wilson, Chapter 9, "The Family Afterward", pages 128-129.

That is a fair description of mania. Bill Wilson called it "spiritual intoxication", but it's really mania — a kind of raving, giggling, laughing insanity. That text is also a fair description of a trap: You will only benefit if you do the program for the rest of your life. (You can't ever leave the cult.) It also begs the question, "Do you have to wait the rest of your life for the benefits to start?" No? Well then, why couldn't you benefit from doing it for less than the rest of your life, like maybe half, and then getting the "dividends" and running away?

"Giving it all away" is a deceptive euphemism. It really means recruiting new members for Alcoholics Anonymous. A.A. also uses the sayings,
"We can only keep that which we give away", and
"Freely giving away that which was freely given to us", and
"Faith without works is dead",
all of which also mean the same thing:
"Recruit new members as we were recruited; indoctrinate as we were indoctrinated; convert as we were converted."

So,
"Mining the lode for the rest of his life and giving it all away"
really means that he has to "work the program" and recruit for the cult for the rest of his life, or else he won't get the "dividends". True-believer A.A. members actually believe that they must constantly recruit new members (do "Twelfth Step work"), or else they will relapse and die drunk in a gutter.

Incidentally, the line about "For a time he may try to hug the new treasure to himself" is absurd. Bill Wilson did not try to keep his new religious beliefs to himself after his drug-induced "spiritual experience" in Towns Hospital. He immediately turned into a fanatical missionary who drove all of the alcoholics around him crazy with his proselytizing and recruiting attempts. Bill was actually starting home churches within days of his pharmaceutical "vision of God". "Hug the new treasure to himself..." That's delusional, again.

Then Bill admits that father isn't quite right in the head, but says that it's okay, because it's just a passing phase. And, Bill says, father's return to sanity depends on the family not annoying or irritating him:

If the family cooperates, dad will soon see that he is suffering from a distortion of values. He will perceive that his spiritual growth is lopsided, that for an average man like himself, a spiritual life which does not include his family obligations may not be so perfect after all. If the family will appreciate that dad's current behavior is but a phase of his development, all will be well. In the midst of an understanding and sympathetic family, these vagaries of dad's spiritual infancy will quickly disappear.
The Big Book, 3rd edition, William G. Wilson, Chapter 9, page 129.

If you let him do whatever he wants, then the situation will magically fix itself in short order. Bill says that father will quickly perceive that his behavior is inappropriate, and "these vagaries of dad's spiritual infancy will quickly disappear."

Unfortunately, it doesn't look like Bill Wilson's "vagaries" ever disappeared. In 1944, Clarence Snyder complained that Bill Wilson had been unemployed and mooching off of his wife Lois or the Alcoholics Anonymous organization for nine years. And Bill never did get and keep another job. Never. He just swiped the Big Book money, and then stole the copyright to the Big Book, and blackmailed the Alcoholic Foundation into giving him and Doctor Bob most of the royalties money, and he got rich off of the book. Bill Wilson never worked a straight job again in his whole life. He just made A.A. support him.

Incidentally, the American Psychiatric Association does not recognize any such mental problems as "vagaries of spiritual infancy".

But if the family won't do things Bill's way:

The opposite may happen should the family condemn and criticize. Dad may feel that for years his drinking has placed him on the wrong side of every argument, but that now he has become a superior person with God on his side. If the family persists in criticism, this fallacy may take a still greater hold on father. Instead of treating the family as he should, he may retreat further into himself and feel he has spiritual justification for so doing.
      Though the family does not fully agree with dad's spiritual activities, they should let him have his head. Even if he displays a certain amount of neglect and irresponsibility towards the family, it is well to let him go as far as he likes in helping other alcoholics. During those first days of convalescence, this will do more to insure his sobriety than anything else. Though some of his manifestations are alarming and disagreeable, we think dad will be on a firmer foundation than the man who is placing business or professional success ahead of spiritual development. He will be less likely to drink again, and anything is preferable to that.
The Big Book, 3rd edition, William G. Wilson, Chapter 9, The Family Afterwards, pages 129-130.

In other words, the solution is to let Father act crazy, even if his behavior is "alarming and disagreeable". Don't criticize him, or else really bad things will happen, Bill says. (Narcissists just can't stand criticism.) "If the family persists in criticism, this fallacy may take a still greater hold on father."

That is the propaganda trick of Arguing From Adverse Consequences — declare that "Something really bad will happen if you don't do what I want."

So you shouldn't bother Father with mere reality, or ask him to be sane and responsible, or tell him to go get a job, or else something really terrible will happen. Just let him neglect his family and irresponsibly devote his entire life to Alcoholics Anonymous. Housewives, just watch passively as your husband turns into a babbling bombastic believer in a crazy contentious cult. Then everything will turn out okay. He will supposedly be on a "firmer foundation" than someone who works for a living and behaves normally. This is a repetition of the idea that Bill Wilson stated earlier, that working hard, earning a living, and trying to recover financially, is a mistake — that A.A. should come first. Let your wife support you while you go recruiting for Alcoholics Anonymous.


Bill Wilson
What, Lois? Me go get a job? Oh dear, I can feel an anxiety attack coming on. I think I'm about to relapse...
This appears to be highly autobiographical: Bill Wilson didn't bother to get a real paying job and support his wife Lois after he sobered up; he continued to let her support him. He made religious mania and proselytizing for the Oxford Group, and then for Alcoholics Anonymous, his full-time hobby, for the rest of his life. No wonder she was screaming, "Damn your old meetings!"5

Again, Bill Wilson used the "Argue from Adverse Consequences" propaganda trick to blackmail the housewife: Let him devote himself to his "spiritual activities" [A.A. busywork], so that "dad will be on a firmer foundation than the man who is placing business or professional success ahead of spiritual development. He will be less likely to drink again, and anything is preferable to that."

Bill Wilson did not bother to define just what "spiritual development" was supposed to mean. We can only make an educated guess, and assume that Bill meant going to A.A. meetings, doing the Twelve Steps, and recruiting new members. Bill did indicate that being on a "firmer foundation" meant being less likely to drink again.

So Bill Wilson was really saying,

  • "If you condemn and criticize me, if you don't let me do just whatever I want to do, if you force me to go get a job, then I just might relapse and drink myself to death. Anything is preferable to that.
  • "Or I may retreat further into myself and feel I have spiritual justification for so doing.
  • "But if you let me goof off with my A.A. buddies for the rest of my life (and Thirteenth Step all of the pretty women at the meetings), then everything will be okay."

No wonder Bill Wilson constantly accused other people — alcoholics and non-alcoholics alike — of being selfish, dishonest, manipulative, under-handed, and self-seeking. He was talking about himself. In psychology, that is called "projection": accusing others of doing what he was doing wrong, accusing others of committing the very sins and crimes that he was committing.

And it turns out that this is standard behavior for a cult leader. The Europe S.O.S. web site had a good description of a cult that included this paragraph:

A frequent tactic by cult leaders is to divert attention from their own sins by accusing others inside or outside their organization of the very crimes of which they themselves are guilty. (In psychology, this is called "projection.")

And note the interesting coincidence: we started this essay with another story from the same Big Book chapter (chapter 9, The Family Afterward), the story of a good-old-boy A.A.-member "spiritual" cigarette smoker who blackmailed his wife with threats of drinking alcohol if she tried to make him quit smoking. Apparently, either Bill Wilson or some of his fellow A.A. members got a lot of mileage out of threatening to relapse.

Then, in that chapter, Bill Wilson admitted that he and his friends had been acting crazy, and said that the fix was just to embrace a different set of irrational beliefs — just change your opinion of God's plan for you, and then everything will be fine:


Early A.A. members in the Akron Ohio group, posed for a press photograph in 1942, masked to protect their anonymity.

Those of us who have spent much time in the world of spiritual make-believe have eventually seen the childishness of it. This dream world has been replaced by a great sense of purpose, accompanied by a growing consciousness of the power of God in our lives. We have come to believe He would like us to keep our heads in the clouds with Him, but that our feet ought to be firmly planted on earth. That is where our fellow travelers are, and that is where our work must be done. These are the realities for us.
The Big Book, 3rd edition, William G. Wilson, Chapter 9, page 130.

Let's see... "Spiritual make-believe dream world" has been replaced with "keep our heads in the clouds with Him" and "a great sense of purpose", that is, by a different flavor of megalomania, or delusion of grandeur: a messianic complex.
"I have come to believe that God wants me to save the world, He really does."
And this great sense of purpose is "accompanied by a growing consciousness of the power of God in our lives."

So what's the big difference? One spiritual make-believe or another, Tweedle-Dee or Tweedle-Dum... "Shall I have chocolate, strawberry, or vanilla delusions of grandeur today? Decisions, decisions..."

Supposedly, God wants you to have your head in the clouds with Him, but you have to keep your feet where the "fellow travelers" are. Are the "fellow travelers" the alcoholics who have not yet been converted to the A.A. religion? Bill is indulging in vague terminology again, making up more euphemisms, but that is probably what he means. The phrase "fellow travelers" does not appear again anywhere else in the Big Book, so it is simply undefined. Typical. And that terminology, "our fellow travelers", implies that the unsaved alcoholics are somehow already the property of A.A..

"And that is where our work is; we have to save all of our fellow travelers by making them just as nutty as we are."

Bill finishes by saying, "These are the realities for us."

Hmmm... That is not necessarily reality for anybody else...

Then Bill once again reveals that, on some level of his mind, he knows he has gone insane, but he is in deep denial about it:

We, who have recovered from serious drinking, are miracles of mental health.
The Big Book, 3rd Edition, William G. Wilson, The Family Afterward, page 133.

We have found nothing incompatible between a powerful spiritual experience and a life of sane and happy usefulness.
The Big Book, 3rd edition, William G. Wilson, Chapter 9, page 130.

And right in the middle of it, Bill wrote:

But dependence upon an A.A. group or Higher Power hasn't produced any baleful results.
Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions, William G. Wilson, page 38.

Excuse me, Bill? What did you just say?     Denial isn't just a river in Egypt.

And then Bill finished his sermon with:

One more suggestion: Whether the family has spiritual convictions or not, they may do well to examine the principles by which the alcoholic member is trying to live. They can hardly fail to approve these simple principles, though the head of the house still fails somewhat in practicing them. Nothing will help the man who is off on a spiritual tangent so much as the wife who adopts a sane spiritual program, making a better practical use of it.
The Big Book, 3rd Edition, William G. Wilson, Chapter 9, The Family Afterward, page 130.

So now the whole family has to go join Al-Anon and do Bill Wilson's 12 guilt-inducing steps because Daddy is acting crazy. And they couldn't possibly dislike Bill's Buchmanite religion: "They can hardly fail to approve these simple principles..."

(Except that the "simple principles" are not spiritual principles at all, they are cult religion practices.)



Speaking of nutty attitudes about father's new sobriety, the Big Book chapter "To Wives" also contains a couple of real jewels. Bill wrote that absurd chapter himself (or possibly with some help from Joe Worth), in spite of the conceit that it was written by the women:

As wives of Alcoholics Anonymous, we would like you to feel that we understand as perhaps few can. We want to analyze mistakes we have made.
The Big Book, 3rd Edition, William G. Wilson, page 104.

That's deceptive, to say the least. No matter how much the wives may have understood, and no matter how much "they would like you to feel" that they understand as perhaps few can, the truth is that the "wives of Alcoholics Anonymous" did not write a single word of that chapter. Bill Wilson asked Dr. Bob's wife Anne to write it, but she declined. Lois Wilson wanted to write it, and she also wanted to write the following chapter, The Family Afterwards, but Bill didn't trust her to get the "style" right, he said. That is an indication of Bill's real opinion of his wife's intellect. Bill Wilson wrote those chapters himself while pretending to be his own wife, and putting his words into her mouth. That hurt Lois' feelings, but that was just the way it was going to be.

Bill would not let even Lois, who was dying to do so, write the chapter titled "To Wives." After all, she was the wife who had endured Bill's drunken years and the houseful of alcoholics he was trying to wrestle into sobriety. "I have never known why he didn't want me to write about the wives, and it hurt me at first," she said.
Getting Better Inside Alcoholics Anonymous, Nan Robertson, pages 70-71.

Bill Wilson constantly hurt Lois Wilson, both before and after sobriety, what with his screaming temper tantrums, arrogant, inconsiderate behavior, philandering, and demanding that she work to support him. One evening, Lois Wilson exploded in anger when Bill Wilson wanted her to go to yet another Alcoholics Anonymous meeting. She screamed, "Damn your old meetings!" and threw a shoe at him.26 Lois Wilson's attitude was simply not acceptable to Bill Wilson. He couldn't have that. So Bill made up an explanation for Lois's anger where he had the imaginary wives saying:

Another feeling we are very likely to entertain is one of resentment that love and loyalty could not cure our husbands of alcoholism. We do not like the thought that the contents of a book or the work of another alcoholic has accomplished in a few weeks that for which we struggled for years.
The A.A. Big Book, William G. Wilson, present in all editions of the book, from the 1939 multilithed manuscript through the 4th Edition, on page 118.

Bill's imagination was vivid: Even while Bill was still busy just writing the opening chapters of the Big Book in late 1938 and early 1939, he was describing wives who were jealous of the book because the book had already cured their husbands of alcoholism in just a few weeks. There's nothing like being confident that your book is going to revolutionize the world, and have magical, nay, miraculous effects on alcoholics.

That's delusions of grandeur, again. It's also characteristic of a narcissistic personality disorder.
(The real question is, "Was Bill Wilson totally disconnected from reality, or was he just lying and manufacturing propaganda?")

Destructive narcissists categorized as "Manipulative" are particularly prone to use misleading statements and lies. Do they know they are lying? Yes. But, they feel they have the right to use any means available to achieve their ends. Further, some will have an assumption, much like that of "Suspicious" narcissists, that everyone is lying, and thus lying is fair play.
Loving the Self-Absorbed: How to Create a More Satisfying Relationship with a Narcissistic Partner, Nina W. Brown, Ed.D., LPC, NCC, page 67.

See the web page on The Other Women for much more on Bill Wilson's narcissistic, exploitative use of women — especially his wife Lois.



Bill Wilson's behavior meets the criteria for "297.10 Delusional (Paranoid) Disorder, Grandiose Type", as described in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 3rd Edition, (DSM-III-R,) which is the "Bible" of the American Psychiatric Association1:

297.10 Delusional (Paranoid) Disorder, Grandiose Type

Grandiose Type. Grandiose delusions usually take the form of the person's being convinced that he or she possesses some great, but unrecognized, talent or insight, or has made some important discovery... Grandiose delusions may have a religious content, and people with these delusions can become leaders of religious cults.

Age at onset. ...average age... between 40 and 45.

Impairment. Impairment in daily functioning is rare. Intellectual and occupational functioning is usually satisfactory, even when the disorder is chronic. Social and marital functioning, on the other hand, are often impaired. A common characteristic of people with Delusional Disorder is the apparent normality of their behavior and appearance when their delusional ideas are not being discussed or acted upon.

Predisposing factors. ...severe stresses...

Diagnostic criteria for 297.10 Delusional Disorder

  • A. Nonbizarre delusions...9
  • B. Auditory or visual hallucinations, if present, are not prominent.
  • C. Apart from the delusion(s) or its ramifications, behavior is not obviously odd or bizarre.
  • D. [few or no] Major Depressive or Manic Syndrome episodes...
  • E. Has never met criterion A for Schizophrenia... [Meaning: no prominent hallucinations or bizarre delusions.]

Grandiose Type
Delusional Disorder in which the predominant theme of the delusion(s) is one of inflated worth, power, knowledge, identity, or special relationship to a deity or famous person.

From: DSM-III-R, pages 200-203.
(The fourth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders — DSM-IV — lists the same disorder, 297.1, on pages 297 to 301.3
The fourth edition, text revised, DSM-IV-TR, lists the disorder on pages 323 to 329.)


A clinical interview manual adds this information about Grandiose delusions:2

Content: Messianic abilities
Patient's Explanation: Chosen, reborn, special reward for accomplishments
Patient's Expectation: Future admiration, acknowledgement as leader of mankind
Patient's Reaction: Preaching, helping, healing
The Clinical Interview Using DSM-IV, Ekkehard Othmer, M.D., Ph.D. and Sieglinde C. Othmer, Ph.D., page 137.

An interesting statement on page 139 of the same book is that Grandiose delusions can be seen in substance-abuse disorders. That makes sense — if you damage your brain with enough drugs and alcohol, you will go insane. Bill had two possibilities there: first off, the obvious immense alcohol abuse. And second, the repeated use of an extremely toxic hallucinogen, a mixture of belladonna and henbane (during his four stays at the Charles B. Towns Hospital in New York).

That description of delusions of grandeur fits Bill Wilson so well that it is uncanny:

  1. He expected future admiration and acknowledgement as a leader of mankind, and he didn't even wait for the future. He was such a megalomaniac that he went on speaking tours for years, breaking his anonymity, grandstanding, and getting his picture in the newspapers. He even testified before Congress, declaring himself to be the leader and co-founder of Alcoholics Anonymous. (To Bill Wilson, "anonymous" meant that everybody else had to be nameless and selfless and get none of the credit.)

  2. He became the leader of a religious cult.

  3. He had a messianic complex. He felt that he was chosen by God for a special mission — to save all of the alcoholics in the world.

  4. He became a fanatical preacher and started organizing home churches right after he flipped out on belladonna and "saw God".

  5. He thought that he had discovered a new, original, cure for alcoholism — religion.

  6. He thought that he had a special relationship with God.

  7. He had an immensely inflated idea of his own importance.

  8. Apart from his delusions, Bill's behavior was not obviously odd or bizarre. At first glance, Bill appeared to be relatively normal. But if you started talking about alcoholism, or God, or religion, or Bill Wilson's place in the Universe, then you would realize that he was totally Looney-Tunes.



There is room for debate in the diagnosis of Bill Wilson's mental problems. I have heard others describe Wilson as probably having a bipolar or manic-depressive disorder. It seems that those cases can be grandiose during the manic phase of their disorder.

There is also the question of "when?" In the early days, between 1934 and 1938, Bill seems to have simply had delusions of grandeur or a narcissistic personality disorder. But from the early 1940s to the mid 1950s, Bill also suffered from deep, crippling, clinical depression or an intense manic-depressive disorder. The one characteristic that Bill Wilson had that does not match the diagnosis of delusions of grandeur is the depression. Then, by the late 1950s, Bill seems to have recovered from most of his depression, but not the rest of his signs of mental illness.

Another very likely diagnosis of Bill Wilson's mental problems is Narcissistic Personality Disorder, of which Bill Wilson was also a textbook case. It has the following characteristics:

301.81 Narcissistic Personality Disorder

Diagnostic Criteria

A pervasive pattern of grandiosity (in fantasy or behavior), need for admiration, and lack of empathy, beginning by early adulthood and present in a variety of contexts, as indicated by five (or more) of the following:

  1. has a grandiose sense of self-importance (e.g., exaggerates achievements and talents, expects to be recognized as superior without commensurate achievements)
  2. is preoccupied with fantasies of unlimited success, power, brilliance, beauty, or ideal love
  3. believes that he or she is "special" and unique and can only be understood by, or should associate with, other special or high-status people (or institutions)
  4. requires excessive admiration
  5. has a sense of entitlement, i.e., unreasonable expectations of especially favorable treatment or automatic compliance with his or her expectations
  6. is interpersonally exploitative, i.e., takes advantage of others to achieve his or her own ends
  7. lacks empathy: is unwilling to recognize or identify with the feelings and needs of others
  8. is often envious of others or believes that others are envious of him or her
  9. shows arrogant, haughty behaviors or attitudes

Associated Features

  • Vulnerability in self-esteem makes individuals with Narcissistic Personality Disorder very sensitive to "injury" from criticism or defeat. Although they may not show it outwardly, criticism may haunt these individuals and may leave them feeling humiliated, degraded, hollow and empty. They may react with disdain, rage, or defiant counterattack. Such experiences often lead to social withdrawal or an appearance of humility that may mask and protect the grandiosity.
  • Interpersonal relations are typically impaired due to problems derived from entitlement, the need for admiration, and the relative disregard for the sensitivities of others.
  • Though overweening ambition and confidence may lead to high achievement, performance may be disrupted due to intolerance of criticism or defeat.
  • Sometimes vocational functioning can be very low, reflecting an unwillingness to take a risk in competitive or other situations where defeat is possible.
  • Sustained feelings of shame or humiliation and the attendant self-criticism may be associated with social withdrawal, depressed mood, and Dysthymic or Major Depressive Disorder. In contrast, sustained periods of grandiosity may be associated with a hypomanic mood.
  • Narcissistic Personality Disorder is also associated with Anorexia Nervosa and Substance-Related Disorders (especially related to cocaine).
  • Histrionic, Borderline, Antisocial, and Paranoid Personality Disorders may be associated with Narcissistic Personality Disorder.

Differential Diagnosis

Histrionic Personality Disorder; Antisocial Personality Disorder; Borderline Personality Disorder; Obsessive-Compulsive Personality Disorder; Schizotypal Personality Disorder; Paranoid Personality Disorder; Manic Episodes; Hypomanic Episodes; Personality Change Due to a General Medical Condition; symptoms that may develop in association with chronic substance use.

DSM-IV-TR == Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition, Text Revision; Published by the American Psychiatric Association, Washington, DC. 2000; pages 658-661.

Also see: DSM-IV == Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition; Published by the American Psychiatric Association, Washington, DC. 1994; pages 658-661.

Also see: Internet Mental Health (http://www.mentalhealth.com/)

Note again the mention of Substance-Related Disorders: "Narcissistic Personality Disorder is also associated with ... Substance-Related Disorders." There just seems to be no way around it: If you rot your brain with enough drugs or alcohol, you just might go insane.

Again, that description matches Bill Wilson so well that it sounds like it was written about him:

  1. Bill had a grandiose sense of self-importance, and exaggerated his achievements and talents, and expected to be recognized as superior without commensurate achievements, like his belief that he was essential to other alcoholics' recovery, and his wildly exaggerated claims of success in drying out alcoholics, and his years-long nationwide tours, grandstanding and promoting his own legend.

  2. Bill was preoccupied with fantasies of unlimited success, power, brilliance, beauty, or ideal love, like the Oxford Groups' "Absolute Purity, Absolute Honesty, Absolute Love, and Absolute Unselfishness". Bill also liked to imagine that he was launching a movement that would sweep the entire world and save all of the alcoholics. Bill even claimed that A.A. was "the miracle of the century", and "probably one of the greatest medical and spiritual developments of all time."

  3. Bill believed that he was "special" and unique — the only man in the world with the answer to alcoholism (or, before that, the first American to make a working boomerang, or the only man on campus to truly understand calculus). Bill thought that he understood God, alcoholics, and alcoholism better than anybody else in the whole world.

  4. Bill required excessive admiration.

  5. Bill certainly had a sense of entitlement, and felt that he deserved the best of everything, like all of fame, credit, and prestige, all of the money, and all of the women, and even a house in the country and a Cadillac car supplied by the A.A. organization. Bill also felt entitled to dictate the terms of other people's recovery from alcoholism, and even to dictate their religious beliefs.

  6. Bill Wilson was outrageously, heartlessly exploitative. He used everybody, and he discarded and drove away people when they refused to kowtow to him.

  7. Bill Wilson lacked empathy — he didn't even think about the welfare or recovery of the women alcoholics whom he was thirteenth-stepping, and he disregarded the recovery of the unbelievers whom he drove away from A.A.. And Bill even disregarded the feelings of his own wife Lois while she supported him for years.

  8. Envy of other people seems to be the only characteristic of narcissism that Bill Wilson did not overtly display, but I think that he was envious. Bill spent his whole life trying to prove that he was just as good as other people. He must have felt envious of those other people who were born with a higher status than him, and who were never cursed with alcoholism, whose honor and morality were never questioned.
    Note that the APA dropped this "Envy" item from the list of signs of NPD in the next edition of the DSM. They regarded the envy item as too weakly correlated to be a sure sign of NPD.

  9. Bill certainly showed arrogant, haughty behaviors and attitudes.

  10. Bill strongly displayed "Vulnerability in self-esteem". He couldn't stand criticism. He lashed out in defiant counter-attack whenever he was criticized, as shown in the cases of his wife, his calculus professor, his business partner Henry Parkhurst, and Ed the atheist who dared to challenge Bill's bombastic religiosity. When Bill was criticized, he often nursed a bitter resentment over it for years, until he could get his revenge, or he went into a fit of deep depression that often lasted years.

  11. Bill's interpersonal relations were very impaired due to "problems derived from entitlement, the need for admiration, and the relative disregard for the sensitivities of others". Bill fought with everybody from his wife to his best friend and partner Henry "Hank" Parkhurst to the A.A. members who wouldn't believe in God as Bill dictated. Loud screaming matches were routine behavior for Bill Wilson.

  12. And Bill certainly suffered from "Major Depressive Disorders":
    • A one-year-long depression in his childhood when his parents divorced and his mother left Bill and his sister with his grandparents.
    • A three-year-long depression when his high-school girlfriend died.
    • Various sporadic depressions throughout his drinking career.
    • Then, while sober, an eleven-year-long deep, crippling, clinical depression from 1944 to 1955, from indeterminate causes.

And Dr. Alexander Lowen added one more characteristic of narcissism:

The tendency to lie, without compunction, is typical of narcissists.
Narcissism, Denial of the True Self, Alexander Lowen, M.D., page 54.

That fits Bill Wilson too.


This problem of several possible diagnoses is not unusual. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders specifically addresses the problem:

Limitations of the Categorical Approach

        DSM-IV is a categorical classification that divides mental disorders into types based on criteria sets with defining features. This naming of categories is the traditional method of organizing and transmitting information in everyday life and has been the fundamental approach used in all systems of medical diagnosis. A categorical approach to classification works best when all members of a diagnostic class are homogeneous, when there are clear boundaries between classes, and when the different classes are mutually exclusive. Nonetheless, the limitations of the categorical classification system must be recognized.
        In DSM-IV, there is no assumption that each category of mental disorder is a completely discrete entity with absolute boundaries dividing it from other mental disorders or from no mental disorder. There is also no assumption that all individuals described as having the same mental disorder are alike in all important ways. The clinician using DSM-IV should therefore consider that individuals sharing a diagnosis are likely to be heterogeneous even in regard to the defining features of the diagnosis and that boundary cases will be difficult to diagnose in any but a probabilistic fashion. This outlook allows greater flexibility in the use of the system, encourages more specific attention to boundary cases, and emphasizes the need to capture additional clinical information that goes beyond diagnosis. In recognition of the heterogeneity of clinical presentations, DSM-IV often includes polythetic criteria sets, in which the individual need only present with a subset of items from a longer list (e.g., the diagnosis of Borderline Personality Disorder requires only five out of nine items.)
Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition Text Revision, American Psychiatric Association, pages xxxi, xxxii.

So, basically, just call them whatever they most closely resemble.

We have plenty of "wiggle room" for debating the various diagnoses for Bill Wilson, but one thing is certain: Bill was nuts.



Ernest Kurtz and Robert Thomsen reported in their books that the psychiatrist Dr. Harry Tiebout diagnosed Bill Wilson as grandiose and immature:

In the mid-1940s, Wilson had sought out Dr. Harry M. Tiebout and had entered upon a regime of psychotherapy. Dr. Tiebout, a psychiatrist specializing in the treatment of alcoholics, from early on had supported Alcoholics Anonymous and had referred to the fellowship its first successful female member, Marty Mann. Throughout his long and distinguished career, the Connecticut psychiatrist published a series of perceptive analyses of alcoholism and of the therapeutic dynamic inherent in the program of Alcoholics Anonymous. Tiebout came to this comprehension largely through his knowledge of Bill Wilson, and his diagnostic understanding was both profound and simple. Drawing upon a phrase attributed to Freud, the psychiatrist pointed out to A.A.'s co-founder that both in his active alcoholism and in his current sobriety, he had been trying to live out the infantilely grandiose demands of "His Majesty the Baby."50

50. Thomsen, pp. 334-337, the direct phrase from p. 337; the theme recurs throughout Wilson's correspondence...

Not-God, Ernest Kurtz, pages 126-127, 354.

Alas, Bill Wilson just projected that diagnosis onto all of the other alcoholics around him, and claimed that they were all just as bad as him:

When A.A. was quite young, a number of eminent psychologists and doctors made an exhaustive study of a good-sized group of so-called problem drinkers. The doctors weren't trying to find how different we were from one another; they sought to find whatever personality traits, if any, this group of alcoholics had in common. They finally came up with a conclusion that shocked the A.A. members of that time. These distinguished men had the nerve to say that most of the alcoholics under investigation were still childish, emotionally sensitive, and grandiose.
      How we alcoholics did resent that verdict!
Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions, William G. Wilson, pages 122-123.

(Notice how Bill Wilson was using The Preacher's We propaganda trick once again, saying "Oh, us stupid alcoholics — we are all so immature and grandiose and resentful," when he really meant, "You guys are all so bad...")

I strongly disagree with Kurtz's statement that Tiebout's papers were "a series of perceptive analyses of alcoholism". Tiebout's papers were simplistic, sadistic, and insane.

  • Tiebout's answer to alcoholism was just to "make the patients surrender."

  • Nowhere in Tiebout's papers do we find anything like instructions to heal the patients, to build them up, to restore their sanity and confidence, and empower them and enable them to live sane, happy lives after getting sober.

  • Nowhere do we find Tiebout treating his patients with respect. He described alcoholics just the same way as Bill Wilson did: with contempt and negative stereotypes that declare that they are all just pompous, egotistical fools with grandiose, "strutting-peacock" egos that need to be "deflated" and "cut down to size."

  • Tiebout never treated his patients as adults who were responsible for their own lives or deaths, which they really are, in the end — the patients will either live or die by their own hands.

  • Tiebout's answer was always "Just make them surrender."

  • Tiebout forgot the first rule of the Hippocratic Oath:
    Do No Harm.

Also note the careful cover-up contained in Kurtz's description of Marty Mann as "its first successful female member". What Kurtz isn't saying is that there were other, earlier, female members of A.A., like Florence Rankin, who wrote the story "A Feminine Victory" for the Big Book first edition. And there was Jane Sturdevant, who was the first woman in Dr. Bob's group in Akron. But those other women weren't "successful". They relapsed and died drunk, in spite of Alcoholics Anonymous, Bill Wilson, and his Twelve Steps. (So they became A.A. non-persons.)

Nevertheless, in the background, I can still hear the chorus chanting,
"RARELY HAVE we seen a person fail, who has thoroughly followed our path..."



Bill Wilson had such an outrageous inflated opinion of himself and his importance that he even wrote this about himself in the original manuscript of the Big Book, talking about that famous evening at the Mayflower Hotel in Akron, Ohio, in the Spring of 1935, when he was debating whether to backslide and have a few drinks, just before he met Doctor Bob:

"But what about his responsibilities — his family and the men who would die because they would not know how to get well, ah — yes, those other alcoholics?"
The Big Book, 3rd edition, William G. Wilson, chapter 11, "A Vision For You", page 154.
That text is present in all editions from the 1939 multilith of the manuscript to the fourth edition.


Bill Wilson in 1949.
They would not know how to get well? They would not be able to figure out how to quit drinking without Bill Wilson telling them? Nobody else in the whole world knows how to quit drinking but Bill Wilson, and without him, the other alcoholics will all just die?

Remember, this happened in the spring of 1935, when Bill Wilson had only five months of sobriety, and he had not founded Alcoholics Anonymous yet, nor had he even met Doctor Robert Smith yet — he would meet Dr. Bob the next day. And Bill had not helped a single alcoholic to quit drinking. Not one. He had been trying to recruit more alcoholics for Frank Buchman's Oxford Group cult, but had totally failed with every last one of them, because he drove them away with his fanatical preaching. Bill had not gotten the Oxford Group a single new member, and the Oxford Group regarded Bill Wilson as a real loser. Yet Bill thought that he was so important that "the other alcoholics" would die if he drank again.

That is delusions of grandeur. And it's also characteristic of a narcissistic personality disorder.

Bill Wilson said pretty much the same thing again, later. TIME magazine wanted to do a cover story on Bill and A.A., but Bill refused, believing that he should maintain at least some small pretense of anonymity. (Bill was already "the most famous 'anonymous' person in the U.S.A." because of all of his speaking tours and constantly breaking his anonymity and getting his picture and his story printed in the newspapers again and again.) Bill worried that his failure to grandstand even just that one single time had fatal consequences for many alcoholics, and he tried to guesstimate how many alcoholics had had to pay the terrible price of Bill Wilson's modesty:

For all I know, a piece of this sort could have brought A.A. a thousand members — possibly a lot more.
        Therefore, when I turned that article down, I denied recovery to an awful lot of alcoholics — some of these may already be dead. And practically all the rest of them, we may suppose, are still sick and suffering. Therefore, in a sense, my action has pronounced the death sentence on some drunks and condemned others to a much longer period of illness.
William G. Wilson, quoted in
'PASS IT ON': The story of Bill Wilson and how the A.A. message reached the world, Alcoholics Anonymous World Services, Inc. staff, 1984, page 314.

(Well goodness gracious, Bill! If those alcoholics are going to be dying like that, then by all means, you really should abandon anonymity and humility, and grandstand to save them!)

Likewise, Bill later bragged about how he had preserved his anonymity (which he didn't) with these words:

Just before publication of the (Big) Book, I toyed with the idea of signing my name to it. I even thought of calling A.A. "the Wilson movement." Had I then dropped my anonymity, it is entirely possible that you and thousands of others might not be alive today. This movement would have gotten off to a false start entirely.
Grateful To Have Been There, Nell Wing, page 46.


Bill's picture was featured in a newspaper article on alcoholism in the August 9, 1942 issue of the Knoxville Journal.
Chester E. Kirk Collection of the John Hay Library at Brown University

Bill Wilson grand-standed and promoted himself so much that by 1944, Bill Wilson was the most famous "anonymous" person in the USA.

For Bill Wilson to claim that thousands of alcoholics would have died if he had broken his anonymity is absurd. Bill Wilson broke his anonymity hundreds of times, and spent years constantly touring the USA, proselytizing and promoting his new Alcoholics Anonymous organization, and getting his picture and his story printed in the newspapers, and that doesn't seem to have caused thousands of alcoholics to have died.
Notice how, in Bill Wilson's demented mind, he had thousands of alcoholics dying either way: Thousands of alcoholics supposedly died because Bill didn't indulge in self-aggrandizement and get his picture printed on the cover of TIME magazine, and thousands of alcoholics would have died if Bill had broken his anonymity. Those poor alcoholics just can't win.

Bill Wilson's immensely inflated opinion of his own importance to other alcoholics is clear evidence of delusions of grandeur. Bill didn't — just couldn't — admit even the slightest possibility that those other alcoholics could probably find some other way to quit drinking and recover anyway, if they really wanted to, without Bill Wilson and his great teachings (Buchmanism) being the center of their lives. No, Bill Wilson declared that he was condemning those unfortunate alcoholics to death by depriving them of knowledge of his magnificent program.

Remember that the Harvard Medical School says that more than 50% of all alcoholics eventually quit drinking, and 80 percent of those successful quitters quit drinking without A.A., the Twelve Steps, or even any treatment or support group of any kind. They save themselves, alone, on their own, without Bill Wilson or his followers.

Likewise, the NIAAA's 2001-2002 National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions interviewed over 43,000 people. Using the criteria for alcohol dependence found in the DSM-IV, they found:

      "About 75 percent of persons who recover from alcohol dependence do so without seeking any kind of help, including specialty alcohol (rehab) programs and AA. Only 13 percent of people with alcohol dependence ever receive specialty alcohol treatment."
http://www.spectrum.niaaa.nih.gov/features/alcoholism.aspx

Nevertheless, Bill Wilson even stated, during the earliest days of A.A., that he was sure that John D. Rockefeller Jr. should fund the work of Bill and Alcoholics Anonymous, because...

"It was felt that raising money for such a noble enterprise should present no difficulties at all." Why, they assured each other, "this is probably one of the greatest medical and spiritual developments of all time. Certainly the rich will help us. How could they do anything else?"
Bill W. and Mister Wilson — The Legend and Life of A.A.'s Cofounder, Matthew J. Raphael, page 111,
and
Alcoholics Anonymous Comes Of Age, William G. Wilson, page 146.

One of the greatest medical and spiritual developments of all time?

And notice how Bill Wilson tried to off-load the blame for his grandiosity to the other alcoholics. It was Bill Wilson who went around grandstanding and raving about how he was the greatest and his program was the greatest new discovery. But then he seems to have had a moment of clarity where he realized how ridiculous those grandiose claims were, so when he wrote his version of the history of Alcoholics Anonymous many years later, Bill Wilson claimed that it was those silly other alcoholics were assuring each other that A.A. was the greatest development of all time. (Ha, ha. Aren't us alcoholics really stupid?)

Nina Brown described living with a narcissist:

Off-loading Blame

If your partner has a Manipulative DNP [Destructive Narcissistic Personality], you are likely to be accustomed to [his] tendency to off-load blame, and many times you are the recipient of the blame. It doesn't matter how big or small the offense is, your partner never accepts responsibility for mistakes as errors. Worse, you may be blamed for things that are not your fault or are not under your control.
      This tendency to off-load blame is a manifestation of the inflated self. Your partner feels that [he] can do no wrong and is superior. Other words to describe this self-perception and attitude are grandiose and omnipotent.
Loving the Self-Absorbed: How to Create a More Satisfying Relationship with a Narcissistic Partner, Nina W. Brown, Ed.D., LPC, NCC, page 123.

And Bill insisted that all other A.A. members besides himself, especially celebrities, must remain anonymous because:

"It would be harmful if the Fellowship promoted itself by publicizing, through the media of radio and TV, the sobriety of well-known public personalities who became members of AA. If these personalities happened to have slips, outsiders would think our movement is not strong and they might question the veracity of the miracle of the century."
Twenty-Four Hours a Day, "Compiled by a member of the Group at Daytona Beach, Florida", Hazelden Foundation; November 30.

The miracle of the century?

(Note how that policy will hide all A.A. failures. When you see an alcoholic going down the tubes, you will not know that he is another member of Alcoholics Anonymous who didn't make it.)

The grandiose self-image that characterizes the narcissist compensates for an inadequate and ineffective sense of self.
Narcissism, Denial of the True Self, Alexander Lowen, M.D., page 73.

The image itself is a denial of one's feelings. By identifying with a grandiose image, one can ignore the painfulness of one's inner reality. But the image also serves an external function in relation to the world. It is a way of gaining acceptance from others, a way of seducing them and of gaining power over them.
Narcissism, Denial of the True Self, Alexander Lowen, M.D., page 74.



The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-III-R and DSM-IV) states that the patient with grandiose delusions may believe that he has made some great and important discovery. That fits Bill Wilson exactly. He was sure that he had discovered something extremely important, a brand new way for alcoholics to quit drinking — become a religious maniac. Bill even wrote of his first three converts in Akron:

These men had found something brand new in life.
The Big Book, 3rd edition, William G. Wilson, Chapter 11, A Vision For You, page 159.

Bill Wilson also wrote in the Big Book that the first ten alcoholic members of Bill's new temperance movement would meet each evening,

... constantly thinking how they might present their discovery to some newcomer.
The Big Book, 3rd edition, William G. Wilson, Chapter 11, A Vision For You, page 159.

"Their discovery," which really meant "Bill's discovery."
(Note too, how Bill Wilson was again hiding behind other people, masking his monumental egotism by calling it "their discovery".)

Bill Wilson imagined that his "great discovery" was brand new and original. He didn't seem to be able to remember — or else he conveniently forgot — the fact that Oxford Group members, Ebby Thacher and Rowland Hazard in particular, had taught the same thing to him — that the cure for alcoholism was to turn into a religiomaniac. Bill forgot that they made him into the religious maniac that he was by attacking his mind and indoctrinating him while he was detoxing in Towns' Hospital and completely out of his head from alcohol withdrawal and hallucinogenic drugs.

Bill also apparently forgot the fact that there had been many earlier temperance movements, and a lot of them had used religion as a big part of their program. They had even contributed some colorful phrases to our language, like "taking the pledge" and "falling off of the wagon."


In his history of Alcoholics Anonymous, Bill Wilson wrote:

It was on a November day in that year [1937] when Dr. Bob and I sat in his living room, counting the noses of our recoveries. There had been failures galore, but now we could see some startling successes too. A hard core of very grim, last-gasp cases had by then been sober a couple of years, an unheard-of development. There were twenty or more such people. All told we figured that upwards of forty alcoholics were staying bone dry.
      As we carefully rechecked this score, it suddenly burst upon us that a new light was shining into the dark world of the alcoholic. Despite the fact that Ebby had slipped, a benign chain reaction, one alcoholic carrying the good news to the next, had started outward from Doctor Bob and me. Conceivably it could one day circle the whole world. What a tremendous thing that realization was! At last we were sure. There would be no more flying totally blind. We actually wept for joy, and Bob and Anne and I bowed our heads in silent thanks.
Alcoholics Anonymous Comes Of Age, William G. Wilson, page 76.

So, after two years of intense full-time recruiting work, including deceptive recruiting, coercive recruiting, and cherry-picking only those alcoholics who were ready to quit drinking, Bill and Bob counted 40 ex-drinkers in their club (who had anything from two years down to a few days of sobriety). On the basis of that, Bill Wilson concluded that he had discovered a new cure for alcoholism.

Bill restated this "great discovery" theme in the prospectus for shares of "The One Hundred Men Corporation", which was formed to write and publish the Big Book "Alcoholics Anonymous":

In all, about two hundred cases of hopeless alcoholism have been dealt with. As will be seen, about fifty percent of these have recovered. This, of course, is unprecedented — never has such a thing happened before.
THE ONE HUNDRED MEN CORPORATION Prospectus

That was, of course, completely untrue (which also made it a case of felony securities fraud — giving false and deceptive information on a stock prospectus). The A.A. success rate was nowhere near fifty percent (Bill and Dr. Bob calculated that it was five percent), and great numbers of people had quit drinking before Bill started Alcoholics Anonymous. People had been quitting drinking ever since the Egyptians invented beer 5000 years earlier. Very recently, there had been the countless tens and hundreds of thousands of drinkers who had joined the Women's Christian Temperance Union, and gotten Prohibition passed, and before them, there had been perhaps five or six hundred thousands who had joined the Washingtonian Movement.


The new evangelical movements that more or less began in the 1820s and came to be known as the Second Great Awakening ... promised that simple faith (and a conversion) was the road to salvation. If you believed you could be saved, and led a life of self-restraint, you would be saved.   ...
      Antislavery, temperance, and women's movements, which arose in these same years, were also grounded in this rising optimism, assuring their followers a better life if only they followed their particular creeds.
The End of Affluence; The Causes and Consequences of America's Economic Dilemma, Jeffrey Madrick, pages 115-116.



Jerry McCauley was a self-described "counterfeiter's son, a runaway, a thief, a drunkard, a brawler, and a convict" who experienced three dramatic religious experiences that converted him into a Christian believer. He opened the Water Street Mission in New York in 1872. It advertised "Everybody welcome, especially drunkards", and offered the derelict alcoholics respect and compassion rather than condescension and contempt. The religious meetings there were short on sermons and long on personal stories, and sounded just like the second half of an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting:10

... the heart of the meeting was not McAuley, but the "testimonies" of the participants.
      One after another they spoke of their fall and their rebirth, or of their need for hope and change. The only structure to this "experience sharing" (to remind the reader of the Washingtonian parallel) was McAuley's time limit of one minute per speaker. He even used a bell to rein in the long-winded speaker.   ...
      While some religious institutions had made superficial overtures to drunkards, prostitutes, thieves, and the homeless, McAuley's Water Street Mission was the first institution that opened its doors day and night to truly welcome those branded as social outcasts.   ...   There is some evidence that McAuley's demonstration that the alcoholic could be reformed by religious conversion also contributed to the founding of the New York Christian Home for Intemperate Men in 1877.
Slaying The Dragon: The History of Addiction Treatment and Recovery in America, by William L. White, 1998, page 73.

The Salvation Army started in 1865, and came to the United States in 1880, and it promoted the disease idea of alcoholism:

      [Salvation Army Founder William] Booth declared in 1890 that alcoholism was "a disease often inherited, always developed by indulgence, but as clearly a disease as opthalmia or stone." His plan for bringing salvation to the alcoholic involved attracting him with food and shelter, then providing stability through temporary employment; and finally transferring him to rural colonies, where he would learn the values of sobriety and responsibility. The vision was that Christian salvation and moral education in a wholesome environment would save the body and soul of the alcoholic.   ...
      Salvation Army workers began street outreach with alcoholics as early as 1891.   ... Although the SA offered no specialized treatment services, alcoholics made up a large portion of the clientele when the SA's first "Cheap Food and Shelter Depot" opened in 1891 in New York City.   ... By 1900 there were more than 700 corps of the Salvation Army scattered across America's cities.
Slaying The Dragon: The History of Addiction Treatment and Recovery in America, by William L. White, 1998, page 74.

Also note that General William Booth published his book about recovery from alcoholism, "In Darkest England and the Way Out", back in 1890.

      Dipsomania became a popular term in the nineteenth century and illustrated the spreading view that drunkeness was not willful, but an illness, a particular form of mania.   ...
      Morel considered alcoholism a degenerative state and many who came after him agreed.   ...
      [In 1863] ... Isaac Ray wrote of the risk of inheriting alcoholism when parents were intoxicated at the moment of conception.24
      In his study of one hundred cases of chronic alcoholics in the 1880s Thomas D. Crothers reported an incidence of alcoholism in over 50 percent of the ancestors. In addition, Crothers discovered that 30 percent of these ancestors showed signs of degenerative diseases. The assumption of an association between heredity and dipsomania had grown so great by the middle of the decade that the Woman's Christian Temperance Union briefly published a magazine called the Journal of Heredity.25

24. Isaac Ray, Mental Hygiene (Boston: Ticknor and Fields, 1863).
25. Mark H. Haller, Eugenics: Hereditarian Attitudes in American Thought (New Brunswick, N.J.: Rutgers University Press, 1963), p. 31.

E. Carlson, 1985, "Medicine and Degeneration", in Degeneration: The Dark Side of Progress, Ed. by J. Chamberlin and S. Gilman, Columbia U. Press, page 130.

The diagnosis of drunkenness was that it was a disease for which the patient was in no way responsible, that it was created by existing saloons, and non-existing bright hearths, smiling wives, pretty caps and aprons. The cure was the patent nostrum of pledge-signing, a lying-made-easy invention, which like calomel, seldom had any permanent effect on the disease for which it was given, and never failed to produce another and a worse. Here the care created an epidemic of forgery, falsehood and perjury.
Jane Grey Swisshelm (1815-1884), U.S. newspaperwoman, abolitionist, and human rights activist. Half a Century, ch. 30 (1880).

And then there was Keswick:

William Raws emigrated from England to the United States in 1889 in an effort to outrun his alcoholism. Following the sudden deaths of his mother and wife — the latter from alcoholism — he underwent a profound religious transformation that checked his own alcoholism and incited a desire to carry the message of religious salvation to other alcoholics.   ...   In 1897, along with his assistant John R. McIntyre, he founded the Keswick Colony of Mercy in Whiting, New Jersey.   ...
      The Keswick Colony of Mercy provided a program of "spiritual therapy" for recovery from alcoholism.
      ... Up to 39 men at a time reside at the colony, undergoing bible study, prayer, and personal counselling. Each man leaving is linked with a religious mentor, and together they form a "pastoral covenant" for continued religious education and support. Men leaving the colony are also expected to seek continued support through religious recovery groups such as Alcoholics Victorious, Mountain Movers, or High Ground.
Slaying The Dragon: The History of Addiction Treatment and Recovery in America, by William L. White, 1998, pages 75-76.

And the Emmanuel Clinic and the Lay Therapy Movement was a ready-made prescription for Alcoholics Anonymous:11

In 1906, the Rev. Drs. Elwood Worcester and Samuel McComb, along with physician Dr. Isador Coriat, opened a clinic in the Emmanuel Church in Boston, that, for 23 years, integrated religion, medicine, and psychology in the treatment of various disorders.   ...
      The Jacoby club, started by Ernest Jacoby in 1910, provided formal support meetings and social events for alcoholics in treatment. Its motto was "A club for men to help themselves by helping others."   ...
      There is much in the Emmanuel Clinic that influenced the future of alcoholism treatment. Its integration of psychology and religion foreshadows the current use of spirituality in addiction treatment. It was the first outpatient alcoholism clinic whose primary methods were those of psychological counselling. Its focus on self-inventory and confession foreshadowed the Oxford Groups and Alcoholics Anonymous. The use of "friendly visitors" and "lay therapists" foreshadowed A.A.'s Twelfth Step and system of sponsorship, the emergence of the professional role of the alcoholism counselor, and the more recent role of the case manager. Elements of the methods developed at the Emmanuel Clinic were incorporated into the mid-century development of outpatient alcoholism counselling clinics.
      One of the more historically significant contributions of the Emmanuel Clinic was the use of recovered alcoholics as what came to be called "lay therapists".
      References to the "lay therapy movement" spawned at this Clinic generally indicated both the people who were providing the therapy — recovered alcoholics without formal training as psychiatrists, psychologists or social workers — and the kind of therapy that was being provided...
Slaying The Dragon: The History of Addiction Treatment and Recovery in America, by William L. White, 1998, page 100.


Keeley League No. 1, Dwight, IL. 1898

Bill Wilson liked to claim that the disease theory of alcoholism began with Bill's doctor, Dr. William D. Silkworth, and that Alcoholics Anonymous was the first organization to promote this enlightened new approach to alcoholism:

      Bill listened, entranced, as Silkworth explained his theory. For the first time in his life, Bill was hearing about alcoholism not as a lack of willpower, not as a moral defect, but as a legitimate illness. It was Dr. Silkworth's theory — unique at the time — that alcoholism was the combination of this mysterious pysical "allergy" and the compulsion to drink; that alcoholism could no more be "defeated" by willpower than could tuberculosis. Bill's relief was immense.
'PASS IT ON': The story of Bill Wilson and how the A.A. message reached the world, Authorship credited to 'anonymous', actually written by A.A.W.S. staff, page 102.

Watch out: That is another bait-and-switch trick. Newcomers are told that alcoholism is a disease, and that they shouldn't feel guilty about it, but that is just a come-on to get people to join A.A.. Bill Wilson always considered alcoholism to be a state of sin, and that is why you have to confess all of your sins and "moral shortcomings" and "defects of character" and "wrongs" in Step Five. Dr. Frank Buchman, the leader of the Oxford Groups, declared that sin was the cause of all social problems, and that confession was the cure for sin, and Bill just copied all of that dogma.

Silkworth's disease theory was obviously not new or unique. In fact, the idea was even common in the Oxford Group cult, of which Bill Wilson and Doctor Bob were members before they founded Alcoholics Anonymous. Beverly Nichols described the ideal Oxford Group wife of an alcoholic this way:

...an absolutely unselfish wife must endure, year in and year out, the persecution of a drunkard. She must never assert herself, never speak harshly to him, never protest when he revolts her sensibilities, terrifies her children, turns her house into a lunatic asylum, gambles away her money. 'It is not him,' she must say. 'It is a disease.' Or again: 'I took him for better or for worse; I must endure to the end.'
      Such women exist by the thousand; the Oxford Group approves of them; I do not. They are magnificent but mad. Unselfishness, if carried to these extremes, is an obsession that does nothing but prolong unnecessary pain. (Read Stefan Zweig's Beware of Pity.)
All I Could Never Be, Beverly Nichols, pages 262-266.

(The resemblance of the Oxford Group to the Alcoholics Anonymous wives' auxiliary, Al-Anon, is unmistakeable.)

Note that Beverly Nichols was describing the situation in the Oxford Group back in the nineteen-twenties and -thirties. The excuse that alcoholism is a disease was already common then. The disease concept of alcoholism did not originate with Bill Wilson, Alcoholics Anonymous, or Dr. William D. Silkworth, either. Dr. Benjamin Rush advanced the idea in 1784, in his Inquiry into the Effects of Ardent Spirits on the Human Mind and Body, where he designated addiction to spirits as a "disease of the will". There was a counterpart in Britain: the Edinburgh physician Thomas Trotter wrote in his doctoral dissertation, An essay, medical, philosophical and chemical on drunkenness, submitted in 1788 and published version in 1804, that "In medical language, I consider drunkennes to be a disease..." He also wrote that "the habit of drunkennes is a disease of the mind". Bill Wilson did not invent or discover anything when he created the A.A. cult; he just copied the Oxford Group (which in turn had copied most of its material and practices from earlier characters like Henry B. Wright of Yale University).

Every single important feature of the Alcoholics Anonymous program was already commonplace in one or more of the numerous temperance movements, alcoholism treatment programs, or cult religions that existed before A.A., and yet Bill Wilson bombastically declared that his "spiritual" method of recovery was something completely new and original:

  • "These men had found something brand new in life."
  • "...this is probably one of the greatest medical and spiritual developments of all time."
  • [A.A. is] "the miracle of the century."
  • " ... about fifty percent of these [alcoholics] have recovered. This, of course, is unprecedented — never has such a thing happened before."

    (Bill Wilson was, of course, also grossly exaggerating the A.A. success rate, overstating it by at least a factor of 10.

    And many of Bill Wilson's advertised success stories relapsed and disappeared — half of the original Big Book authors returned to drinking — so, in the end, Bill's "new spiritual program" had no greater a success rate than the various temperance movements that had come before it. But Bill Wilson was deluded and crazy enough to believe — or narcissistic and dishonest enough to claim — that he was the first person in the history of the human race to discover quitting drinking, the first crusader to sober up a few drunks with religion, and if he didn't personally save all of the alcoholics, then they would all die.

Bill Wilson could not possibly have been ignorant of the earlier history of the Temperance Movement. Bill Wilson talked about the Washingtonian Society in his book, Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions:

The Washingtonian Society, a movement among alcoholics which started in Baltimore a century ago, almost discovered the answer to alcoholism. At first, the society was composed entirely of alcoholics trying to help one another. The early members foresaw that they should dedicate themselves to this sole aim. In many respects, the Washingtonians were akin to A.A. of today. Their membership passed the hundred thousand mark. Had they been left to themselves, and stuck to their one goal, they might have found the rest of the answer.
Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions, William G. Wilson, page 178.

(Note how Bill Wilson wrote of "the answer to alcoholism" as if there were one single one-size-fits-all cure for alcoholism. And of course Bill imagined that he knew "the rest of the answer" that his predecessors had failed to discover.)

Bill Wilson often repeated the story about how, while he was in Towns' Hospital (December 11 to 14, 1934), after his belladonna-induced "hot flash" where he "saw God", one of his friends, either Ebby Thacher or Rowland Hazard (Bill couldn't remember which it was), brought Bill a copy of William James' book The Varieties of Religious Experience to read. Bill said that reading the book was tough going, but he got through it while he was in the hospital. It was reading Varieties that led Bill to believe that he had had a religious experience (which he later renamed to a "spiritual" experience).

The Varieties of Religious Experience contains many stories of alcoholics being cured of alcoholism by religious conversion (throughout pages 198 to 263):

Before embarking on the general natural history of the regenerate character, let me convince you of this curious fact by one or two examples. The most numerous are those of reformed drunkards. You recollect the case of Mr. Hadley in the last lecture; the Jerry McAuley Water Street Mission abounds in similar instances.1 You also remember the graduate of Oxford, converted at three in the afternoon, and getting drunk in the hay-field the next day, but after that permanently cured of his appetite. "From that hour drink has had no terrors for me: I never touch it, never want it. The same thing occurred with my pipe... the desire for it went at once and has never returned. So with every known sin, the deliverance in each case being permanent and complete. I have had no temptations since conversion."

1. Above p. 200. "The only radical remedy I know for dipsomania is religiomania," is a saying I have heard quoted from some medical man.

The Varieties of Religious Experience, William James, Modern Library 1936 printing, pages 262-263.

(Note that Bill Wilson erroneously attributed the quote "The only radical remedy for dipsomania is religiomania" to Carl Jung, but it obviously predates Rowland Hazard's communication with Jung, because William James published Varieties in 1902. Bill Pittman reported that Jung and James met in 1909,17 so if Jung ever said it, he probably got it from James. And it's understandable that Bill couldn't remember where he read that quote — he was detoxing and tripping on hallucinogenic drugs when he read Varieties.)

Alcoholics Anonymous is often called the "father" of the self-help movement for heavy drinkers in the United States. It isn't. A.A. may be considered a distant descendant of the Washingtonian Society, a temperance group that flourished in the 1840s and 1850s. A.A. is linked by a visible thread to that Society, an organization rooted in Pietist and Protestant evangelical thought. Bill Wilson, aware of the Washingtonian experiment, was influenced by it and disenchanted with it. He encouraged members of A.A. to avoid the four major flaws that he perceived in the Washingtonians: 1) a policy of self-promotion through advertising; 2) exhibitionism to the point of grandiosity, coupled with a competitive stance and an unwillingness to cooperate with other organizations in their field; 3) the dissipation of effort in fruitless controversy and divergent aims (such as the abolitionist movement); and 4) "Refusal to stick to their original purpose and so refrain from fighting anybody." (Some tenets of A.A. — though not certain of A.A.'s current positions and practices — clearly reflect these reactions to the Washingtonians.)18
      Thus, the relationship of A.A. to the Washingtonian Society, although something of a historical accident, is one that involves a similarity of purpose but a contrast of method. Despite Wilson's claim (In A.A. Comes of Age) that he knew little about the Washingtonians, the fact is that he knew quite a bit about them, as indicated above.

18. Ernest Kurtz details this issue on pp. 116-117 of Not-God, and refers to Wilson's Grapevine article (AAGV 2:3, August, 1945, published one year before the publication of the Traditions. In that article, Wilson listed the four "flaws" of the Washingtonian Society, that is, differences in approach and procedure, from that which he envisioned for a still nascent A.A. The Grapevine carried 12 articles on the Washingtonian Society between 1945 and 1976. Kurtz reports (p. 292), "Further, the Washingtonians have been kept before A.A.'s attention over these years by Professor Milton Maxwell, currently an A.A. trustee, whose deepest scholarly treatment appeared as 'The Washingtonian Movement,' QJSA [Quarterly Journal of Studies on Alcohol], Vol. 11, pp. 410-451 (1950)." The result of A.A.'s early views on the Washingtonian program produced, in large part, its tenth Tradition: 'Alcoholics Anonymous has no opinion on outside issues; hence the A.A. name ought never be drawn into public controversy.'" There are now many reasons for A.A. to reconsider its 47-year-old position, but the tenth Tradition is now solidly grounded, and — in any case — A.A. is disinclined toward adaptation to changing conditions.

Addiction, Change & Choice; The New View of Alcoholism, Vince Fox, M.Ed. CRREd., pages 46-47 and footnote on page 58.



The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders states that part of the grandiose delusion may be the feeling of having a special relationship with a deity. Bill Wilson wrote,

We have come to believe He would like us to keep our heads in the clouds with Him, but that our feet ought to be firmly planted on earth. That is where our fellow travelers are, and that is where our work must be done. These are the realities for us.
The Big Book, 3rd edition, William G. Wilson, Chapter 9, page 130.

"God wants us to have our heads in the clouds with Him." If that isn't a special relationship with a deity, then I don't know what is. And God wants us to keep our feet firmly planted in the earth, because He has a special mission for us — go convert the other alcoholics to our religion. Not to make too bad of a pun of it, that is a heady mixture — a real messianic complex.

And no, that is not "just an expression." You don't write a whole book of "It's just an expression" and then claim that it is the cure for alcoholism, and the only way to avoid death by alcohol. Bill Wilson stated repeatedly that the purpose of the Big Book was to present a program that would save people from an alcoholic death. It was a manual to be followed exactly. Bill meant what he was writing to be taken literally, and followed literally, step by step:

To show other alcoholics precisely how we have recovered is the main purpose of this book. For them, we hope these pages will prove so convincing that no further authentication will be necessary.
[Italics in the original.]
The Big Book, Foreword to the First Edition, William G. Wilson, page xiii of the 3rd edition.

Well, we finally got to the point where we really had to say what this book was all about and how this deal works. As I told you this had been a six-step program then.   ...
The idea came to me, well, we need a definite statement of concrete principles that these drunks can't wiggle out of. There can't be any wiggling out of this deal at all and this six-step program had two big gaps which people wiggled out of.
— Bill Wilson, Transcribed from tape, Fort Worth, 1954, on http://www.a1aa.com/more%2012steps.htm

So the followers have to be locked into an iron-clad contract that is so explicit that every single detail is spelled out. None of it is "just an expression."

Note, once again, Bill Wilson's actual contempt for his fellow alcoholics. A.A. isn't a "fellowship of equals" or a self-help group, it's a dictatorship where Bill Wilson gives the orders:

  • "These drunks" will try to cheat on "this deal", and they will "wiggle out of" Bill Wilson's "spiritual principles" if they can get away with it. The negative stereotyper strikes again: "Alcoholics are just irresponsible children who must be forced to be good by cutting them no slack whatsoever, and giving them no wiggle room."

  • By implication, Bill Wilson is the wise elder statesman who is qualified to discipline the children. So what training or preparation qualified Mr. Wilson to be an alcoholism recovery counselor, as well as the High Priest of Alcoholics Anonymous?

    • Well, he drank a whole lot of prohibition whiskey and bathtub gin for many years, until his doctor, Dr. Silkworth, said Bill was showing signs of brain damage.

    • And then Dr. Silkworth said that Bill Wilson was likely to go insane if Bill drank any more — that within a year, Bill would develop a "wet brain" and have to be institutionalized. So Bill drank some more.

    • Then Bill had what he later described as "a hot flash" from belladonna and delirium tremens while detoxing in the hospital, and "saw God"...

    • And then he was coached and taught cult religion practices and beliefs by some temporarily-sober religious nut-cases from Frank Buchman's Oxford Group.

    That was Bill Wilson's training for the position of Grand Poohbah of Alcoholics Anonymous.

A person who had suffered from Narcissistic Personality Disorder wrote:

But the narcissist's failure of the reality test can have more serious and irreversible consequences. Narcissists, academically unqualified to make life-and-death decisions often insist on rendering them. I "treated" my father for muscular pain for five days at home. All that time, he was enduring a massive heart attack. My vanity wouldn't let me admit my diagnostic error. He survived. Many others don't. Narcissists pretend to be economists, engineers, or medical doctors when they are not. But they are not con-artists in the classic, premeditated sense. They firmly believe that, though self-taught at best, they are more qualified than even the properly accredited sort. Narcissists believe in magic and in fantasy. They are no longer with us.
from: HealthyPlace.Com/Communities/Personality_Disorders/narcissism/faq3.html
Narcissism-Grandiose Fantasies: HealthyPlace.com
Personality Disorders Community

A new A.A. recruit who read Bill's grandiose declarations in the Big Book believed them and excitedly wrote in his own story:

"Here was a book that said I could do something that all these doctors and priests and ministers and psychiatrists that I'd been going to for years couldn't do!"
The Big Book, 3rd Edition, page 473, "Promoted to Chronic".


The new A.A. members really are supposed to develop a special personal relationship with a deity or Higher Power, and get their orders by communicating directly with that Higher Power in Step Eleven. In return for the members following the dictates of that Higher Power, the Higher Power will take away the members' cravings for alcohol, solve all of their problems, talk to them and give them more instructions and guidance and power, and transport the members to a new and wonderful world. (The Big Book, 3rd Edition, pages 75, 42, 84 to 88, and 100, respectively.)

But wait — it just gets better and better. Wilson describes how, in Step Eleven, we learn to let God direct our thinking:

On awakening, let us think about the twenty-four hours ahead. We consider our plans for the day. Before we begin, we ask God to direct our thinking, especially asking that it be divorced from self-pity, dishonest or self-seeking motives.
      ... Here we ask God for inspiration, an intuitive thought or a decision.   ...   We are often surprised how the right answers come after we have tried this for a while. What used to be the hunch or the occasional inspiration becomes a working part of the mind. Being still inexperienced and having just made conscious contact with God, it is not probable that we are going to be inspired at all times. We might pay for this presumption in all sorts of absurd actions and ideas. Nevertheless, we find that our thinking will, as time passes, be more and more on the plane of inspiration. We come to rely on it.
      We usually conclude the period of meditation with a prayer that we be shown all through the day what our next step is to be...
The Big Book, 3rd edition, William G. Wilson, pages 86 to 87.

So, if we practice the Twelve Steps enough, we will supposedly end up in a state of mind where we are in constant conscious contact with God — a state where we are channelling God in a non-stop séance — and He is guiding us and telling us what to do, all day long. Bill Wilson admits that we may get into trouble by believing all kinds of absurd ideas, and doing all kinds of crazy things, because we think that the voice we hear in our head is God telling us to do something, but, "Nevertheless", Bill says, "We come to rely on it."

Do you think that sounds like what the psychiatrist was talking about when he said, "The patient thinks he has a special relationship with a deity"?

The psychiatrist asks the patient, "Why did you do such a stupid thing?"
And the patient answers, "God told me to do it. I heard His voice inside my head, talking to me and telling me to do it."
And the psychiatrist just says, "Uh, yeh, right."

And notice also how slickly the rather paranoid Bill Wilson tried, in advance, to deflect criticism there: He admitted that some people did absurd things and had absurd ideas when they thought they were following instructions from God, but he implied that they were just beginners —
"Being still inexperienced and having just made conscious contact with God".
The more experienced people will supposedly get beyond such problems. So if someone is acting crazy, don't worry about it — that's just a beginner, and he will get over it. He will eventually learn to hear The Voice Of God correctly.

Like how Bill Wilson did?



Just a little more of William Wilson's special relationship to a deity, from Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions:

In Step Eleven we saw that if a Higher Power had restored us to sanity and had enabled us to live with some peace of mind in a sorely troubled world, then such a Higher Power was worth knowing better, by as direct contact as possible. The persistent use of meditation and prayer, we found, did open the channel so that where there had been a trickle, there now was a river which led to sure power and safe guidance from God as we were increasingly better able to understand Him.
        So, practicing these Steps, we had a spiritual awakening about which finally there was no question. Looking at those who were only beginning and still doubting themselves, the rest of us were able to see the change setting in. From great numbers of such experiences, we could predict that the doubter who still claimed that he hadn't got the "spiritual angle," and who still considered his well-loved A.A. group the higher power, would presently love God and call Him by name.
Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions, William Wilson, pages 108-109.


William G. Wilson
So, practicing these Steps, Bill Wilson persistently practiced meditation and prayer until he could "channel" God, and hear the voice of God in his head, telling him what to do, all day long. William Wilson claimed that he ended up getting both his marching orders ("safe guidance") and his "sure power" directly from God, while being increasingly better able to understand God, and having "a spiritual awakening about which finally there was no question."

Note the delusional distortions: "those who were only beginning and still doubting themselves..." Actually, the beginners were not doubting themselves as much as they were doubting the sanity of the A.A. members, especially that Bill W., and wondering whether those Twelve Steps would really work to make people quit drinking, and wondering how a "Higher Power" who might be a bedpan or a doorknob or a Group Of Drunks could really perform miracles, and wondering whether all of that religious stuff was really necessary for quitting drinking.

Admittedly, the newcomers still wondered if they could really do that program. They were probably still shaky from detoxing, and they still lacked the bombastic self-assurance that comes from convincing yourself that you are actually talking to God and getting "The Keys to His Kingdom" — the kind of smug self-confidence that Mark Twain so accurately described as "The calm confidence of a Christian holding four aces".

The beginners haven't been indoctrinated and "changed" enough to display that cultish behavior yet, but their major doubts are still about the crazy behavior of the A.A. members around them, and the goofy illogical dogma and the funny things they are supposed to do to stop drinking.

And about the doubter "who still considered his well-loved A.A. group the higher power..." What if the doubter did no such thing? Bill was making quite a grandiose assumption in stating that the doubters considered their "well-loved" A.A. group to be their "Higher Power", something like their God. What if they didn't really love Alcoholics Anonymous all that much?

But no matter. Bill Wilson will fix that problem by converting them all to his own religious beliefs:
"From great numbers of such experiences, we could predict that the doubter ... would presently love God and call Him by name."

And A.A. still declares that it isn't a religion... Outrageous.

And this line is rather disturbing:
"Looking at those who were only beginning and still doubting themselves, the rest of us were able to see the change setting in."
Bill says that the beginners will not be able to see the "change setting in", but the elders will. So the newcomers will not be aware of how the indoctrination and the Twelve-Step program is changing them and affecting their minds, bringing them to the point where they will be ready to "love God and call Him by name", but the elders will know what is going on.

That sounds like brainwashing. The least that you can call it is the underhanded disguised religious conversion of the newcomers by the old-timers. (Yes, religious conversion done by this organization that claims that it isn't a religion and it doesn't do religious conversions.)

  • One of Dr. Edgar H. Schein's essential conditions for a "brainwashing" or thought-control program is: "Keep the person unaware of what is going on and the changes taking place."
  • One of Prof. Margaret Thaler Singer's conditions for an effective mind-control program is "Keep them unaware that there is an agenda to change them, and unaware of how they are being changed, step by step."
    (She wrote that phrase, "step by step", not me, and she wasn't referring to Alcoholics Anonymous. She was referring to other brainwashing programs.)
  • Bill Wilson just described how Alcoholics Anonymous is just such a mind-control program.

And Wilson restated that idea in the "Spiritual Experience" appendix to the second edition of the Big Book:

Quite often friends of the newcomer are aware of the difference long before he is himself. He finally realizes that he has undergone a profound alteration in his reaction to life; that such a change could hardly have been brought about by himself alone. What often takes place in a few months could seldom have been accomplished by years of self-discipline.
The Big Book, 3rd Edition, William G. Wilson, Appendix II, Spiritual Experience, page 569.

Yes, the brainwashing program does work, and it works without the beginners knowing what is being done to them.



One example of "Delusional (Paranoid) Disorder, Grandiose Type", is a man who imagines that he is a great mathematician, but whose many pages of "brilliant equations" turn out to be nonsensical scrawlings and meaningless gibberish upon close examination. Bill Wilson's magical, "spiritual," 12-Step program for recovery from alcoholism is similar gibberish: just pseudo-science, psycho-babble nonsense and bombastic religiosity that does not and can not work. The entire first 164 pages of the Big Book is just such delusional ravings, like this description of what supposedly happens when we confess all of our sins, "defects of character", "moral shortcomings", and "the exact nature of our wrongs" to another person and God — "Step Five":

We pocket our pride and go to it, illuminating every twist of character, every dark cranny of the past. Once we have taken this step, withholding nothing, we are delighted. We can look the world in the eye. We can be alone at perfect peace and ease. Our fears fall from us. We begin to feel the nearness of our Creator. We may have had certain spiritual beliefs, but now we begin to have a spiritual experience. The feeling that the drink problem has disappeared will often come strongly. We feel we are on the Broad Highway, walking hand in hand with the Spirit of the Universe.
The Big Book, 3rd edition, William G. Wilson, chapter 6, Into Action, page 75.

This is obvious lunacy, and obviously delusional — genuine delusions of grandeur — more of that "special relationship with a deity":
"We feel we are on the Broad Highway, walking hand in hand with the Spirit of the Universe."
If it were really that easy to get Heaven on Earth, then everybody would be doing it.

Mr. Wilson offers us no explanation for how it is that Catholics, who have been practicing confession of sins for two thousand years, have never gotten those results from their practice of confession. And, alas, the Catholics are no more immune to "the drink problem" than the rest of us. The Catholic Church even has to maintain rehab facilities for fallen priests who got hooked on drinking too much sacramental wine.

The only great experience that people really get from Step Five is immense relief that such an embarrassing painful experience is finally over. The tension had been building up all through Step Four, as the subject listed every "sin", "defect of character", or "moral shortcoming" ever committed. Then the subject had to confess it all to a relative stranger who wasn't even an ordained priest, or sworn to secrecy. And then, suddenly, it's over. The pressure is off. You can relax now. Some people misinterpret that sudden release of tension as a "spiritual experience".

It would be nice if confession, or God, would make "the drink problem" just disappear, but, sadly, it doesn't work that way. But Bill Wilson insisted that it does:

We will seldom be interested in liquor.   ...
We will see that our new attitude toward liquor has been given to us without any thought or effort on our part. It just comes! That is the miracle of it.   ...
We have not even sworn off. Instead, the problem has been removed. It does not exist for us.
The Big Book, 3rd edition, William G. Wilson, Chapter 3, More About Alcoholism, pages 84-85.

Now that is really a delusional cure for alcoholism. Miraculously, without any thought or effort on our part, God just makes the problem disappear. Poof!

No effort on our part? Don't we have to do the Twelve Steps?

(Note the implied pay-back: If we do Step Five and confess all of our sins to God and our sponsor, that will please God so much that He will give us a miracle in Step Seven in return, and remove our "defects".)

It is extremely childish to imagine that there is a magical quick fix for alcoholism. It's fun to read the story of Cinderella and her Fairy Godmother, who waved her magic wand and made everything suddenly wonderful. And kids love the Harry Potter books now, too, with their wizardry and magic. Harry waves his magic wand, and Hermione incants a magic spell, and suddenly the problem is solved and everything is okay. But mature adults should be a little more realistic than that, and should know that there is no easy panacea, no simple 12-Step magical formula that will just suddenly fix all of their problems. And to imagine that the fix will happen without any thought or effort on our part... That's insane. That's Looney Tunes...

And no, that isn't a typo, and no, I'm not exaggerating. Bill Wilson repeated that claim in his next book:

So in a very complete and literal way, all A.A.'s have "become entirely ready" to have God remove the mania for alcohol from their lives. And God has proceeded to do exactly that.
Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions, William Wilson, page 64.

And:

This does not mean we expect all our character defects to be lifted out of us as the drive to drink was.
Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions, William Wilson, page 65.

(Can you believe that large numbers of drug and alcohol counselors are actually pushing the A.A. 12-Step program as a real medical treatment program for drug and alcohol problems? It would be a hilarious joke if it weren't such a tragedy, with so many people dying.)

Bill Wilson wrote and said several times that Doctor Robert Smith, the co-founder of Alcoholics Anonymous, was one of those people who always suffered from cravings for alcohol. God never removed the desire for drink from Dr. Bob. Poor Dr. Bob was "white-knuckling it" every day for the rest of his life, suffering a lot, and still, Bill Wilson cranked out this happy fluff about how God just magically makes the drink problem disappear, without any thought or effort on our part:

"It just comes! That is the miracle of it."

Obviously, Bill Wilson was not sharing his experiences with us; he was writing down his deluded wishful thinking. (Never mind the question of whether Bill Wilson was really sneaking drinks like how he was sneaking cigarettes.)

Note that if you say that Cinderella's Fairy Godmother is going to magically solve all of your problems for you, then people will immediately label you as insane. But if you say that God is going to do it all for you, then people will say that you are really religious. They will give you the benefit of the doubt, and think that you might not be insane.

The A.A. true believers also completely miss the point that there is a major contradiction between having God cure our alcoholism — having the drink problem just "miraculously removed", and not ever being able to drink again. The A.A. doctrine that controlled drinking is impossible for a former alcoholic — indeed, that there is no such thing as a "former alcoholic" — says that you haven't been changed. The slogan is "Once an alcoholic, always an alcoholic." And that slogan is certainly true of some people, including me. We simply cannot drink alcohol any more, not even just one beer, or we will become re-addicted immediately. But if God and Bill Wilson's Twelve Steps had really fixed us, then we should be done with alcoholism, and should be able to drink in moderation, just like normal people. The fact that us alcoholics cannot dare to ever drink alcohol again only proves that God and A.A. have fixed nothing.

Lest there be any doubt about God miraculously fixing us, William Wilson emphatically said it again in his second book, Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions:

Of course, the often disputed question of whether God can — and will, under certain conditions — remove defects of character will be answered with a prompt affirmative by almost any A.A. member. To him, this proposition will be no theory at all; it will be just about the largest fact in his life. He will usually offer his proof in a statement like this:
      "Sure, I was beaten, absolutely licked. My own willpower just wouldn't work on alcohol. Change of scene, the best efforts of family, friends, doctors, and clergymen got no place with my alcoholism. I simply couldn't stop drinking, and no human being could seem to do the job for me. But when I became willing to clean house and then asked a Higher Power, God as I understood Him, to give me release, my obsession to drink vanished. It was lifted right out of me..."
Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions, William G. Wilson, page 63.

What self-pitying nonsense. He tried to quit drinking a few times, but failed because when he craved a drink, he rationalized that it was okay to drink. He told himself that he could have just a few drinks now and then, and keep it down to a dull roar, and it would be okay. But he was wrong. He returned to habitual binge drinking. So then he declared defeat, and declared that it was impossible for him to quit drinking. What a wimpy loser.

Notice the really bizarre complaint:
"I simply couldn't stop drinking, and no human being could seem to do the job for me."
Bill Wilson didn't seem to understand that when you quit drinking, smoking, or drugging, you do it yourself. No other human being can do the quitting for you. It isn't the job of "family, friends, doctors, and clergymen" to quit drinking or quit smoking for you.

It's really ridiculous to think that someone else could do the quitting for you. It's insane. But that's what Bill Wilson wanted: "an easier, softer way" where Somebody Else, like God, did all of the hard work for him, where somebody else did the quitting for him:

His lone courage and unaided will cannot do it. Surely he must now depend upon Somebody or Something else.
Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions, William Wilson, page 39.

Remember that we deal with alcohol — cunning, baffling, powerful! Without help it is too much for us. But there is One who has all power — that One is God. May you find Him now!
The Big Book, 3rd Edition, William Wilson, pages 58-59.

And remember the ultimate "easier way" quote from above:

We will seldom be interested in liquor.   ...
We will see that our new attitude toward liquor has been given to us without any thought or effort on our part. It just comes! That is the miracle of it.   ...
We have not even sworn off. Instead, the problem has been removed. It does not exist for us.
The Big Book, 3rd edition, William G. Wilson, Chapter 3, More About Alcoholism, pages 84-85.

No thought or effort on our part? It just doesn't get any easier than that.

Wanting things easy is just what Bill Wilson accused other people of, if they didn't want to do his Twelve Steps. The following lines from the Big Book are read out loud at the start of almost every A.A. meeting:

If you have decided you want what we have and are willing to go to any length to get it — then you are ready to take certain steps.
        At some of these we balked. We thought we could find an easier, softer way. But we could not.
The Big Book, 3rd edition, William G. Wilson, page 58.

That is yet another example of Bill Wilson's habit of psychological projection — he accused others of the crimes or sins of which he was personally guilty. Bill wanted things to be easy, so he accused everyone else of wanting things to be easy.

Then, Wilson claimed that God really had "removed the mania for alcohol from their lives." Unfortunately, we end up with the same grim facts as before: A.A. doesn't work, and is no more effective than no treatment at all. All of the fair, unbiased, medical testing of A.A. that has ever been done has shown those same sad results.

Then, as if to cover for all of the failures, with both new and old members relapsing and dying drunk, Mr. Wilson declared that God only fixes us for one single day at a time, and that we have to please God by doing slave labor for Him every single day, and then beg God to remove our alcoholism, every single day, for the rest of our lives. This directly contradicts what Bill just wrote above, that God fixes us "without any thought or effort on our part":

We are not cured of alcoholism. What we have is a daily reprieve contingent on the maintenance of our spiritual condition. Every day is a day when we must carry the vision of God's will into all of our daily activities. "How can I best serve Thee — Thy will (not mine) be done." These are thoughts which must go with us constantly. We can exercise our will power along this line all we wish. It is the proper use of the will.
The Big Book, 3rd edition, William G. Wilson, page 85.

This is some of the most incredible lunacy that any faith-healer or TV evangelist ever came up with:
"God will fix you, and will magically heal you, but God's magic wears off after 24 hours, so you will have to beg God to heal you again and again, day after day, every single day for the rest of your life."
That's right down there with garbage like,

  • "Just put your hands on the front of your TV, and the Lawd will heal you right through your TV set."
  • Or:
    "Plant a seed with the Lawd by sending me a bunch of money. The Lawd will love you, and do big favors for you, if you send me all of your money."
  • Or:
    "The Lawd will heal your cancer today, but if it comes back and you drop dead next week, it's because you failed to keep on pleasing the Lawd — you didn't send in enough money."

When Jesus Christ healed people and made the blind see and the cripples walk, Jesus didn't say that the healing would only last for one day and then it would wear off, so all of those people had to "Keep Coming Back!" for another treatment every day...

Jesus also never said that the healings would be revoked if people didn't "Seek and Do the Will of God" every day.

Jesus never told Lazarus that he would go back to being dead if he didn't please God all of the time.

And it is strange that Bill Wilson says that we can use our wills (which we should not have, because we supposedly already gave them to the care of "God as we understood Him" in Step Three), to become sycophant slaves. No other use of our will power is valid, but choosing to be slaves of God is an okay use of our will power, and,
"We can exercise our will power along this line all we wish. It is the proper use of the will."

What rot. The proper use of the will? Only someone who has seriously damaged his brain with alcohol, or someone who was insane to start with, or both, could really believe such absurd nonsense. It isn't a matter of believing in God, it's a matter of believing in the crazy ravings of a genuine lunatic.

Also note that Bill Wilson's fascist leanings are showing again — If you are really a spiritual person, then you should use your will power to voluntarily choose to be a grovelling slave of Der Führer im Himmel (the Leader in Heaven):
"Sieg Heil, mein Führer! I just love to follow your orders. I voluntarily choose to be your slave! I live to do your will! Sieg Heil!"

"All fascists are not of one mind. There are those who give the orders, and those who take them."
== Dialog from the anti-Nazi 1930s movie Watch On The Rhine, Director Herman Shumlin, Screenplay by Dashell Hammett

So we have to be seeking and doing God's will every single day, in order for God to spare us from a horrible death by alcohol?

Why, I can't help but wonder whether God deliberately stuck us with the gene for alcoholism just so that we would be forced to be His Slaves and do His Will every day, for the rest of our lives, or else...7

What a great way to get cheap labor.

Mr. Wilson continued:

Much has already been said about receiving strength, inspiration, and direction from Him who has all knowledge and power. If we have carefully followed directions, we have begun to sense the flow of His Spirit into us. To some extent we have become God-conscious. We have begun to develop this vital sixth sense.
The Big Book, 3rd edition, William G. Wilson, page 85.

So now we are becoming psychic, "God-conscious", and can sense what God's will is with our new "vital sixth sense". We will actually be channelling God, sort of like a Shirley MacLaine on steroids, but only "if we have carefully followed directions"... What directions? Whose directions? Well, Bill Wilson's directions, of course.

Note how carefully Mr. Wilson phrased that: He didn't say,
"If you have carefully followed MY directions, you will get to talk to God."
No, that would have made Mr. Wilson's grandiose egotism far too obvious, and would have invited questions like,
"What makes this guy think he has all of the answers? What makes him so special?"
So Bill Wilson just said that you must "carefully follow directions", which leaves it to your own mind to fill in the details like,
"Oh, yeh, THE directions of THE program."
Wilson really was a clever propagandist.



Bill Wilson even bragged about his sanity:

We are convinced that a spiritual mode of living is a most powerful health restorative. We, who have recovered from serious drinking, are miracles of mental health.
The Big Book, 3rd Edition, William G. Wilson, The Family Afterward, page 133.

This is good, too:
"Even so has God restored us all to our right minds."
(The Big Book, 3rd Edition, William G. Wilson, Chapter 4, "We Agnostics", page 57.)

Ordinary nutty people have to rely on their psychiatrist or new medications to restore them to sanity, but not William Wilson and his gang. They all have God Almighty for their shrink. And the way in which they — "We Agnostics" — were all restored to their 'right minds' was that God made them believe in God.

And Alcoholics Anonymous members still say that this isn't a religion?

In the Big Book, Bill declared that what is wrong with doubters is:

Instead of regarding ourselves as intelligent agents, spearheads of God's ever advancing Creation, we agnostics and atheists chose to believe that our human intelligence was the last word, the alpha and the omega, the beginning and end of all. Rather vain of us, wasn't it?
The Big Book, 3rd edition, William G. Wilson, Chapter 4, "We Agnostics", page 49.

Since Bill is one of the true believers, he does regard himself as an "intelligent agent, a spearhead of God's ever advancing Creation" (whatever that is), and Bill doesn't believe in human intelligence, because blind faith is much better than human intelligence.

(Is it just me, or are you having trouble figuring out how you can regard yourself as an intelligent agent for God who doesn't believe in human intelligence?)

It's funny how almost every religious cult that comes along sees itself as a "movement", a big wave sweeping the world — "spearheads of God's ever advancing Creation" — winning the world for God. What's funny is that God has had tens of thousands of years, at least, if not billions of years, to invade and conquer the planet Earth, and He still hasn't gotten the job done yet... Bill Wilson makes God into such a total loser when it comes to imperialism and colonialism. Darth Vader was much better at it. Heck, bacteria are better at it.

(But actually, that's a good thing. If God had really finished the job, then all of those guys with messianic complexes wouldn't know what to do with themselves. :-)

Bill Wilson's alleged story of his own religious conversion at the hands of Ebby Thacher is very revealing, too:

      Despite the living example of my friend [a sober Ebby Thacher] there remained in me the vestiges of my old prejudice. The word God still aroused a certain antipathy. When the thought was expressed that there might be a God personal to me this feeling was intensified. I didn't like the idea. I could go for such conceptions as Creative Intelligence, Universal Mind or Spirit of Nature but I resisted the thought of a Czar of the Heavens, however loving His sway might be. I have since talked with scores of men who felt the same way.
      My friend suggested what then seemed a novel idea. He said, "Why don't you choose your own conception of God?"
      That statement hit me hard. It melted the icy intellectual mountain in whose shadow I had lived and shivered many years. I stood in the sunlight at last.
      It was only a matter of being willing to believe in a Power greater than myself. Nothing more was required of me to make my beginning. I saw that growth could start from that point. Upon a foundation of complete willingness I might build what I saw in my friend. Would I have it? Of course I would!
      Thus was I convinced that God is concerned with us humans when we want Him enough. At long last I saw, I felt, I believed. Scales of pride and prejudice fell from my eyes. A new world came into view.
Big Book, 3rd Edition, William G. Wilson, Chapter 1, "Bill's Story", Page 12.

  • "I can choose any conception of God that I wish.
  • I can make God in my own image.
  • I can worship any Golden Calf that I like. It doesn't matter.
  • It is only necessary that I believe whatever I wish to believe.
  • Upon that simple beginning, I can build a whole new theology.
  • Will it work? Of course it will, because I wish it to!
  • Oh happy day! The scales are falling from my eyes. My prejudices are gone!
  • I can see The Promised Land clearly now!
  • I am convinced that God will be concerned about me, and grant all of my wishes, because I want Him to."

Yes, Bill Wilson was genuinely insane, and he showed us that over and over again in the Big Book and his other writings like Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions. Bill even became the leader of a religious cult. He's literally a classic textbook case of 297.10 Delusional (Paranoid) Disorder, Grandiose Type.

(And it is funny that Bill Wilson couldn't stand the idea of a "Czar of the Heavens". I guess Bill was basically like Frank Buchman, just anti-Russian and anti-Communist, because soon, Bill was really happy with a Nazi God dictating orders to him.)



As further evidence of Bill Wilson's insanity, consider this quote — "The Third Step Prayer" — and its absurd stilted style:

We were now at Step Three. Many of us said to our Maker, as we understood Him: "God, I offer myself to Thee — to build with me and to do with me as Thou wilt. Relieve me of the bondage of self, that I may better do Thy will. Take away my difficulties, that victory over them may bear witness to those I would help of Thy Power, Thy Love, and Thy Way of life. May I do Thy will always!" We thought well before taking this step making sure we were ready; that we could at last abandon ourselves utterly to Him.
The Big Book, 3rd edition, William G. Wilson, page 63.

Bill Wilson really did think he was writing a new Bible. The anachronistic "Thou"s, "Thy"s, and "Thee"s are ridiculous. This book was written in 1938, not the year 938, and Bill wasn't Amish or Quaker. The infantile masochistic grovelling before an authoritarian God is just plain sick, and the escapism is insane: God will take away all of your difficulties, and solve all of your problems, and you will be a happy little brown-nosing slave forevermore. That is infantile narcissism: You regress to being a helpless baby, and the Cosmic Big Daddy will take care of you and tell you what to do.

Notice how Bill Wilson even tried to play mind games on God: Bill cleverly told God that it was to God's advantage to fix up the pitiful alcoholic who was grovelling before him, because then God would have a better-looking slave to show off — a slave whose appearance would impress other people and make God look like a really grand, benevolent slave-master:

Take away my difficulties, that victory over them may bear witness to those I would help of Thy Power, Thy Love, and Thy Way of life.

But the only way that Bill Wilson wanted to 'help' other people was to make them into just some more grovelling slaves of God.

And Bill really doesn't know what he is talking about when he begs God to be relieved from "the bondage of self". Bill doesn't understand that you do not loose your ego, your selfhood, just by wishing that it would go away, or by begging God to make it go away, or by saying that you are surrendering to God. It isn't that easy. If it were, everybody would be doing it.

Remember the old Zen problem: A student who has been working for ten years to free himself from all desires goes to his Zen master and asks, "But Master, how do I get rid of my last desire, the desire to be free of all desires?"

The Zen master answers, "Now you really do have a problem, don't you?"

Similarly, if the student asks the master, "How do I get released from the ego, and the bondage of self?"

The old Zen master will smile and ask, "Little grasshopper, WHO wishes to be released from 'the bondage of self'?"

It's a genuine Chinese finger trap; the harder you try to pull your fingers out, the more tightly the trap holds them. The more you try to get rid of your "self", the more you reassert your own will and your "self" — especially your wish to be rid of self. If such a misguided spiritual student is not careful, he can end up totally preoccupied with himself — constantly talking about "my desires" and "my enlightenment" — while trying to get rid of "self".

And what does Bill have in mind for himself, once he has been released from "The Bondage of Self"? Death? The death of ego?
Bill refused that — that was exactly the thing that he fought to avoid at the start of his 'spiritual experience'. (See below.)

But in the Christian mystic, Buddhist, Hindu, and Sufi religions, release from self is a kind of voluntary death that ends up making you into something greater: you voluntarily die and expand into or dissolve into and merge with the universe, or with God, or both.

The Sufis say, "Die before you die, and live forever."

Make no mistake about it: You die.

  • It's scary as can be — you are afraid that you will stop breathing — you give up and you let go and you die.
  • You put all of your big chips on the table — your life, your mind, and your soul — and you roll the dice. You take the big chance, the ultimate dare. You let go and you die.
  • You don't just have an intense sentimental experience like getting all choked up while singing "Onward Christian Soldiers" in church — you die.
  • You don't just sort of die — you die.
  • You don't just have a funny experience, or an intense religious experience — you die and go to pieces.

But Bill refused that; he wanted to be freed from selfhood, he said, but he didn't want his ego to die. When Bill Wilson felt ego loss coming on, he fought against it:
"He wanted to live. He would do anything, anything, to be allowed to go on living."

Bill talks the talk, but he doesn't walk the walk.
He can't; he doesn't even know what the words really mean.



Consider Bill's messianic complex. Immediately after he flipped out and "saw God" while getting Dr. Silkworth's belladonna cure, he began collecting alcoholics, starting home churches, and trying to convert people to his way of seeing things. The funny thing is, he does not seem to have ever considered just handing the other alcoholics over to Dr. Silkworth so that they could also get Charles Towns' belladonna cure and see God too. Bill Wilson only considered converting everybody to his own viewpoint. When you think about it, that is extremely arrogant: Don't trust other people to see things for themselves; they might screw it up; just get them to see things your way.

That is more than just arrogant, it is a fair description of megalomania, or delusions of grandeur.

In fact, Bill Wilson wrote the Twelve Steps so that members would exactly follow his prescribed course of action, and do exactly what he said. He had no intentions of cutting anyone any slack, or giving them any flexibility in their program of recovery, or of letting them see anything for themselves. Bill wanted them to all follow his orders, and do everything exactly his way. (Remember the quote above, where Bill Wilson wanted 12 steps so explicit that there was "no room for drunks to wiggle out of it.")

It was only the stubbornness of the other early A.A. members, after a long and loud screaming contest, that forced Bill to write a preface to the Twelve Steps that said that the Steps are only "suggested as a course of recovery." (See page 59 of the Big Book.) Bill Wilson wanted the Twelve Steps to be a requirement for membership. But Bill soon got his revenge: On the very first page of the next chapter that he wrote, chapter 6, Bill declared that you were in danger of relapse if you didn't do all of his Twelve Steps:

"If we skip this vital step, we may not overcome drinking."
(The Big Book, 3rd Edition, William G. Wilson, page 72, the first page of chapter 6.)

And, later, in Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions, Mr. Wilson proclaimed that doing his Twelve Steps was really a matter of life or death, not a choice at all:

Unless each A.A. member follows to the best of his ability our suggested [MY required] Twelve Steps to recovery, he almost certainly signs his own death warrant. His drunkenness and dissolution are not penalties inflicted by people in authority; they result from his personal disobedience to [MY] spiritual principles [cult practices].
Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions, William Wilson, page 174.

That is some cute double-talk: follow our "suggestions," or die. Why, it's just like "The Godfather" making you an offer you can't refuse:

Don Corleone: "Hey, Paisano, whatsa this I hear? People are tellin' me that youza not goin' to the meetins no more... People are sayin' that youza not doin' the Twelve Stepsa no more... What kinda example youza settin' for our poor little babies? Youza wouldn't wanna confuza duh newcomers, now would ya'? I suggest that youza better get back into those rooms and start doin' those Twelve Stepsa real hard now, before something really bad happens to you ass..."

And note that Bill wrote "our" suggested steps, not "MY" suggested steps, as if other A.A. members had helped to create them — they didn't — or as if the A.A. membership was unanimous in declaring that you had to do Bill's Twelve Steps, or else. They weren't. Many of "The First 100" (who really numbered 40),8 about half of them, in fact, thought that Bill's Twelve Steps were just a bunch of stupid bombastic religious fanaticism that would drive away the very alcoholics whom the program was supposed to help. They were the members who demanded that the Steps be called "suggestions", and not "requirements." They said that people should just go straight for total sobriety, and not waste any time on Bill Wilson's stupid Steps.

The level of detail in Bill Wilson's Big Lie that is revealed by that "our" versus "my" word choice, is quite remarkable: Like a skilled craftsman, Wilson actually carefully chose every word that he wrote while constructing his Big Lie, to create just the right false impression, to slip some carefully-chosen idea into people's unsuspecting minds...

And Wilson did that in sentence after sentence, chapter after chapter, book after book. That is no small feat. If there is some kind of award, sort of like the Oscars, for the creation of masterpieces of propaganda, then Bill Wilson at least deserves a nomination for his books Alcoholics Anonymous and Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions.

And again, Mr. Wilson showed his delusions of grandeur there: in Bill's demented mind, if you wouldn't do his Twelve Steps, then you were guilty of, and would die from, "personal disobedience to spiritual principles." Bill implied that only he knew and had written down The Real Spiritual Rules of God, and that they are embodied in Bill's Twelve Steps:

"No other church is valid or useful here — their spiritual principles are worthless, and practicing them will not save you from a fate worse than death. Either follow Bill's 'suggested' rules to the best of your ability, or you are disobeying The Real Spiritual Principles of God, and you will pay for your stupid disobedience with your life. You are signing your own death warrant if you don't do what Bill Wilson says."

Bill Wilson also declared that you won't be able to handle the trials and tribulations of real life if you don't do his Twelve Steps:

We are sober and happy in our A.A. work. Things go well at home and office. We naturally congratulate ourselves on what later proves to be a far too easy and superficial point of view. We temporarily cease to grow because we feel satisfied that there is no need for all of A.A.'s Twelve Steps for us. We are doing fine with just a few of them. Maybe we are doing fine with only two of them, the First Step and that part of the Twelfth where we "carry the message." In A.A. slang, that blissful state is known as "two-stepping." And it can go on for years.
        The best-intentioned of us can fall for the "two-step" illusion. Sooner or later the pink cloud stage wears off and things go disappointingly dull. We begin to think that A.A. doesn't pay off after all. We become puzzled and discouraged.
        Then perhaps life, as it has a way of doing, suddenly hands us a great big lump that we can't begin to swallow, let alone digest. We fail to get a worked-for promotion. We lose that good job. Maybe there are serious domestic or romantic difficulties, or perhaps that boy we thought God was looking after becomes a military casualty.
        What then? Have we alcoholics in A.A. got, or can we get, the resources to meet these calamities which come to so many?     ...     Well, we surely have a chance if we switch from "two-stepping" to "twelve-stepping," if we are willing to receive that grace of God which can sustain and strengthen us in any catastrophe.
Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions, William G. Wilson, pages 112-113.

Bill says that you can happily, blissfully, two-step for years. Well then, who needs the Twelve Steps? They are obviously not needed for quitting drinking, and staying blissfully quit for many years. Bill Wilson says so.

Notice how Bill Wilson is again using the preacher's trick of using the word "we" when he means "you", the way a preacher will say "we are guilty" when he means "YOU are guilty":

We are sober and happy...
We naturally congratulate ourselves on what later proves to be a far too easy and superficial point of view.
We temporarily cease to grow because we feel satisfied...

Notice how Bill Wilson equates the following of his dictates with "spiritual growth":
"We temporarily cease to grow because we feel satisfied that there is no need for all of A.A.'s [Bill's] Twelve Steps for us."
[That's the propaganda trick of False Equality.]
Bill Wilson actually had the arrogance to declare that people would not "grow spiritually" unless they practiced Bill's twelve steps. (And yes, Bill is hiding behind other people again, by saying "A.A.'s Twelve Steps" rather than "my twelve steps".)

How did Bill Wilson become such an expert on spiritual matters?

  • Which seminary did he graduate from? None.
  • What religion trained him and ordained him as a priest or minister? None did.
  • Who were Bill's gurus? Jim Beam and Jack Daniels.
  • What were Bill's sources of religious knowledge?
And then Wilson declared that people wouldn't grow spiritually unless they followed his dictates. That's delusions of grandeur.

Narcissists pretend to be economists, engineers, or medical doctors when they are not.   ...   They firmly believe that, though self-taught at best, they are more qualified than even the properly accredited sort.
from: HealthyPlace.Com/Communities/Personality_Disorders/narcissism/faq3.html

And Bill warns us that eventually, we won't feel so good:

Sooner or later the pink cloud stage wears off and things go disappointingly dull. We begin to think that A.A. doesn't pay off after all. We become puzzled and discouraged.

So, if any people were ever unhappy, at any time in the next dozen years, it supposedly proved that they had fallen for the "two-step illusion." People will become "puzzled and discouraged", Bill said, if they don't grovel before their sponsor, confessing all of their sins and shortcomings, as well as doing all of the other Twelve Steps.

Do you know what very important thing Bill Wilson totally failed to mention there?

Cigarette smoking.

After the initial rush of health that comes from quitting drinking, many people become more aware of the harm that smoking is doing to their bodies. They start to feel very depressed when they realize that they are still sick and addicted, and might die from it. But Bill wouldn't talk about that, because he was a totally addicted cigarette smoker who never quit. (Remember, we started this web page with the "spiritual" story of how Bill or one of his buddies wouldn't quit smoking.) Bill smoked himself to death, and died of emphysema and pneumonia, while telling people that smoking was okay. Bill didn't tell people to quit smoking if they felt depressed and discouraged, and wanted to feel better. He just told them to practice the Twelve Steps more. Bill was insane.

Continuing with that quote, Bill said that something bad will eventually happen in your life. I agree. It's Murphy's Law. Something bad will always happen, eventually, sooner or later. Bill said that you won't be able to handle it unless you do Bill's Twelve Steps. I disagree. There is absolutely no evidence that the Twelve Steps make you better able to handle those nasty blows and hard knocks that life can deliver, and Bill offered us no evidence of that, either.

Then, in another verbal shell game, more slick double-talk, Bill arbitrarily declared that we surely have a chance if we switch to doing all twelve of his steps, and if we also receive the grace of God. Yes, and I surely have a chance of winning the lottery, if I buy a ticket. But how much of a chance? There is not necessarily any connection between doing Bill's Twelve Steps, and receiving grace from God, but Bill deceptively linked them together in one sentence, as if he had a special exclusive wholesale distribution arrangement with God — as if God would give you His grace only if you were willing to do all twelve of Bill Wilson's Steps. What incredible arrogance. That's Bill's insane delusions of grandeur, again. That's "The patient thinks he has a special relationship with a deity", again.

And if you read those lines carefully, you will see that Bill was actually saying that the strength comes from receiving the grace of God — "that grace of God which can sustain and strengthen us in any catastrophe" not from doing Bill's Twelve Steps, but Bill still wanted us to do all twelve of his Steps anyway.

Current sponsors do it Bill's way, which becomes yet another bait and switch stunt:
First, when you are a newcomer, they will tell you,
"The Twelve Steps are only a suggested program of recovery. This is just a nice, loose, self-help group."
But soon, the story will be,
"You will relapse and die drunk if you don't do all of the Twelve Steps, and do them correctly. Somebody who won't do the Twelve Steps is signing his own death warrant. And if you don't die, you will turn into a dry drunk."

Apparently, Doctor Bob also saw people abstain without A.A.'s help for plenty of years. The Big Book says of one man who didn't join A.A.:

He stayed "dry" for thirteen years! Dr. Bob often said that it was a record for what he felt was a typical alcoholic.
The Big Book, 3rd edition, Chapter B8, "From Farm to City", by Ethel M., page 263.

Note how the word "dry" is in quotes. This man who abstained from both alcohol and Alcoholics Anonymous for thirteen years didn't quite qualify as really dry, in the authoress' opinion. Apparently, he was only just "sort of dry", without doing all of those meetings and those Twelve Steps.

Actually, this is just some more standard A.A. cult dogma: "You are not "in recovery" or "sober" unless you are doing A.A. and The Twelve Steps; you are "only abstaining" or "only dry". But this cultish true-believer authoress, Ethel M., didn't feel that this thirteen-year winner even deserved the word "dry", so she put it in quotes.

This begs the question: "If this guy's relapse after thirteen years of sobriety is used as yet another example to prove that you can't do it without A.A. and The Twelve Steps, then why don't all of those A.A. members' relapses after just a few months or years prove that you can't do it with A.A.?

According to Bill Wilson, if you are sober for 6 months by doing the Twelve Steps, then that proves that the Twelve Steps work. But if you are sober for only 13 years without A.A. and the Twelve Steps, then that proves that you can't do it without A.A....

And this brings up yet another problem with Bill's logic: he constantly contradicts himself. He will, for instance, sound very humble and reasonable one minute, and then make arrogant absolute and dictatorial statements the next. For example:

Our book is meant to be suggestive only. We realize we know only a little.
The Big Book, 3rd edition, William G. Wilson, page 164.

We have no desire to convince anyone that there is only one way by which faith can be acquired.   ...
Those having religious affiliations will find nothing here disturbing to their beliefs or ceremonies. There is no friction among us over such matters.
The Big Book, 3rd Edition, William Wilson, Chapter 2, There Is A Solution, page 28.

(Note that Alcoholics Anonymous is an "acquire faith" program...)

Perhaps you are not quite in sympathy with the approach we suggest. By no means do we offer it as the last word on this subject, but as far as we are concerned, it has worked with us.
The Big Book, 3rd edition, William G. Wilson, page 144.

But then Bill pulled a bait-and-switch stunt, and changed the story to the exact opposite — He said that you are signing your own death warrant if you don't follow his "suggested" Twelve Steps precisely:

Unless each A.A. member follows to the best of his ability our suggested [Bill's required] Twelve Steps to recovery, he almost certainly signs his own death warrant.
Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions, William G. Wilson, page 174.

Or Bill will tell you that God will take away the drink problem without any thought or effort on your part,

We will see that our new attitude toward liquor has been given to us without any thought or effort on our part. It just comes! That is the miracle of it.   ...
We have not even sworn off. Instead, the problem has been removed. It does not exist for us.
The Big Book, 3rd edition, William G. Wilson, page 85.

And then Bill will tell you that you must be a slave of God, and do His bidding every day, or else God won't take away the drink problem, and you will die a horrible death.

We are not cured of alcoholism. What we have is a daily reprieve contingent on the maintenance of our spiritual condition. Every day is a day when we must carry the vision of God's will into all of our daily activities.
The Big Book, 3rd edition, William G. Wilson, page 85.

(Just where did that "vision" come from? Prayer, meditation, belladonna, delirium tremens, LSD, or delusions of grandeur?
And what happened to, "Let Go And Let God"?
And what happened to, "There are no musts in Alcoholics Anonymous, just suggestions"?)

And then, in the next sentence, Bill wrote that the only proper use of our free will is to choose to become slaves of God:

"How can I best serve Thee — Thy will (not mine) be done." These are thoughts which must go with us constantly. We can exercise our will power along this line all we wish. It is the proper use of the will.
The Big Book, 3rd edition, William G. Wilson, page 85.

Or Bill will exhort all of the A.A. members to abandon self-seeking, and work selflessly and without any thought of personal profit, while he takes all of the money for himself...

And Bill Wilson only faked humility. While he exhorted everyone else to give up ego, and to stop being self-seeking, he actually wanted the Alcoholics Anonymous organization to have the name "The Bill W. Movement."18 But the other alcoholics just wouldn't have it:

At one point Bill considered "The Bill W. Movement" — the ego had not been totally deflated — but he was quickly talked out of that.
Bill W., Robert Thomsen, page 285.

The author here, Robert Thomsen, has a way with a phrase himself. To say that Bill's ego had not been totally deflated is so cute that it is funny.



Dr. Alexander Lowen wrote a great book on the Narcissistic Personality Disorder where he declared that narcissism is not falling in love with one's self, but rather with a false image of one's self. That small subtle difference actually makes a very large difference. In the original Greek mythology, Narcissus died — starved to death — because he was obsessed with his own image and stared at it endlessly. But as Narcissus approached death, his real emaciated appearance could not have been very attractive. He must have actually looked terrible, but Narcissus just didn't see it. Narcissus was seeing an illusion, not his true appearance.

Dr. Lowen advances the idea that narcissism is often caused by child abuse and prolonged humiliation and pain in childhood. The child adopts a persona where he feels no pain and is powerful and invulnerable. The child thinks, "When I grow up, I'll be so powerful and strong that no one can hurt me or humiliate me ever again." Then the child, who grows into adulthood, spends the rest of his life pursuing and defending an illusion. Narcissists are obsessed with defending and preserving their image — they can't stand it if somebody "makes them look bad" — they can't stand criticism. They deny their true feelings and put on a mask of unfeeling, because they imagine that it will keep them from being hurt again. Likewise, they completely disregard other people's feelings. They are obsessed with power and control, so that they can control the world around them and prevent anyone from humiliating them again. Narcissists are often extremely seductive and manipulative people, often charismatic charmers, and occasionally high achievers as well. They lie habitually, without giving it a second thought. They fear insanity.

In other words, Dr. Lowen was describing Bill Wilson, the abused son of an alcoholic father and a neurotic mother.


Bill Wilson as a child
Bill's parents obviously really messed up his mind. Something that the A.A. literature doesn't like to mention very often is the fact that Bill Wilson was the abused son of an alcoholic father, and that alcohol destroyed his family when he was young, which made him an untreated Adult Child Of an Alcoholic (ACOA). Bill's father abandoned the family when Bill was still just a boy, and then Bill felt that his mother Emily had abandoned him too, by dumping Bill and his sister on her parents and going off to Boston to study osteopathy. Bill went into a year-long bout of depression.

Even in childhood, Bill displayed signs of narcissism — he had to be the first and the best at everything — the president of his senior class in high school, the best baseball player and the captain of the baseball team, and "The Number One Man — the very first American to ever make a working boomerang" and the young electronics wiz who allegedly kept his whole village agog with his amateur radio feats.

But my radio adventures created quite a sensation in the town and marked me out for distinction, something which, of course, I increasingly craved, until at last it became an obsession.
William G. Wilson, quoted in
'PASS IT ON': The story of Bill Wilson and how the A.A. message reached the world, Alcoholics Anonymous World Services, Inc. staff, 1984, page 31.

All of those "accomplishments" were meant to compensate for Bill's feelings of inadequacy and inferiority,25 and whenever Bill couldn't get the best of everything, or couldn't be the best at everything, he went into another long period of deep, crippling, chronic depression.

(Notice how the narcissistic, insecure Bill Wilson even bragged about his childhood activities like making a boomerang and tinkering with amateur radio. He listed them in the autobiographical tape recordings that he made before his death, upon which some of the biographies of Bill Wilson are based. Few normal people feel that such childhood hobbies prove their greatness — "marked me out for distinction".)

Narcissistic vampires are absolutely shameless in their fantasies about how great they are and how much everybody admires them, or should.
      If you press them, they'll admit that they consider themselves the best in the world at something. Actually, you won't have to press very hard.
Emotional Vampires: Dealing with People Who Drain You Dry, Albert J. Bernstein, Ph.D., page 135.


Bill's mother Emily Wilson in 1912
Bill's mother had serious mental problems of her own — she ended up in a mental hospital later in life — and she may have actually driven Bill's father from the house by being cold and unloving. Heaven only knows what she did to Bill Wilson during his childhood. The official A.A. history book PASS IT ON tells us that Bill's mother was strong-willed and cold — she "lacked the warmth and understanding that might have stood her son in good stead at such a difficult time [the divorce]."23 Bill Wilson said:

"My mother was a disciplinarian, and I can remember the agony of hostility and fear that I went through when she administered her first good tanning with the back of a hairbrush. Somehow, I never could forget that beating. It made an indelible impression on me."
William G. Wilson, quoted in
'PASS IT ON': The story of Bill Wilson and how the A.A. message reached the world, Alcoholics Anonymous World Services, Inc. staff, 1984, page 25.

In 1909, Bill was sent to The Burr & Burton Seminary, a private school in Manchester, Vermont. Then Bill's teenage girlfriend at Burr & Burton, Bertha Banford, with whom he was very much in love, died suddenly from complications following an operation for a brain tumor, and it affected Bill deeply — he went into a three-year-long fit of depression, and failed to even graduate from Burr & Burton.24


Young Bill Wilson

      The loss of Bertha marked the beginning of what Bill remembered as a three-year depression, the second such period in his life. "Interest in everything except the fiddle collapsed. No athletics, no schoolwork done, no attention to anyone. I was utterly, deeply, and cumpulsively miserable, convinced that my whole life had utterly collapsed." His depression over Bertha's death went far beyond normal human grief. "The healthy kid would have felt badly, but he would never have sunk so deep or stayed submerged for so long," Bill later commented.
      With the onset of depression, his academic performance dropped.   ...   "Here I was, president of my senior class ... and they wouldn't give me a diploma!"
'PASS IT ON': The story of Bill Wilson and how the A.A. message reached the world, Alcoholics Anonymous World Services, Inc. staff, 1984, page 36.

The staff of A.A.W.S. gave this explanation for Bill's failure:

What had caused Bill to change from a high achiever to a helpless depressive? As he saw it, the major problem was that he could no longer be Number One. "I could not be anybody at all. I could not win, because the adversary was death. So my life, I thought, had ended then and there.
'PASS IT ON': The story of Bill Wilson and how the A.A. message reached the world, Alcoholics Anonymous World Services, Inc. staff, 1984, page 37.

So Bill Wilson felt that he couldn't be "The Number One Man" — he couldn't be "anybody at all" — because he couldn't defeat death?

Isn't that just a little bit melodramatic and grandiose?
"Young Bill Wilson has the Cosmic Blues again because he can't win a wrestling match with the Angel of Death."

As Jon Krakauer wrote about narcissists,

They have this sense they're either grandiose, perfect, and beautiful people, or absolutely worthless.

And Dr. Albert Bernstein wrote,

      Besides boredom, Narcissistic vampires have only two other emotional states. They're either on top of the world or on the bottom of the garbage heap. The slightest frustration can burst their balloon and send them crashing to the depths.
Emotional Vampires: Dealing with People Who Drain You Dry, Albert J. Bernstein, Ph.D., page 136.

Then, of course, Bill later turned into a raging alcoholic, and displayed all of the signs of narcissistic personality disorder and delusions of grandeur. And then Bill suffered from severe, prolonged, bouts of deep crippling chronic depression for most of his life. (His last period of depression lasted for 11 years, from 1944 to 1955.) It is difficult to say exactly who did what to Bill, but together, they induced in Bill an insanity from which he never recovered.

Dr. Alexander Lowen said that narcissists are obsessed with power and control, so that they can control the world around them and prevent anyone from humiliating them ever again. He also wrote:

Narcissists are neither carefree nor innocent. They have learned to play the power game, to seduce and to manipulate. They are always thinking about how people see and respond to them. And they must stay in control because loss of control evokes their fear of insanity.
Narcissism, Denial of the True Self, Alexander Lowen, M.D., page 228.

Bill Wilson was obviously obsessed with control. He ended up in the awkward situation of having to share control of Alcoholics Anonymous with a Board of Trustees. Giving control of A.A. to a Board of Trustees helped Bill's public image and helped to make him appear to be noble and unselfish and generous — like he wasn't really trying to be "the Grand Poohbah of Alcoholics Anonymous". But then the Board of Trustees would not just rubber-stamp Bill's decisions — they voted their consciences and did what they believed was best — so Bill Wilson ended up fighting with the Trustees whenever he couldn't have his own way about everything.

Nan Robertson wrote that Bill Wilson would vacation in Vermont, and then,

Bill returned home from these trips refreshed, ready to do battle again with the trustees.
Getting Better Inside Alcoholics Anonymous, Nan Robertson, page 57.

The earliest A.A. members had selected a group of the wisest and most honorable men that they could find to be the first trustees of Alcoholics Anonymous, and all that Bill Wilson could do was "battle with them" again and again to get his own way.

When Bill Wilson discovered that the Board of Trustees would not kowtow to him and rubber-stamp his dictates, he came up with a new strategy: replace the non-alcoholic Board members with sycophant A.A. members who worshipped Bill. Robert Thomsen the A.A. true believer tried to explain Bill's behavior with this slanted story:

      He had, however, one pet and perennial concern and that was the ratio of alcoholic to nonalcoholic members of the board. It was of paramount importance to him that the majority of trustees, if only a majority of one, be alcoholics. It became his cause, his own private war, and he was willing to risk anything, any relationships, to win a battle or even a small skirmish in this war.
      He admired the nonalcoholic members. They were some of the finest men in America, some of his closest friends, and all of them had devoted themselves to AA without stint. But on this one subject Bill W. was adamant. He was stubborn, bullheaded, any term they wanted to apply to him — and indeed through the years they used far harsher ones (he even applied them to himself) — but he could not yield. The thought of nondrunks having a final say in any decision stuck in his craw; it became his King Charles's head.
      One of the more wounding skirmishes was with Dr. [Leonard] Strong, Dorothy's husband [Bill's sister's husband, i.e., his brother-in-law]. Leonard had been in on the very inception of AA, one of the foundation's first board members; before that he had been Bill's doctor, his confidant, the one who had put him in the hospital, paid the bills and stood by him always. No man could have done more. But Leonard Strong was a physician, the son of a physician, and deep in his being was the medical man's belief that in the final analysis decisions had to be made by detached, uninvolved persons. It was over this very matter that Leonard felt, in 1954, that he must resign from the board. Happily, nothing could permanently affect the bond that existed between Bill and the Strongs.
      Year after year, the subject of ratios would be brought up. Bill would argue tenaciously, but each time he'd be voted down. His reactions to these defeats was often severe — he couldn't help reading personal rejection into this difference of opinion — and he would be thrown into spells of depression that were difficult for those who knew him best to understand.
      Also at these times he began to recognize many symptoms of his old dry benders.
Bill W., Robert Thomsen, pages 354-355.

Actually, there is no such thing as a "dry bender". That was a term that Bill Wilson liked to use to mask his irrational behavior and screaming temper tantrums and mental illness.

And again, we see how Bill Wilson was "thrown into spells of depression" whenever he didn't get his own way. That is a narcissistic little boy, not a wise man with a cure for addictions. Like the DSM-IV said, a narcissist "has a sense of entitlement, i.e., unreasonable expectations of especially favorable treatment or automatic compliance with his or her expectations".

After the Board of Trustees voted contrary to Bill's wishes another time, Bill wrote a sarcastic self-pitying letter to the trustees, saying that he hoped that the trustees would still see fit to allow him to have an office in the A.A. headquarters.

Hungry destructive narcissists use the childish tactics of pouting and sulking when dissatisfied or when they are thwarted from getting their own way. This is a form of revenge, whereby you are supposed to understand that they have withdrawn their love and approval from you and will continue to hold out until you come around and become more satisfying and accomodating.
Loving the Self-Absorbed, Nina W. Brown, Ed.D., LPC, NCC, page 79.



Bill Wilson wrote that Al-Anon Family Group members spoke at the Alcoholics Anonymous 20th Anniversary convention, parroting Bill's teachings like this:

The Family Group speakers asked and answered plenty of questions like these: "Weren't we just as powerless over alcohol as the alcoholics themselves? Sure we were." "And when we found that out, weren't we often filled with just as much bitterness and self-pity as the alcoholic ever had been? Yes, that was sometimes a fact." "After the first tremendous relief and happiness which resulted when A.A. came along, hadn't we often slipped back into secret and deep hurt that A.A. had done the job and we hadn't? For many of us, it was certainly so." "Not realizing that alcoholism is an illness, hadn't we taken sides with the kids against the drinking member? Yes, we had often done that, to their damage. No wonder then, that when sobriety came, the emotional benders in our homes often went right on and sometimes got worse."
Alcoholics Anonymous Comes Of Age, William G. Wilson, page 33.

The simple answer to all of those questions is, "No."

  • We are not powerless over alcohol.

  • Wives of alcoholics are not necessarily filled with self-pity and bitterness.

  • The wives are not jealous of A.A. and God for healing their husbands.

  • The wives are not responsible for their husbands throwing screaming temper tantrums — which Bill Wilson euphemistically called "emotional benders".

    The reason that "when sobriety came, the emotional benders in our homes often went right on and sometimes got worse" is because Bill Wilson was mentally ill — a screaming raving lunatic — and quitting drinking alcohol didn't fix that.
    Excessive alcohol consumption was just one of the many ways in which Bill Wilson tried to cope with his insanity. He also tried cult religion, psychoanalysis, LSD, chain-smoking cigarettes, obsessive philandering, occult spiritism and necromancy, and being a cult leader.

    By the way, there is no such thing as an "emotional bender". That was just one of Bill Wilson's euphemisms that he used to minimize and explain away the screaming temper tantrums that he threw to get his own way.

    Another euphemism that Bill used to explain his behavior was to declare that he had a "power-driving personality".

  • If the wives sided with the kids against a drunk husband, then they probably had a good reason for doing so, and it probably didn't "damage" the drunk husbands any. (Such self-pitying nonsense; pure narcissism.)
    Whether the drunk husband had an "illness" was irrelevant — What was she supposed to do, side with him and help him beat the children?

The narcissistic Bill Wilson just hated his wife Lois criticizing him for drinking too much and misbehaving. She angrily called him "a drunken sot" when he threw a drunken screaming temper tantrum — tearing up the house and kicking out door panels and throwing a sewing machine at her19 — and Bill doesn't seem to have ever forgiven her for it.

Even twenty years later, Bill Wilson was still taking angry swipes at Lois, attacking her, putting her down, criticizing her, getting back at her for it, just like how he called Lois selfish, silly, and dishonest in the Big Book. That means that Bill Wilson nursed a bitter self-pitying resentment against his wife for at least twenty years, while he hypocritically accused all other alcoholics and their wives of "having resentments":

  • ... with the alcoholic, whose hope is the maintenance and growth of a spiritual experience, this business of resentment is infinitely grave.
    The Big Book, 3rd Edition, William G. Wilson, page 66.

  • Resentment is the number one offender. It destroys more alcoholics than anything else. From it stem all forms of spiritual disease...
    The Big Book, 3rd Edition, William G. Wilson, Chapter 5, How It Works, pages 64-65.

  • And Bill advised the wives of alcoholics:
    Never forget that resentment is a deadly hazard to an alcoholic. We do not mean that you have to agree with you husband whenever there is an honest difference of opinion. Just be careful not to disagree in a resentful or critical spirit.
    Big Book, William G. Wilson, "To Wives", page 117.

    "Yeh, Lois, don't scream at Bill and angrily call him 'a drunken sot', even if he is one."

Like Dr. Alexander Lowen said, narcissists just can't stand being criticized. They hate whomever made them "look bad". Bill Wilson was still glowering at his wife twenty years after she had the effrontery to criticize him for getting drunk and throwing temper tantrums — and throwing a sewing machine at her.20

Likewise, Jon Krakauer wrote about narcissists' reactions to criticism:

When narcissists are confronted by people who disparage the legitimacy of their extravagant claims, they tend to react badly. They may plunge into depression — or become infuriated. As Gardner explained to the court, when narcissists are belittled or denigrated "they feel horrible.... They have this sense they're either grandiose, perfect, and beautiful people, or absolutely worthless. So if you challenge their grandiosity — these are the words in the diagnostic manual — 'They respond with humiliation or rage.' Their reaction to criticism is intense."
Under the Banner of Heaven; A Story of Violent Faith, Jon Krakauer, page 305.

And The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders said of narcissists:

Vulnerability in self-esteem makes individuals with Narcissistic Personality Disorder very sensitive to "injury" from criticism or defeat. Although they may not show it outwardly, criticism may haunt these individuals and may leave them feeling humiliated, degraded, hollow and empty. They may react with disdain, rage, or defiant counterattack. Such experiences often lead to social withdrawal or an appearance of humility that may mask and protect the grandiosity.
DSM-IV-TR == Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition, Text Revision; Published by the American Psychiatric Association, Washington, DC. 2000; page 659; or
DSM-IV == Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition; Published by the American Psychiatric Association, Washington, DC. 1994; page 659.

"An appearance of humility that may mask and protect the grandiosity...."
Wow. That is Bill Wilson to a 'T'. He constantly raved about "humility", and put on airs of humility. Both the Big Book and Bill's second book, Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions, were filled with crazy sermons about humility:

  • For without some degree of humility, no alcoholic can stay sober at all. Nearly all A.A.'s have found, too, that unless they develop much more of this precious quality than may be required just for sobriety, they still haven't much chance of becoming truly happy. Without it, they cannot live to much useful purpose, or, in adversity, be able to summon the faith that can meet any emergency.
    Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions, William G. Wilson, page 70.

    This is total bull. What is required for sobriety is simply not drinking any alcohol. "Humility" has nothing to do with it.
    Likewise, humility has nothing to do with "summoning faith", either, and yes, we can be happy without Wilson's brand of "humility".

  • ...our crippling handicap has been our lack of humility.   ...
    That basic ingredient of all humility, a desire to seek and do God's will, was missing.
    Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions, William G. Wilson, pages 71-72.

    Notice how Bill Wilson redefined the word "humility" there. Suddenly "humility" means "a desire to be the obedient slave of a God".

  • So it is that we first see humility as a necessity.
    Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions, William G. Wilson, page 73.

  • Where humility had formerly stood for a forced feeding on humble pie it now begins to mean the nourishing ingredient which can give us serenity.
          This improved perception of humility starts another revolutionary change in our outlook.
    Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions, William G. Wilson, page 74.

  • ...Everywhere we saw failure and misery transformed by humility into priceless assets.   ...
          ...But now the words "Of myself I am nothing, the Father doeth the works", began to carry bright promise and meaning.
          We saw we needn't always be bludgeoned and beaten into humility.
    Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions, William G. Wilson, page 75.

  • ...They only thought they had lost their egoism and fear; they only thought they had humbled themselves. But they had not learned enough of humility, fearlessness and honesty...
    A.A. Big Book, 3rd Edition, William G. Wilson, Chapter 6, Into Action, page 73.

  • At the time of our failure, we learned a little lesson in humility which was probably needed, painful though it was.
    'PASS IT ON': The story of Bill Wilson and how the A.A. message reached the world, Alcoholics Anonymous World Services, Inc. staff, 1984, page 251.

  • TRADITION TWELVE: And finally, we of Alcoholics Anonymous believe that the principle of anonymity has an immense spiritual significance. It reminds us that we are to place principles before personalities; that we are actually to practice a genuine humility.
    Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions, William G. Wilson, page 192.

    But Bill Wilson never practiced anonymity or "genuine humility". He fulfilled Henry Parkhurst's critical prediction that there would be a "Grand Poohbah of Alcoholics Anonymous".



Bill is also a candidate for "292.11 Hallucinogen Delusional Disorder", which has as a major characteristic "Organic Delusional Syndrome developing shortly after hallucinogen use," which in turn often includes "Ritualistic, stereotyped behavior, sometimes associated with magical thinking." (DSM-III-R, pages 146 and 110.) Bill Wilson was a raving lunatic from the day that he got the hallucinogenic "Towns/Lambert belladonna cure" and "saw God". Magical thinking, "spirituality", and faith healing were, to him, The Big Answer, THE panacea, THE solution to ALL of your problems, and a major part of his thinking, for the rest of his life. And going to a never-ending series of meetings, where members of a secret society practice magical rituals like prayer and the reciting of incantations — The Twelve Steps and The Twelve Traditions — sure looks familiar.

Charles Bufe also notes:

During the 1940's, both Bill and Dr. Bob were avidly pursuing a common interest outside of, but related to, AA: spiritualism. They believed that it demonstrated the existence of the "Higher Power" so central to their AA program. Thus, shortly after the Wilsons moved into their Bedford Hills home, they began to hold regular "spook sessions," complete with mysterious messages on a Ouija board, and on at least one occasion they held a "spirit rapping" session (a séance in which spirits supposedly rap out messages with an "a" being one rap, a "b" two, a "c" three, and so on, spirits evidently being too dense to learn the far more efficient Morse code.) 46

46 Pass It On, 275-280.

Alcoholics Anonymous, Cult or Cure?, Charles Bufe, page 49.

Bill Wilson fancied himself an "adept", "gifted" in the psychic sense, and he served as a medium for a variety of discarnate entities who chose to speak through him in séances and "spook sessions."4

Bill wrote, in his correspondence with Father Edward Dowling, that he was in psychic communication with a medieval monk named "Boniface". Father Dowling replied that he feared that Bill was messing with evil spirits who were deceiving him.21

And Henrietta Seiberling wrote that Bill Wilson also practiced automatic writing, another favorite trick, like the Ouija board, of would-be psychics. What you do is, just relax and let your hand write anything that comes into your mind. Then you imagine that you are "channelling" someone else's thoughts — usually the thoughts of a dead person, ghost, or spirit. (Yes, this is the channelling that Shirley MacLaine would make famous years later.) Bill imagined that he wrote dictation from a Catholic priest who had lived in the 1600 period in Barcelona, Spain.

[I can't help but wonder: That priest must have spoken Spanish and Latin while he was alive. When did he learn English? After he was dead? Do ghosts do that? Why didn't the ghost of the Priest dictate his thoughts in Latin, and leave it to Bill to get the messages translated by one of his Catholic Priest friends like Father Dowling?

Which brings up a big question for all channellers: Why don't you get your messages in the foreign languages that the dead people spoke while they were alive? Why do you only get messages in the language that you speak, like English? Why doesn't Cleopatra dictate in ancient Egyptian, and Joan of Arc in French? Isn't it convenient that the ghosts always translate for you?

Actually, Bill then came up with an answer for that one too. Read on.]

Then, Henrietta wrote, Wilson told Horace Crystal that he was completing the work that Christ didn't finish, and, according to Horace, he said he was the reincarnation of Christ...

And it just goes on and on. Shortly after the Wilsons moved into their Bedford Hills home, they began to hold regular "spook sessions". Bill Wilson even set aside one downstairs room as the "spook room" where the séances were held. (It is still there; you can go visit the house "Stepping Stones" and see the spook room — downstairs to the left — complete with bookshelves full of occult books.)

Narcissists believe in magic and in fantasy. They are no longer with us.
from: HealthyPlace.Com/Communities/Personality_Disorders/narcissism/faq3.html

An account published in the official A.A. history book, PASS IT ON, tells of a pre-breakfast conversation that Bill said he had with three ghosts during a visit to Nantucket in 1944, ghosts whom Bill Wilson said were the spirits of "three distinct long-dead Nantucket citizens". (See P.I.O., page 278.)

All of this sounds like just another veiled ego game: Bill Wilson fancied himself an "adept", a skilled psychic medium, more spiritual, and more in contact with the spirit world, than ordinary people, which supposedly raised Bill above the level of his fellow alcoholics, and made him more qualified to be their spiritual teacher.

Actually, that story in PASS IT ON about the ghosts of Nantucket looks a lot like a faked psychic stunt. The way that Bill told the story is, his first morning in Nantucket, at the home of acquaintances, while doing his morning meditation before breakfast, he was visited by three ghosts, who told Bill their names, among other things. Then, at breakfast, Bill announced to all present that he had had a psychic experience, and had made contact with the spirits of some long-dead Nantucket citizens. Bill stressed their names over and over again, until everyone had the names memorized.

Then, after breakfast, they all went into town. In downtown Nantucket, there is a monument in the center of the town square. On the base of it, Bill found the name of one of his ghosts — David Morrow. Then, they looked into the Maritime Museum, and there, in a large open book just inside the door, they found the other names that Bill had stressed at breakfast. And then, upstairs in the museum, there was a life-size portrait of Admiral Farragut on the wall, with a plaque that described the role that the Nantucket sailors played in the Battle of Mobile Bay, which Bill Wilson said David Morrow had described to him.

Bill claimed that that was proof that his contact with the spirits was real:

"Therefore, the record shows that I had picked up pretty accurate descriptions of three quite obscure and long-dead Nantucket citizens, names no doubt gone from the minds of living people. There isn't even a remote chance that I had at some earlier time read or heard about all three of them, ordinary former inhabitants of the island. Maybe one, but certainly not three."
Bill Wilson, quoted in
'PASS IT ON': The story of Bill Wilson and how the A.A. message reached the world, Alcoholics Anonymous World Services, Inc. staff, 1984, page 278.
(The italicized emphasis is Bill's.)

What Bill did not tell us in the book PASS IT ON is precisely when he got to Nantucket. If he arrived in town the previous afternoon (which is likely, because he was doing pre-breakfast meditation, the first morning that he was at his friend's house), then he had plenty of opportunity to stop and look around the downtown area for a few minutes. Pick a name off of the monument, and then poke your head inside the Maritime Museum for a few minutes and get a couple more names and a story there, and you have all of the "evidence" that you need to start talking to the old ghosts of Nantucket.

Isn't it odd how easily Bill was able to find immediate verification of those supposedly "obscure" and long-forgotten names with just a short stroll downtown?

That is actually a very common trick that phony psychics use to fool audiences. All that is required is that you surreptitiously get some special information before performing the stunt, information that would be impossible for you to get during the stunt, so that the audience will be fooled and amazed. One phony psychic had assistants who would poke through the trash cans of intended targets to get personal information about them, and then those people would be amazed at how, during the séances, the "psychic" could see so many personal details of their lives just by "looking into their hearts".

The crazy suicidal cult leader Jim Jones did it by having his assistants visit people's houses the day before they were to be "miraculously healed by Jim Jones". The assistants would describe the interiors of the houses to Jim Jones, who would then, the next day, during the "healing ceremony", theatrically declare to the people, "I've never met you before. I've never been to your house." And then Jones would use his "psychic powers" to describe their houses, which really wowed the audience.

James Randi, the magician (or should I say, "illusionist") who loves to debunk phony psychics and phony claims of the paranormal, would not be at all impressed with such a simplistic stunt.

But all of that dabbling in the occult was not just a joke, or just a parlor trick to fool and amaze friends. Bill took it seriously, and claimed that it was proof of the existence of the spirit world and of spiritual entities like the A.A. "Higher Power".

As early as 1941, Bill and Lois were holding regular Saturday "spook sessions" at Bedford Hills. One of the downstairs bedrooms was dubbed by them the "spook room"; here, they conducted many of their psychic experiments. Of one session with a ouija board, Bill wrote this description:
      "The ouija board got moving in earnest. What followed was the fairly usual experience — it was a strange mélange of Aristotle, St. Francis, diverse archangels with odd names, deceased friends — some in purgatory and others doing nicely, thank you! There were malign and mischievous ones of all descriptions, telling of vices quite beyond my ken, even as former alcoholics. Then, the seemingly virtuous entities would elbow them out with messages of comfort, information, advice — and sometimes just sheer nonsense."
      Bill would lie on the couch in the living room, semi-withdrawn, but not in a trance, and "receive" messages, sometimes a word at a time, sometimes a letter at a time. Anne B., neighbor and "spook" circle regular, would write the material on a pad. Lois describes one of the more dramatic of these sessions:
      "Bill would lie down on the couch. He would 'get' these things. He kept doing it every week or so. Each time, certain people would 'come in.' Sometimes, it would be new ones, and they'd carry on some story. There would be long sentences; word by word would come through. This time, instead of word by word, it was letter by letter. Anne put them down letter by letter.
      "I had three years of Latin. I said, 'This looks like Latin to me.' So Bill asked Dick Richardson [of the Rockefeller Foundation], who was quite a student of Latin. He asked him what this was. Was this Latin? He said yes. (Bill knew no Latin except what he got in his law course. He always regretted it.)"
      Bill continues the story:
      "[Richardson] was a fine classical scholar. Astonished, he finally looked up and exclaimed, 'Where on earth did you ever get this?' I demurred, but asked him if the Latin was readable. 'Yes,' said he. 'It is perfectly good, though difficult. Looks like the beginning of what was probably intended to be an allegorical account of the founding of the Christian church in Italy.' I then asked him if he saw any grammatical errors in the paragraphs. He looked again and reported that the Latin looked all right to him. Since he was an old friend, I told him the story of its production, at which he was deeply impressed."
Bill Wilson, quoted in
'PASS IT ON': The story of Bill Wilson and how the A.A. message reached the world, Alcoholics Anonymous World Services, Inc. staff, 1984, pages 278-279.

Obviously, the simplest explanation is that Bill Wilson went to either the public library in New York City or the library at Columbia University, and found an ancient manuscript or an old book and memorized a few paragraphs from it, and then recited them during a séance. He didn't even need to get the Latin pronunciation correct, because he recited the document letter by letter.

Tom [Powers, co-author of Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions] and his wife Ginny were regular members of the "spooking" circle. This is Tom's story of how he became involved with them:
      "I was a problem to these people, because I was an atheist, and an atheist is, by definition, a materialist. I mean, you can't be an atheist unless you're a materialist, and a materialist is, by definition, someone who does not believe in other worlds. Now these people, Bill and Dr. Bob, believed vigorously and aggressively. They were working away at the spiritualism; it was not just a hobby. And it related to A.A., because the big problem in A.A. is that for a materialist it's hard to buy the program. I had a hell of a time getting on the program. Couldn't get it through my head that there was any God, because God was a supernatural being. And there ain't any supernatural beings, and everybody knows that. So the thing was not at all divorced from A.A. It was very serious for everybody."
      According to Tom, Bill never did anything that was not in some way connected with A.A. and with his own spiritual growth. He was, as Tom put it, very "one-pointed."
'PASS IT ON': The story of Bill Wilson and how the A.A. message reached the world, Alcoholics Anonymous World Services, Inc. staff, 1984, page 280.

Everything Narcissistic vampires do is a move in the great game of self-aggrandizement, which is their main reason for living.
Emotional Vampires: Dealing with People Who Drain You Dry, Albert J. Bernstein, Ph.D., page 136.

Bill Wilson's long-time secretary Nell Wing told the story this way:

      In the early forties, Bill and Lois often held meetings — or "spook sessions," as they termed them — in a small downstairs bedroom at Stepping Stones. A.A. friends, a couple of Rockefeller people, and even some Bedford Hills neighbors frequently participated in these sessions and experienced unusual phenomena. For example, during one evening sitting, Bill spelled out slowly, letter by letter, a paragraph or two from a sermon by St. Boniface which was verified by Rev. Willard Richardson.
      One of Bill's most convincing experiences took place in 1947 during their first visit to Nantucket Island. They arrived at night and Bill rose early the next morning. While sitting alone in his host's kitchen with a cup of coffee, he had lengthy conversations with three Nantucketers who had lived more than a hundred years before: a whaler, a sailor who said his name was David Morrow and that he had been killed serving uner Admiral Farragut at the Battle of Mobile Bay, and a sea captain named Pettingill. "Just for fun, I told this story at breakfast," Bill shared later with a friend, "making pointed reference to the names." Their host was skeptical to say the least, and the matter was dropped.
      The next day, Bill, Lois, and their hosts were meeting others for a picnic, having set a rendezvous at the head of Nantucket's main street. At that spot was a small monument to Nantucket's fallen in the Civil War, and at the foot of the monument the names of the dead were chiseled. One of them was David Morrow. Bill called for his host's attention to it. The next day, they visited the Nantucket Whaling Museum for the first time. There, in an open book, were the names of the masters of the old whaling vessels. One of them was Pettingill. "There isn't even a remote chance that I had at some time read or heard about all three of these ordinary former inhabitants of the island," Bill wrote. "Maybe one but certainly not three."12

12. PASS IT ON: The Story of Bill Wilson and How the A.A. Message Reached the World (New York: Alcoholics Anonymous World Services, Inc., 1984), p. 278.

Grateful To Have Been There, Nell Wing, pages 60-61.

  1. First off, where did Nell Wing get the idea that Bill Wilson had arrived in Nantucket at night, and not in the afternoon or evening just before the Maritime Museum closed? Bill did not write that in his account of the story in PASS IT ON: The Story of Bill Wilson and How the A.A. Message Reached the World. Bill did not say when he and Lois arrived in Nantucket.
          Bill must have told Nell Wing that later on, which would have helped to cover up how he faked the stunt. Notice how both Nell Wing and Bill kept emphasizing "the first time", as in "the first time Bill visited Nantucket", and "the first time they visited the museum", which was obviously supposed to hide how the stunt was done.
          Besides which, Bill's arrival time in downtown Nantucket, and his arrival time at his friend's house were probably two different times. Bill could easily have arrived in downtown Nantucket in the late afternoon, and then spent a while looking around, and then arrived at this friend's house after the Museum closed...

  2. Bill didn't tell his breakfast companions about the ghosts as a joke. That was a deliberately faked psychic stunt. Bill Wilson always had to be special, ahead of the other people, the Number One Man, being a gifted psychic, more spiritual than other people, seeing and hearing ghosts when others could not.

    Narcissists are experts at showing off. Everything they do is calculated to make the right impression.
    Emotional Vampires: Dealing with People Who Drain You Dry, Albert J. Bernstein, Ph.D., page 130.

  3. Notice how Bill arranged the rendezvous with his friends at the monument. That way, his friends had to see the monument and the names on it. Then, when they arrived, Bill pointed out the name David Morrow to them. Bill already knew that the name was there.

  4. Bill Wilson flat-out lied when he said that there wasn't "even a remote chance that I had at some time read or heard about all three of these ordinary former inhabitants of the island."
    It is highly likely that he did it the previous afternoon or evening.

  5. And let us not forget Boniface. Father Ed Dowling and Bill Wilson corresponded about Boniface. Bill claimed that he was talking to the ghost of a medieval monk, and Fr. Dowling said that it sounded like it could be the Apostle of Germany, but that Bill might be messing with spirits that were deceiving him. Again, all that Bill had to do to fake that "psychic experience" was go to either the New York City Public Library or the Columbia University library and find a manuscript or old book about Boniface that contained a few paragraphs of one of his sermons, hand-copy and memorize the text, and then recite it during a séance. This story doesn't tell us whether Boniface's sermon was in Latin or English. Either way, all that Bill had to do was move the pointer of the Ouija board to the proper letters, one after another.
          And how did Rev. Willard Richardson later verify the text as coming from Boniface? Quite possibly by reading the same old book as Bill Wilson did.
          If it were really the spirit of St. Boniface, why would Boniface waste a precious opportunity to communicate with humanity by just repeating one of his old sermons that had already been written down and printed in a book? Why wouldn't Boniface send us a new message, something that he had learned from five centuries of dwelling in Heaven?"
          Ah, but if Boniface did that, then Bill Wilson would have a hard time getting it verified as coming from Boniface, wouldn't he?

Do you think Bill Wilson worried about people discovering that he was a fraud? That would explain a lot of his paranoia and chronic depression.

Bill Wilson was messing around with the occult and talking to ghosts in séances so much that other A.A. members were very disturbed by it. One, Sumner Campbell, wrote to a man whom they all respected, C. S. Lewis at Cambridge University in England, describing Bill Wilson's spook sessions and asking his opinion. Lewis wrote back with total disapproval, saying, "This is necromancy. Have nothing to do with it." Bill Wilson ignored the criticism and continued conducting his séances and communicating with the dead people each evening anyway.27 (That is the same C. S. Lewis as the author who is famous for the Tales of Narnia books like The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe, and also The Screwtape Letters.)

(Also see the file, "The Heresy of the 12 Steps", for more on Bill's "spook sessions" and dabbling in the occult.)



Some other people who knew Bill Wilson while he was alive also said that Bill was not quite right in the head. I found a letter from Henrietta Seiberling to Clarence Snyder on the Internet [Local Copy Here], written in 1952, which is some of the strongest condemnation of Bill Wilson around — she said that Bill was deluded and imagined himself all kinds of things.

To recap a little history, Henrietta Seiberling was the woman who introduced Bill Wilson to Dr. Robert Smith, and was directly responsible for starting the whole Alcoholics Anonymous organization. It was Henrietta who answered the phone on that fateful evening in Akron, Ohio, in the spring of 1935, when Bill Wilson was at the Mayflower Hotel and afraid that he would relapse, so he was calling around to find another alcoholic member of the Oxford Group to talk to. Bill telephoned Rev. Walter F. Tunks, who was one of the staunchest Oxford Group members in Arkon, and Tunks referred Bill to another fellow Oxford Grouper who referred Bill to Henrietta Seiberling and Dr. Robert H. Smith, two other Oxford Group members. (There was nothing amazing or miraculous how everybody from Rev. Tunks to Henritta and Dr. Bob were all Oxford Groupers, like some apocryphal stories say. Rev. Sam Shoemaker "changed" Rev. Tunks into an Oxford Grouper, and Shoemaker certainly told Bill to call Rev. Tunks while he was in Akron.)

Henrietta arranged an appointment for Bill to see her friend Dr. Bob the next day (because Dr. Bob was already passing-out drunk that day). Then, the next evening, Dr. Bob didn't drink while talking with Bill. Henrietta was so impressed that she arranged for Bill to stay in Akron longer and longer, just to help keep Dr. Bob sober. Bill ended up staying for all of the summer of 1935, living rent free and happily unemployed, getting free food and cigarettes and walking-around money from somewhere. Bill and Bob started their "Alcoholic Squad" of The Oxford Group during that time, the "anonymous bunch of alcoholics" that would eventually become Alcoholics Anonymous.

Henrietta Seiberling really loved Bill Wilson in the summer of 1935, and considered him a "God-send" for his help in sobering up Doctor Bob. So what made her hate him so much later on? Well, Henrietta says it was Bill Wilson stealing the money, and trying to steal the book. That is, stealing the Big Book publishing fund, and the copyright of the Big Book. Henrietta Seiberling isn't alone in that opinion: Doctor Bob's daughter, Sue Smith Windows, also says that Bill Wilson took the money and set up his own company, outside of the fellowship, and fraudulently copyrighted the Big Book in his own name, as the sole author, without the knowledge or permission of Doctor Bob or any of the other Akron members, and without the permission of the book's other co-authors.

This letter was written about 17 years later, in 1952, after Henrietta had had plenty of time to get to know Bill Wilson better, and observe him at work. It was written to Clarence Snyder, who had founded one of the first Cleveland, Ohio, groups of A.A., and who was the author of the Big Book chapter, "The Home Brewmeister". This is what Henrietta Seiberling ended up saying about Bill Wilson:
(The footnotes and red highlighting are added.)

Friday, July 31st, 1952

Dear Clarence,

It was such a happy surprise to get your letter - I have wanted to answer it long before this but have been "burning daylight" as the old saying goes.



[...extra stuff snipped...]

Last night, Bill Van Horn & Mickey came over and got me & we picked up Bill Dotson[3], who now lives near King School, & we went out to Stow where I led the little group in a meeting — It was just like old times at T. Henry's — Every one felt they could get up and talk & you could feel that we were really gathered together in His Name & we had the real fellowship of the "Holy Spirit" that was left in the world, so we would never "be comfortless" — Bill Dotson said he had been to Albany, Georgia to speak. I told him that I had your letter & they were so glad to get news of you & spoke of you in the meeting.

I feel very sure that God has His Guiding Hand on our works, It looked for a while as if Bill Wilson would like to crowd God out but we know that it is up to us to seek more & more of God's power to help other people to know this way of Life & our fellowship. You certainly are doing your part & thank God, all those who have glimpsed the real vision are doing theirs. The joy of it is, to me, that those who have only been offered "the stone," are so eager & grab at the "bread," that we know we have to offer — as you say, it is appalling how little they have been offered by the would be "elder statesman" — but the 12 steps & the fact that, as Stanley Jones say, wherever man opens his mind to God, He reveals himself — they have helped the groping AA's — who have been denied so much of the real "bread" — & given the "stone" of Bill Wilson's designs.

But, Clarence, I have made one big whale of a surrender of Bill & his schemes — & all thought of him & the possibilities of what harm he could do just left me in the most amazing way. I don't have to try to "not think of him" again, I just don't — He is completely consigned to God by me & I know He can handle him — We will be closely knit — even with his taking the money & trying to take the book. I am sure he will need our pity & compassion because he has put himself apart from the real fellowship — more and more I see that the 16th Chapter of Luke that I read in answer to my asking to understand Bill & what he was doing, illuminated the situation — He has put himself with the "children of darkness" — he has his henchmen & ingratiates himself with those in the dark — Let us keep ourselves "children of the Light" & keep serving God, instead of "Mammon." Bill has made his choice — Read the chapter over.

I heard talk in Missouri 2 years ago about his connection with Sheen[1] but I don't imagine it is so. He imagines himself all kinds of things. His hand "writes" dictation from a Catholic priest, whose name I forget, from the 1600 period who was in Barcelona Spain — again, he told Horace Crystal[2], he was completing the work that Christ didn't finish, & according to Horace he said he was a reincarnation of Christ. Perhaps he got mixed in whose reincarnation he was. It looks more like the works of the devil but I could be wrong. I don't know what is going on in the poor deluded fellow's mind. He must be wistful. He asked Bill Dotson[3] if he knew where I was & Bill said "on Park Ave" & he said "Have you seen her"?

I learned from a Texas friend that a Chaplain in the prisons said the only way they really reached prisoners was thru Alcoholics Anonymous, even for the non alcoholic — so besides such things as that, Bill & his schemes pale into insignificance for us — I am sure. We can stand by & see him claim the "glory" if we can keep the "power" to help transform lives — Thank God, you & so many others are still doing that.



[...snip...]

I saw Henry Schwering in N.Y. — Bill Dotson brought him over. Bill W. wouldn't let him in the "convention."

Goodby, Clarence. Your good work speaks always of you to so many. It is a great joy to think of, isn't it.

As ever Faithfully
Henrietta


Added Footnotes:

1) Bill did begin taking instruction with Bishop Fulton J. Sheen to convert to becoming Roman Catholic but didn't complete the instruction.

2) Horace Crystal was a leading member of The Alcoholic Foundation (AA General Service Board Inc.) and Vice-President of Works Publishing, Inc., New York (now AA World Services, Inc.).

3) Bill Dotson was a lawyer in Akron, Ohio. His story is in the 'Big Book' "Alcoholics Anonymous". Look for "AA Number Three". Also see the chapter "A Vision For You", pages 156 to 158. Bill Dotson is the man in the hospital bed.

Henrietta dumps some incredibly heavy-duty condemnation on Bill Wilson:

  • Bill Wilson would like to crowd God out...
  • it is appalling how little they have been offered by the would-be "elder statesman"...
  • I have made one big whale of a surrender of Bill & his schemes...
  • We will be closely knit — even with his taking the money & trying to take the book.
    [This refers to Bill's embezzling the money for printing the Big Book, and also taking the ownership of the copyright of the group-project book and all of the royalties from the book's sales for himself.]
  • I am sure he will need our pity & compassion because he has put himself apart from the real fellowship.
  • He has put himself with the "children of darkness"
  • He has his henchmen & ingratiates himself with those in the dark
  • Let us keep ourselves "children of the Light" & keep serving God, instead of "Mammon." Bill has made his choice.
  • He imagines himself all kinds of things.
  • His hand "writes" dictation from a Catholic priest, whose name I forget, from the 1600 period who was in Barcelona Spain.
    [This is called "automatic writing," imagining that you are "channelling" the thoughts of a dead person, ghost, or spirit.]
  • Again, he told Horace Crystal, he was completing the work that Christ didn't finish,
  • & according to Horace he said he was a reincarnation of Christ. Perhaps he got mixed in whose reincarnation he was. It looks more like the works of the devil but I could be wrong.
  • I don't know what is going on in the poor deluded fellow's mind.
  • Bill & his schemes pale into insignificance for us — I am sure. We can stand by & see him claim the "glory" if we can keep the "power" to help transform lives...

And that comes from an insider, one of the principal people in the creation of Alcoholics Anonymous... Henrietta said, point blank, that Bill Wilson was suffering from a delusional disorder, as well as behaving very badly:
"I don't know what is going on in the poor deluded fellow's mind"
and
"He imagines himself all kinds of things".

That also seems to have been the opinion of her friends Clarence Snyder, Bill Dotson, and Horace Crystal, all of whom were members of the so-called "First 100".

Henrietta's references to the sixteenth chapter of Luke point to the story of a dishonest manager who financially cheated his master. The story is summed up with the lines:

Whoever is faithful in small matters will be faithful in large ones; whoever is dishonest in small matters will be dishonest in large ones. If then, you have not been honest in handling worldly wealth, how can you be trusted with true wealth? And if you have not been faithful with what belongs to someone else, who will give you what belongs to you?
      No servant can be the slave of two masters; such a slave will hate one and love the other or will be loyal to one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.



A.A. #3, The Man on the Bed

The statement above, about Bill Wilson imagining himself to be the reincarnation of Jesus Christ, is not the only example of such thinking. In Bill's speech at the memorial service for Dr. Bob, Bill said,

So then Dr. Bob and I talked to the man on the bed, Bill Dotson, who some of you have heard, A.A. No. 3. Here was another man who said he couldn't get well, his case was too tough, much tougher than ours, besides he knew all about religion. Well, here it was, one drunk talking with another, in fact, two drunks talking to one. The very next day, the man on the bed got out of his bed, and he picked it up and walked, and he has stayed sober ever since. A.A. No. 3, the man on the bed.
— Bill Wilson, speaking at the Memorial service for Dr. Bob, Nov. 15, 1952.

Those who are familiar with the Gospels will immediately recognize the story of Jesus healing the cripple by the pool, John 5:2. Jesus healed a crippled guy, and he just got up off of the bed that he had been laying on for years, and picked up his bed, and walked away. In this alcoholic version of the story, Bill Wilson cast himself and Dr. Bob in the place of Jesus Christ. They had become the magic healers who made the sick man get up, and pick up his bed and walk. (Actually, that is highly unlikely, because the bed was really a hospital bed, and such beds are big and heavy, and the nurses don't let you take them.) See page 157 of the Big Book, in the chapter called "A Vision For You", for the story of Bill Dotson, "the man on the bed".

Note that Bill Wilson did not say that God performed a miracle, and healed Bill Dotson, or that Jesus healed the guy:
"Well, here it was, one drunk talking with another, in fact, two drunks talking to one."
is the magic that did it. (Notice how Bill Wilson almost forgot to include Dr. Bob in the credits.)

But since Dr. Bob was dead when Bill spoke at the memorial service, that only left Bill Wilson to be the Messiah and continue the miraculous healings, "one drunk talking with another", making the cripples get out of bed and walk...


Bill Wilson posing for a staged "man on the bed" publicity photograph

Notice the cross on the wall. This photograph was very carefully staged for best effect.

(Also see this parody of the "Man on the Bed" story.)



Belladonna is an atropine powder derived from the leaves and roots of Atropa belladonna, a poisonous Eurasian plant popularly known as "Deadly Nightshade." Henbane is a similar plant in the same family. It yields the drug hyoscyamus, which sedates the central nervous system. Another well-known member of the family is Datura, also known as Jimson Weed, or Loco Weed, which was popularized by Carlos Casteneda in his book The Teachings of Don Juan. Datura is likewise a poisonous hallucinogen.

All of the plants in the nightshade family get you high the same way: they are all deadly poisonous, and they poison you so much that you end up in a state where you have one foot in the grave and one foot in the land of the living. And you hallucinate your brains out. Dosage is critical. Overdoses are fatal.

One friend who did Datura said, "If you are going to do it, get three of your biggest, strongest friends to lock you in a closet for the duration, because you are going to be completely out of your head, totally disconnected from reality. Whatever you imagine becomes real. If you think of being in a sailing ship, then suddenly, you are. You can look out the porthole, and you can look around and see every piece of wood in the ceiling and walls all around you. It is all totally real."

Fortunately, I passed on that particular one. My friend had diarrhea for three months after drinking some tea of Datura, and he got off easy. Other people blew out their livers or kidneys. The stuff is just unbelievably toxic. Every part of the plant, including leaves, stems, flowers, seeds, and roots, is poisonous. Don't mess with it.


"Dr. Silkworth's belladonna cure" was actually a joint recipe of the entrepreneur Charles Towns (an insurance salesman from Georgia) and Dr. Alexander Lambert, all three of whom worked together at Charlie Towns' hospital in New York City. It was a drug cocktail made up of belladonna, henbane, zanthoxylum (which eases gastrointestinal discomfort), barbiturates, megavitamins, morphine, and some other ingredients.

The Hospital's Founding: With a background in farming, railroading, life insurance, and the stock market, Charles B. Towns — according to his own self-constructed mythology — became interested in addiction through a mysterious stranger he met in a bar shortly after he had left Georgia in 1901 to seek his fortunes in New York City. The unnamed stranger told Towns that he had the formula for a cure for the drug habits that had been discovered by a country doctor, and that he and Towns could make a lot of money selling the cure.36 Intrigued with the possibilities, Towns began reading about addiction and experimenting with the stranger's formula. A racetrack worker whom Towns persuaded to take the cure — and who was then held against his will until the cure was complete — became Towns' first success.
      This serendipitious beginning led in 1901 — the year of Leslie E. Keeley's death — to the opening of the Charles B. Towns Hospital for Drug and Alcoholic Addictions.

36. It is impossible not to consider that this "country doctor" was Dr. Leslie Keeley and that the Towns treatment was an adaptation of the Keeley cure.

Slaying The Dragon: The History of Addiction Treatment and Recovery in America, by William L. White, 1998, pages 84 and 353.

So Charles Towns' "belladonna cure" for morphine and opium addiction — which he later declared was also good for treating alcoholism — was actually just a quack medicine recipe that he got from a guy in a bar.

      At this point, a mysterious man whispered to him, "I have got a cure for the drug habits, morphine, opium, heroin, codeine, alcohol — any of 'em. We can make a lot of money out of it."156,p.17 Towns was skeptical and asked his own doctor for advice. His doctor stated that the "cure" was ridiculous, but this type of challenge interested Towns and he placed ads seeking "drug fiends" who wanted to be cured.
      Towns found a patient and took the "Whisperer," the "fiend" and himself to the old Abingdon Square Hotel, along with three small vials of medicine. After a few hours of extreme pain, the "fiend" wanted to leave, but Towns physically restrained him and gave him a strong sedative. A doctor and stomach pump were sent for, as the patient became violently ill. After forty-eight hours, the patient was able to leave. Towns and his accomplice decided the "cure" needed additional refinement, so Towns began reading all the known literature on drug addiction and alcoholism. Unable to find any more patients, he kidnapped a racetrack agent and forced him through the treatment, which was successful. His reputation soon spread through New York's criminal underworld and he treated many addicted gangsters. During this time, he eliminated the distressing features of the original formula.
      Towns believed the formula was now ready for more widespread use and he interested Dr. Alexander Lambert, professor of clinical medicine at Cornell University Medical College and a visiting physician to Bellevue Hospital, in his formula. Lambert was one of then-President Theodore Roosevelt's physicians and he began telling various government officials about the "Towns Cure."

156. MacFarlane, P.C. The "White Hope" for Drug Victims. Colliers, November 29, 1913, 16-17, 29-30.

AA: The Way It Began, Bill Pittman, page 84-85.

The belladonna cure started off as a cure for opium addiction, but Charles Towns "turned into a perfect crackpot" and pushed the belladonna cure as a panacea — a cure-all.15 Note that Towns was "a Georgia insurance salesman who made a fortune dosing middle-class addicts with hyoscyamine and strychnine..." Charles Towns was not a doctor.16

Dr. Lambert then dissociated himself from Charles Towns and his hospital.

... before long [Towns] was billing his cure as guaranteed to work for any compulsive behavior, from morphinism to nicotinism to caffeinism, to kleptomania and bedwetting.   ...   Lambert's defection from the Towns-Lambert Cure was also based on the need to revise his cure estimate significantly downward; as time went on, he began to notice that people kept coming back for the cure, cure after cure, for years on end.
Flowers in the Blood: the story of opium, Dean Latimer and Jeff Goldberg, page 249.

Known as the Towns-Lambert Cure, the belladonna method was first developed in 1906 as a treatment for addiction to opium and other narcotics; a 90 percent cure rate was claimed. Lambert, personal physician to President Theodore Roosevelt, dissociated himself from Towns when "he began to notice that people kept coming back for the cure, cure after cure, for years on end," and when Towns, whose background was in insurance rather than medicine, began "billing his cure as guaranteed to work for any compulsive behavior, from morphinism to nicotinism to caffeinism, to kleptomania and bedwetting."
Bill W. and Mister Wilson — The Legend and Life of A.A.'s Cofounder, Matthew J. Raphael, page 189.
Also see AA: The Way It Began, Bill Pittman, pages 164 to 169.

It is almost funny that Charles Towns repeatedly, publicly, loudly denounced all other opiate addiction and alcoholism cures as frauds and quack medicine.13


This is the formula for the "belladonna cure":

The exact contents of each ingredient is outlined below:

Belladonna Specific

Tincture belladonnae ________________ 62. gm.
Fluidextracti xanthoryli.
Fluidextracti hyoscyami _____________ .31 gm.
(210)

Belladona — Atropa Belladonna

Deadly nightshade; a perennial herb with dark purple flowers and black berries. Leaves and root contain atropine and related alkaloids which are anticholinergic. It is a powerful excitant of the brain with side effects of delirium (wild and talkative), decreased secretion, and diplopia.(211,p.112)

Xanthoxylum — Xanthoxylum Americanum
The dried bark or berries of prickly ash. Alkaloid of Hydrasts. Helps with chronic gastro-intestinal disturbances. Carminative and diaphoretic.(211,p.269)

Hyoscyamus — Hyoskyamos
Henbane, hog's bean, insane root from the leaves and flowers of Hyoscamus Niger. Contains two alkaloids, hyoscyamine and hyoscine. Nervous system sedative, anticholinergic, and antispasmodic.


210. Lambert, A. The Obliteration of the Craving for Narcotics. Journal of the A.M.A., 1909, LIII(13):985-989.
211. Hare, H.A. Practical Therapeutics. New York: Lea Bros. & Co., 1904. 10th edition.

AA: The Way It Began, Bill Pittman, page 165.

That drug cocktail was administered to the detoxing patients hourly, along with "There is also given about every twelve hours a vigorous catharsis of C.C. Pills and blue mass."12

The vigorous catharsis of C.C. pills and blue mass are outlined below.

C.C. Pills

Extracti colocynthidis compositi ____ .08 gm.
Hydrargyri chloridi mitis ___________ .06 gm.
Cambogiae __________________________ .016 gm.
Resinae jalapae _____________________ .02 gm.

These compound cathartic pills were used to help with perfect bowel elimination, characteristic of this were dark, thick, green mucous stools.(158,p.8)

Blue Mass Pills — pilule catharticae vegetabilis

Extracti colocynthidis compositi ____ .06 gm.
Extracti hyoscyami
Extracti jalapae ____________________ .03 gm.
Extracti leptandrae
Extracti resinae podophylli ________ .015 gm.
Olei mentae piperitae ______________ .008 gm.

When an alcoholic was admitted in the midst of his spree, or at the end of it, the first thing that was done was to put the patient to sleep, and the only medication which preceded his hypnotic was the four C.C. pills. The hypnotic which gave Lambert the best results was the following:

Chlorali hydrati _____________________ 1. gm.
Morphinae __________________________ .008 gm.
Tincturae hyoscyami __________________ 2. gm.
Tincturae zingiberis _________________ .6 gm.
Tincturae capsici ____________________ .3 gm.
Aquae ad _____________________________ 15 gm.

This could be given and the dose repeated in an hour, with or without one or two drachms of paraldehyde. If these were not effective within two hours, or even less, and the patient was of the furious, thrashing, motor type, a hypodermic injection of the following would almost invariably quiet him:

Strychminae suphatis _______________ .002 gm.
Hypseyamin sulphatis ______________ .0006 gm.
Apomorphinae hydrochloridi _________ .006 gm.
(210,p.988)


158. Towns, C.B. The Sociological Aspect of Treatment of Alcoholism. The Modern Hospital, 1917, 8:103-106.
210. Lambert, A. The Obliteration of the Craving for Narcotics. Journal of the A.M.A., 1909, LIII(13):985-989.

AA: The Way It Began, Bill Pittman, pages 166-167.

There were a lot of powerful mind-altering drugs in all of that: belladonna, morphine, chloral hydrate, paraldehyde, hyoscyamine, strychnine, and apomorphine. Quite a trip.

And that Hydrargyri chloridi mitis, an ingredient of the "C.C. Pills", is a mercury compound like mercuric or mercurous chloride. It is terribly poisonous and causes violent diarrhea and vomiting, "in accordance with the old theory that this would purge the person from whatever ill was [present] at the time...". (Thanks to Petri for that note.)

And the strangest drug included there has to be the "Extracti resinae podophylli" in the "Blue Mass" pills. Podophyllum resin is a powerful tissue killer that is good for removing venereal warts. That stuff is so caustic that it will eat a wart right off of your body. Heaven only knows what it has to do with treating alcoholism. And I sure wouldn't want to swallow it.

Podocon-25TM from Paddock Laboratories, Inc., which is a tincture of Podophyllum Resin in benzoin, is specifically for removing venereal warts — condylomata acuminata. The manufacturer states that it is "a powerful caustic and severe irritant." "Podophyllum Resin is a powdered mixture of resins removed from the May apple or Mandrake (Podophyllum peltatum Linne), a perennial plant of northern and middle United States."
"For external use only: To avoid systemic absorption, time of contact should be the minimum time necessary to achieve the desired effect."

Now I'm not implying that Bill Wilson was a deep throat, but I guess we can safely assume that his throat and digestive tract were free of venereal warts.


Dr. Lambert gave these instructions for administration of the drug mixture:

The amount necessary to give is judged by the physiologic action of the belladonna it contains. When the face becomes flushed, the throat dry, and the pupils of the eyes dilated, you must cut down your mixture or cease giving it altogether, until these symptoms pass. You must, however, push this mixture until these symptoms appear, or you will not obtain a clear cut cessation of the desire for the narcotic.
Bill W. and Mister Wilson — The Legend and Life of A.A.'s Cofounder, Matthew J. Raphael, pages 87-88.

Dr. Lambert and Charles Towns were quite aware of the hallucinogenic properties of belladonna:

Close observation is necessary in treating the alcoholic in regard to the symptoms of the intoxication of belladonna, as alcoholics are sensitive to the effects of belladonna delirium. According to Lambert, it is a less furious and less pugnacious delirium than that for alcohol. The patients are more persistent and more insistent in their ideas and more incisive in their speech concerning hallucinations. The hallucinations of alcohol are usually those of an occupation delirium; those of belladonna are not. The various hallucinations of alcohol follow each other so quickly that a man is busily occupied in observing them one after another. The belladonna delirium is apt to be confined to one or two ideas on which the patient is very insistent. If these symptoms of belladonna intoxication occur, of course, the specific must be discontinued; then beginning again with the original smaller dose.(210, pp. 987-988) Towns believed the attending physician would find it most difficult to differentiate between alcoholic delirium and belladonna delirium.(208, p. 7)

208. Towns, C.B. Successful Medical Treatment in Chronic Alcoholism. The Modern Hospital, 1917, 8:6-10.
210. Lambert, A. The Obliteration of the Craving for Narcotics. Journal of the A.M.A., 1909, LIII(13):985-989.

AA: The Way It Began, Bill Pittman, pages 165 to 166.

In addition, Dr. Lambert liked to put alcoholics to sleep as soon as they came in. He usually used chloral hydrate or paraldehyde, but "Lambert also believed it wise to give most alcoholics 1/60 to 1/30 of a gram of strychnine every four hours."14 Those who remember the psychedelic sixties will remember that LSD was sometimes laced with the poison strychnine because it enhanced the colors and the vividness of the hallucinations.

That's the "alcoholism treatment" that Dr. Silkworth gave to Bill Wilson at Towns' Hospital — four times altogether, in a little over a year.


Even before the Ice Age, belladonnas were used world-wide in religious ceremonies. The drug promoted babbling trances in shamans and other human oracles...
      Belladonna had two salient advantages for the cure specialists. Because it annulled morphine's mental clarity and euphoria by replacing it with a drowsy, babbling disconnected stupor, it became established in science as a morphine anti-toxin (artificial Autotoxin), providing a conceptually elegant framework for ridding the body, once and forever, of every addiction-promoting substance. And belladonna had the important advantage of keeping patients comatose: they wouldn't even think of sneaking out of the ward, being entirely occupied in talking to their ancestors, and flying through the sky with weird animals.
Flowers in the Blood: the story of opium, Dean Latimer and Jeff Goldberg, page 247.


Bill Wilson's spiritual experience, or "hot flash," as he would call it, occurred during the second or third night (depending on the source) of the above treatment. Considering his alcohol and chloral hydrate212 use upon entering Towns and adding this to the hypnotic drugs he received during the first few days of his stay, there is the possibility that his "hot flash," may have been delusions and hallucinations characteristic of momentary alcoholic toxic psychosis.213,214,215

212. Wilson, W.G. Those Goof Balls. New York: The Alcoholics Anonymous Grapevine, Inc., November 1945.
213. Johnson, J. M.D. Personal Interview, Ramsey County Medical Center, St. Paul, MN, May 23, 1981.
214. Carlson, J. Pharm. D. Personal Interview, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, MN, May 21, 1981.
215. Harrison, et al. Principles of Internal Medicine. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1974. 7th edition.

AA: The Way It Began, Bill Pittman, page 169.

Bill's visions or hallucinations were also most likely caused by or enhanced by delirium tremens, which is infamous for making people see pink elephants or zillions of crawling bugs or any other weird things that they might fancy. Bill Wilson wrote in the Big Book:

At the hospital I was separated from alcohol for the last time. Treatment seemed wise, for I showed signs of delirium tremens.
The Big Book, 3rd edition, William G. Wilson, Chapter 1, "Bill's Story", page 13.



This is Robert Thomsen's description of Bill Wilson's "spiritual experience" that occurred December 13 or 14, 1934, after two or three days of detoxing and getting the belladonna cure, and having Ebby Thacher, Rowland Hazard, Shep Cornell, and other Oxford Groupers indoctrinating him while he was tripping:

His fingers relaxed a little on the footboard [of the bed], his arms slowly reached out and up. "I want," he said aloud. "I want..."
      Ever since infancy
, they said, he'd been reaching out this way, arms up, fingers spread, and as far back as he could remember he'd been saying just that. But always before it had been an unfinished sentence. Now it had its ending. He wanted to live. He would do anything, anything, to be allowed to go on living.
      "Oh, God," he cried, and it was the sound not of a man, but of a trapped and crippled animal. "If there is a God, show me. Show me. Give me some sign."
      As he formed the words, in that very instant he was aware first of a light, a great white light that filled the room, then he suddenly seemed caught up in a kind of joy, an ecstasy such as he would never find words to describe. It was as though he were standing high on a mountaintop and a strong clear wind blew against him, around him, through him — but it seemed a wind not of air, but of spirit — and as this happened he had the feeling that he was stepping into another world, a new world of consciousness, and everywhere now there was a wondrous feeling of Presence which all his life he had been seeking. Nowhere had he ever felt so complete, so satisfied, so embraced.
      This happened. And it happened as suddenly and as definitely as one may receive a shock from an electrode, or feel heat when a hand is placed close to a flame. Then when it passed, when the light slowly dimmed, and the ecstasy subsided — and whether this was a matter of minutes or much longer he never knew; he was beyond any reckoning of time — the sense of Presence was still there about him, within him. And with it there was still another sense, a sense of rightness. No matter how wrong things seemed to be, they were as they were meant to be. There could be no doubt of ultimate order in the universe, the cosmos was not dead matter, but a part of the living Presence, just as he was part of it.
      Now, in place of the light, the exaltation, he was filled with a peace such as he had never known. He had heard of men who'd tried to open the universe to themselves; he had opened himself to the universe. He had heard men say there was a bit of God in everyone, but this feeling that he was a part of God, himself a living part of the higher power, was a new and revolutionary feeling.
— Robert Thomsen, Bill W., 1975, pp. 222-223.

Note the power of suggestion at work. Ebby Thacher had been working on Bill for weeks, trying to get him to join the Oxford Group. Bill had decided to give Ebby's "spiritual" treatment program for alcoholism a try, because he knew that he would die if he kept on drinking. Just a few days earlier, he had gone to Ebby's Oxford Group meeting at Rev. Sam Shoemaker's Calvary Mission, and had "given himself to God" during the service. Then he went to Charles Towns' hospital to detox and quit drinking. Ebby and other Oxford Groupers came and worked on him some more in the hospital, indoctrinating him with more Oxford Group dogma and jabber about God. Then, when the hallucinogens hit, Bill saw "God" — just what he had been programmed to see.

(Also see the description of Ebby Thacher playing guilt-tripping mind games on Bill Wilson to cause him to flip out and have his "spiritual experience".)

In the A.A. book Alcoholics Anonymous Comes Of Age (1957) Bill Wilson described his experience this way:

All at once I found myself crying out, "If there is a God, let Him show himself! I am ready to do anything, anything!"
      Suddenly the room lit up with a great white light. I was caught up in an ecstasy which there are no words to describe. It seemed to me in my mind's eye, that I was on a mountain and that a wind not of air but of spirit was blowing. And then it burst upon me that I was a free man. Slowly the ecstasy subsided. I lay there on the bed, but now for a time I was in another world, a new world of consciousness... and I thought to myself, "So this is the God of the preachers!" A great peace stole over me...
Alcoholics Anonymous Comes Of Age (1957), William G. Wilson, page 63.

In the book Bill W.: My First 40 Years, Bill Wilson described his religious experience this way:

The terrifying darkness had become complete. In agony of spirit, I again thought of the cancer of alcoholism which had now consumed me in mind and spirit, and soon the body. But what of the Great Physician? For a moment, I suppose, the last trace of my obstinacy was crushed out as the abyss yawned.
      I remember saying to myself, "I'll do anything, anything at all. If there be a Great Physician, I'll call on him." Then, with neither faith nor hope I cried out, "If there be a God, let him show himself." The effect was instant, electric. Suddenly my room blazed with an indescribably white light. I was seized with an ecstasy beyond description. I have no words for this. Every joy I had known was pale by comparison. The light, the ecstasy. I was conscious of nothing else for a time.
      Then, seen in the mind's eye, there was a mountain. I stood upon its summit where a great wind blew. A wind, not of air, but of spirit. In great, clean strength it blew right through me. Then came the blazing thought, "You are a free man." I know not at all how long I remained in this state, but finally the light and the ecstasy subsided. I again saw the wall of my room. As I became more quiet a great peace stole over me, and this was accompanied by a sensation difficult to describe. I became acutely conscious of a presence which seemed like a veritable sea of living spirit. I lay on the shores of a new world. "This," I thought, "must be the great reality. The God of the preachers."
      Savoring my new world, I remained in this state for a long time. I seemed to be possessed by the absolute, and the curious conviction deepened that no matter how wrong things seemed to be, there would be no question of the ultimate rightness of God's universe. For the first time I felt that I really belonged. I knew that I was loved and could love in return. I thanked God who had given me a glimpse of His absolute Self. Even though a pilgrim upon an uncertain highway, I need be concerned no more, for I had glimpsed the great beyond.
      Save a brief hour of doubt next to come, these feelings and convictions, no matter what the vicissitude, have never deserted me since. For a reason that I cannot begin to comprehend, this great and sudden gift of grace has always been mine.
Bill W.: My First 40 Years, William Wilson, pages 145-146.

Note that Mr. Wilson implied that he had the power to summon up the Spirit of God, just by demanding that God show himself, just like how socerers or wizards are supposedly able to summon up demons:

"Demon XXX, In the Name of Baelzebub and All Of The Forces Of Darkness, I command you to appear!"

Ordinary sorcerers and wizards have to settle for summoning up ordinary demons by name, but not Bill Wilson. Bill Wilson waved his arms in the air and commanded God Almighty Himself to appear (and Bill didn't even say "Please"):

  • "If there is a God, show me. Show me. Give me some sign."
  • "If there is a God, let Him show himself!"
  • "If there be a God, let him show himself!"

[Whenever I try that trick, it doesn't work for me. I guess maybe I'm not as spiritual as Bill Wilson was. (Or maybe I need better drugs...)]



Oddly enough, even though Bill Wilson became a fanatic at pushing his own point of view, he didn't even have a point of view to call his own after his drug-induced "vision of God".

  • The next day, roughly December 14 or 15, 1934, one of his friends in The Oxford Group, either Ebby Thacher or Rowland Hazard, gave him William James' book, The Varieties of Religious Experience, to read while he was in the hospital, and that is where Bill got the idea of "deflation at depth", of having life-altering religious experiences while in great despair, great pain, and utter hopelessness. (Although at least one critic has reported that the phrase "deflation at depth" is not present anywhere in James' book. William James did not say that the way to induce religious or spiritual experiences was to crush or "compress" people's egos. Apparently, Bill Wilson was just seeing what he wished to see.)

  • Then, Rowland (allegedly) told Bill about the famous Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung suggesting to him that he substitute religious mania for alcoholism.

  • And then Ebby converted Bill to Buchmanism, via The Oxford Group Movement. They indoctrinated Bill with all of the standard beliefs and tenets of Buchmanism.

Bill absorbed all of that, and then set out to convert the world. In his mind, he was the only one with all of the answers, and he felt that God had chosen him for that messianic mission. He was literally out to make converts of the whole world, and he said so. Bill felt that saving all of the alcoholics was just the first step in world conquest:

[We are] ... regarding ourselves as intelligent agents, spearheads of God's ever advancing Creation...
The Big Book, 3rd edition, William G. Wilson, page 49.

At the moment we are trying to put our lives in order. But this is not an end in itself. Our real purpose is to fit ourselves to be of maximum service to God...
The Big Book, 3rd edition, William G. Wilson, page 77.

We think this account of our experiences will help everyone to better understand the alcoholic. Many do not comprehend that the alcoholic is a very sick person. And besides, we are sure that our way of living has its advantages for all.
The Big Book, William G. Wilson, the Foreword to the First Edition, page xiii of the 3rd edition.

The original version of Step 12 made it clear that everybody was fair game for recruiting into Bill Wilson's religion:

12. Having had a spiritual experience as the result of this course of action, we tried to carry this message to others, especially alcoholics, and to practice these principles in all our affairs.

Then Bill Wilson tried to recruit the entire family into his new church:

Though an alcoholic does not respond, there is no reason why you should neglect his family. You should continue to be friendly to them. The family should be offered your way of life. Should they accept and practice spiritual principles, there is a much better chance that the head of the family will recover. And even though he continues to drink, the family will find life more bearable.
The Big Book, 3rd Edition, William G. Wilson, Chapter 7, Working With Others, page 97.

Note that Bill suddenly changed the advertised effect of his "spiritual" Twelve-Step program from making alcoholics quit drinking to just making the family's life "more bearable". Are the 12 steps really a program for recovery from alcoholic drinking, or are they actually something else, like the family's religion?

And besides, we are sure that our way of living has its advantages for all.
The Big Book, William G. Wilson, in the Foreword to the 1st edition, page xiii of the 3rd edition.

Yes indeed, "And besides..."

And besides, even if the program doesn't work very well for actually getting alcoholics off of alcohol, it will get a bunch of other people seeking and doing the Will of God in a Buchmanite cult religion, and that is the real purpose of our program, anyway.



Baba Ram Dass (the former Professor Richard Alpert of Harvard University) had this to say to people who have religious or spiritual experiences:

Don't be psychotic: Watch it. Watch it.

That psychosis business is an interesting business. If you go through the doorway too fast, and you're not ready for it, you're bound hand and foot and thrown into outer darkness.

You may land anywhere and lots of people end up in mental hospitals. The reason they do is: They went through the door with their ego on, and:

"Wow! I've been invited to the wedding feast.

"I mean dig me! Sam Jones!

"Sam Jones in Heaven! Sam Jones standing on the right side of the Lord. There's the Lord, and there's Gabriel and there's Sam Jones."

They don't understand that you gotta die to be born. That only when you have been born again do you enter the Kingdom of Heaven. So, they've gone in on the first round and what happens is they go on a huge ego trip, and it's called the Messianic Complex. It's called Paranoia, Delusions of Grandeur.
— Baba Ram Dass, Be Here Now, 1971, pp. 97-98.

As you may have guessed from the above quote of Ram Dass, I am not dismissing Bill Wilson's spiritual experience as just a drug-induced hallucination. No way, José. Being a good child of The Sixties, I believe that you can get real spiritual or religious experiences in quite a variety of ways, including fasting, chanting, meditation, yoga, sitting zazen, or consuming various herbs, fungi, or other organic chemicals. And some people even manage to do it with funny stuff like dancing, surfing, or making love, or — extremely dangerous — delirium tremens. To me, anything that works is valid.

Please note that none of those means gives you any guarantees at all; most of the time, none of them, including drugs, really works for getting a spiritual experience. It takes a lot more than just an exercise or a dose to produce such an experience. The person's mind set is critically important, and setting is probably critical too. "Mind set" may include years of preparation, or even a lifetime of accumulated karma. (Some people would say "many lifetimes.") And then there just seems to be an element of luck. (Or, if you don't like the word "luck", then maybe cosmic good fortune, or good karma, or grace, or something.) Anyway, when it happens, it is great.

It seems obvious to me that Bill Wilson had some kind of an experience. He was allegedly changed from a drinking-to-die alcoholic to a life-long teetotaler in just one evening. That would have been a very strong vision, if he really stayed sober, and we don't count the years of taking LSD and other drugs.

And he was taking a strong enough dose: just delirium tremens alone can have you hallucinating and tripping your brains out, and seeing pink elephants and bugs crawling all over you, and when you add three or four days of consuming belladonna and henbane on top of it, you have a dose sufficient to have you hallucinating elephants of any color or stripe you wish. The accumulated brain damage from his years of drinking is also an unknown factor, and adding the morphine, tranquilizers, barbiturates, strychnine, megavitamins, and unspecified other psychoactive drugs just seems like frosting on the cake, and Heaven only knows what they all did in combination. I'm certainly not surprised that he was tripping and hallucinating.

But as Ram Dass has pointed out, there are some inherent dangers in forcing a visionary experience before its time, like getting cast into outer darkness, paranoia, delusions of grandeur, and a messianic complex.6 He should know. Lots of people were getting a little funny on LSD back in the sixties. (Okay, maybe a lot funny.) So it isn't like we haven't seen it before. If Bill Wilson had been a young friend of mine back in the sixties, I probably would have said to him, "Bill, you've gone and gotten all hung up in a crazy messianic complex. Why don't you take another hit of that Purple Dome, and this time, come down normal?"

I didn't say that it would be good advice, I just said that that's probably what I would have said. And Bill Wilson did try LSD back in the fifties, to see if it was any good for treating alcoholism. Apparently, he liked it. Actually, he loved it. He even shared it with his wife, Lois, and said that she benefited from it. Then he shared it with his secretary Nell Wing, and his priest Father Dowling, and his minister Rev. Sam Shoemaker Jr., and then with every A.A. member and other alcoholic he could talk into taking it... That went on for two years. Bill Wilson was doing a Timothy Leary routine before Timothy Leary. He only stopped doing it because some of the high-ranking people on the Alcoholics Anonymous General Service Board started grumbling about Bill creating yet another scandal by promoting drugs. But that's another story.

The biggest mistake Bill W. made is precisely what Ram Dass was talking about: refusing to die, refusing to give up his ego. "Going in on the first round with your ego on." Bill fought to live:

"He wanted to live. He would do anything, anything, to be allowed to go on living."

Bill didn't understand that he was supposed to let go and die. He fought to hold onto his ego and his life as if it were everything. As if it were a matter of life and death, which it usually is, when you start to feel like you are going to die. That is to be expected. Unfortunately, Bill never had any kind of spiritual training, or a teacher to prepare him for a psychedelic experience. He was born in the wrong decade for such knowledge to be common, or "in the air." His spiritual experience happened in the nineteen-thirties, and the psychedelic revolution didn't happen until the nineteen-sixties. Bill's preparation for his visionary experience was nothing but years of guzzling cheap rotgut whiskey and bathtub gin. And that is terrible preparation. So what happened was pretty inevitable: Bill clung to his ego, and fought off ego loss, and ended up becoming a bombastic wet-brain,

"So this is The God of the Preachers!
And there is Bill Wilson, hanging out with God...
We feel we are walking on the Broad Highway in the sky, hand-in-hand with the Spirit of the Universe..."

And there goes Bill Wilson, on a life-long ego trip, with a big fat messianic complex, bound hand and foot, and cast into outer darkness...



As if things weren't complicated enough already, another critic pointed out a very funny complication in Bill's story about his religious experience. Bill claimed that this happened to him:

      "Oh, God," he cried, and it was the sound not of a man, but of a trapped and crippled animal. "If there is a God, show me. Show me. Give me some sign."
      As he formed the words, in that very instant he was aware first of a light, a great white light that filled the room, then he suddenly seemed caught up in a kind of joy, an ecstasy such as he would never find words to describe. It was as though he were standing high on a mountaintop and a strong clear wind blew against him, around him, through him — but it seemed a wind not of air, but of spirit — and as this happened he had the feeling that he was stepping into another world, a new world of consciousness, and everywhere now there was a wondrous feeling of Presence which all his life he had been seeking.
— Robert Thomsen, Bill W., 1975, pp. 222-223.

But in the biography of Bill that was written by Lois Wilson's personal secretary, Francis Hartigan, we learn that Bill's paternal grandfather, who was also named William Wilson, also had a bad drinking problem. In desperation, he climbed a mountain one Sunday morning and had a religious experience of a wind of Spirit blowing through him, and he never drank again:

William Wilson may have preferred inn keeping to quarrying, but inn keeping is seldom the right occupation for a hard-drinking man. His attempts to control his drinking led him to try Temperance pledges and the services of revival-tent preachers. Then, in a desperate state one Sunday morning, he climbed to the top of Mount Aeolus. There, after beseeching God to help him, he saw a blinding light and felt the wind of the Spirit. It was a conversion experience that left him feeling so transformed that he practically ran down the mountain and into town.
      When he reached the East Dorset Congregation Church, which is across the street from the Wilson House, the Sunday service was in progress. Bill's grandfather stormed into the church and demanded that the minister get down from the pulpit. Then, taking his place, he proceeded to relate his experience to the shocked congregation. Wilson's grandfather never drank again. He was to live another eight years, sober.
Bill W.; A Biography of Alcoholics Anonymous Cofounder Bill Wilson, Francis Hartigan, page 11.

What are the odds that both Bill's grandfather and Bill would have exactly the same dramatic religious experience, almost word-for-word identical,

  • both beseeching God for help,
  • both seeing a blinding White Light,
  • both feeling that they were on a mountaintop with a wind of Spirit blowing through them,
  • and both being so overwhelmed by the experience that they never drank again?

Or did Bill Wilson just appropriate his grandfather's story to embellish his own detox experience?
Did Bill Wilson just exaggerate his drug experience to get more "spiritual credentials" to be the leader of a cult religion?
Did Bill's grand vision of God really happen at all?

We are still left wondering just what this statement in the Hazelden "autobiography" of Bill Wilson really means:

There will be future historical revelations about Bill's character and behavior in recovery that will be interpreted, by some, as direct attacks on the very foundation of AA.
Bill W., My First 40 Years, William G. Wilson, Hazelden, page 170.

Remember, that "autobiography" was written by Hazelden staff members, using a set of autobiographical tape recordings that Bill Wilson made before his death. So just what are they hiding in the sealed AAWS archives? What else is on those tapes? I am eager to hear those "future historical revelations".




Footnotes:

1) DSM-III-R == Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Third Edition Revised.
Published by the American Psychiatric Association, Washington, DC. 1987.
ISBN 0-521-34509-X (casebound); ISBN 0-521-36755-6 (soft cover).

2) The Clinical Interview Using DSM-IV, Ekkehard Othmer, M.D., Ph.D. and Sieglinde C. Othmer, Ph.D.,
American Psychiatric Press, Inc., 1994.
ISBN 0-88048-541-8
Dewey Dewey: 616.8914 O87c 1994

3) DSM-IV == Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition.
Published by the American Psychiatric Association, Washington, DC. 1995.
ISBN 0-89042-061-0 (casebound); ISBN 0-89042-062-9 (soft cover).
Dewey Dewey: 616.89 D536 1994

4) Bill W. and Mr. Wilson, The Legend and Life of A.A.'s Cofounder   Matthew J. Raphael, 2000, page 159.


5) "Damn Your Old Meetings!"
That is the title of chapter 8 of Lois Wilson's book, Lois Remembers. Lois' book is also pretty pathetic: it was probably ghost-written for her, somebody else putting words into her mouth, yet again, because it came out in 1979, long after Bill's death, when she was also very old and frail. The Lois Remembers book parrots much of the standard party line from the Big Book, including the "jealous of God and A.A." story:

Slowly I recognized that because I had not been able to "cure" Bill of his alcoholism, I resented the fact that someone else had done so, and I was jealous of his newfound friends...
      God, through the Oxford Group, had accomplished in a twinkling what I had failed to do in seventeen years.
Lois Remembers, page 99.

All I can say is: What pathetic, brain-damaged tripe. Any normal wife would be overjoyed to see her husband cured of a deadly disease. But not in the weird world of A.A. — not in the delusional mind of Bill Wilson. There, the wives are all jealous of God and A.A. (and not simply furious that he insists on going to A.A. meetings all of the time instead of getting a job).


6) Outer Darkness:
When I first went back and reread the Baba Ram Dass quote above, after many years of not having looked at it, I thought that the phrase "you're bound hand and foot and thrown into outer darkness" was a little too strong.

(Even if it is out of the Bible, the Parable of the Wedding Feast, Matthew 22:1 to 22:14. And while we're at it, the phrase "only when you have been born again do you enter the Kingdom of Heaven" is another Biblical quote: John 3:5.)

Now, I don't think "thrown into outer darkness" is too strong of a description of Bill's predicament. Bill Wilson appears to have been trapped in outer darkness from December 14, 1934, when he had his vision of God, to the very end of his life. Everything he wrote was insane, and he grew darker and more depressed, and more depressing to others, as he aged. Five years after he wrote the Twelve Steps, he went into a deep clinical depression that lasted for 11 years. He was so sick that all he could do was sit in his office and hold his head in his hands all day long. Lots of days, he just didn't even bother to get out of bed — he just laid in bed and stared at the ceiling all day. His ravings in his book Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions, which he wrote in the middle of that period of depression, 13 years after the Big Book, are really some dark and hateful stuff.

Then, Henrietta Seiberling said that Bill Wilson ended up telling people that he was the reincarnation of Jesus Christ.

Ken Ragge blames Dr. Silkworth and his experimental treatments for alcoholism, like "the belladonna treatment", for making Bill Wilson's mental condition worse. Maybe so... That's the mental illness 292.11 Hallucinogen Delusional Disorder.

(Do read Ragge's first chapter of his book More Revealed that is free on the Internet. It is very good, simply must reading.)


7) Forced To Be God's Slaves:
It kind of reminds me of the TV series Deep Space 9, where the changelings, the Founders, addicted their Jem-Hadar warriors to a drug-like substance called "Ketracel-white," which only the Founders could supply, which made the Jem-Hadar the most loyal slaves in the galaxy.

Bill Wilson would have us similarly dependent upon A.A. and God for our sobriety: Either "Work the Steps" and "Seek and Do the Will of God" every day, or relapse and die drunk in a gutter.


8) The First 100:
Actually, there was no group like the First 100. That was just another one of Bill Wilson's advertising slogans. Dick B., the well-known A.A. historian, wrote, in an email:

1. The first "100" is a figment of Bill's imagination.

2. As is recounted in RHS and elsewhere, in 1938, Bill and Bob counted noses and found there were 40 who had maintained substantial sobriety. These were called the "pioneers." None of them was an Oxford Group activist, but all of them in the Akron/Cleveland area were attending the "Oxford Group" meetings at the home of T. Henry and Clarace Williams. They were also making surrenders at the hospitals or during meetings. They were attending morning Quiet Time with Anne Smith at Dr. Bob's home. They were visiting Akron City Hospital to tell their stories to the newcomers. And they called themselves (some of them) "the alcoholic squad of the Oxford Group." The story was entirely different in New York because so few had maintained sobriety. Hank P. was the first, and eventually drank. Fitz M. was the second, was a believer, and stayed sober the rest of his life. Jim B. stayed drunk for five years until he read the Bible and never drank again. Others attended Oxford Group meetings at Calvary House, some of which were led by Sam Shoemaker. Now that takes care of the "pioneers" who numbered 40.

3. At the time the writing of the Big Book was authorized by a split vote of Akronites, there were 40. By the time Bill had completed the Big Book which was published in the spring of 1939, the number was in the 70's. I have the figure in one of my books, Turning Point, I believe; but I don't have time to look it up. Some of the material can be found in my book The Akron Genesis of Alcoholics Anonymous. By the Spring of 1939, Bill and Lois had been (to use their words) "kicked out" of the Oxford Group, and that was in August of 1937.

There is, of course, much much more. And I hope you have covered some of it in my various titles.
http://www.dickb.com/index.shtml


9) Bizarre delusions are things like:

  • "Worms are eating out my guts."
  • "Monsters are coming through the walls to get me."
  • "Evil spirits are hiding in the dark corners of the room at night, and if I fall asleep, they'll get into my mind."

People with Delusions of Grandeur, like Bill Wilson, do not have bizarre delusions or hallucinations like that.


10) Slaying The Dragon: The History of Addiction Treatment and Recovery in America, by William L. White, 1998, pages 72-73.


11) Slaying The Dragon: The History of Addiction Treatment and Recovery in America, by William L. White, 1998, pages 100-101.


12) AA: The Way It Began, Bill Pittman, page 164, cites:
Blumberg, L. The Ideology of a Therapeutic Social Movement: Alcoholics Anonymous. Journal of Studies on Alcohol, 1977, 38(11):2122-2143.
Lambert, A. The Obliteration of the Craving for Narcotics. Journal of the A.M.A., 1909, LIII(13):985-989.]


13) Slaying The Dragon: The History of Addiction Treatment and Recovery in America, by William L. White, 1998, pages 68-70.


14) AA: The Way It Began, Bill Pittman, page 168.


15) Flowers In The Blood, p. 249.


16) Flowers In The Blood, p. 249.


17) Bill Pittman, AA: The Way It Began, p. 172. Pittman cites page 265 of Jung and the Story of Our Time by L. Van der Post, New York: Random House, 1975.


18) In his history of A.A., Alcoholics Anonymous Comes Of Age, Bill wrote:

In one dark moment I even considered calling the book "The B. W. Movement." I whispered these ideas to a few friends and promptly got slapped down. Then I saw the temptation for what it was, a shameless piece of egotism.
Alcoholics Anonymous Comes Of Age, William G. Wilson, (1957), pages 165-166.

But in 1984 the staff of Alcoholics Anonymous World Services Inc. released another history of A.A. that tried to gloss the whole thing over:

In a jab at his own egotism, Bill said that he had even proposed calling it "The B. W. Movement"!
Bill Wilson, quoted in 'PASS IT ON': The story of Bill Wilson and how the A.A. message reached the world, Alcoholics Anonymous World Services, Inc. staff, 1984, page 280.

Talk about minimization and denial...

19) Nan Robertson, Getting Better Inside Alcoholics Anonymous, page 43.

20) Ibid., page 43.

21) The Soul of Sponsorship: The Friendship of Fr. Ed Dowling, S.J. and Bill Wilson in Letters, edited by Robert Fitzgerald, S.J., page 59.

22) Ibid., page 45.

23) 'PASS IT ON': The story of Bill Wilson and how the A.A. message reached the world, Alcoholics Anonymous World Services, Inc., page 25.

24) Ibid., pages 35-37.

25) Ibid., pages 29-30, 32.

26) Lois Wilson, Lois Remembers, page 99. Also see this earlier note.


3) Susan Cheever, My Name Is Bill: Bill Wilson — His Life and the Creation of Alcoholics Anonymous, page 207.



Bibliography:


"The Big Book", really:
Alcoholics Anonymous, Third Edition.
Alcoholics Anonymous World Services, Inc. New York, NY.
ISBN: 0-916856-00-3
Dewey: 362.29 A347 1976

Note that the earlier editions of the A.A. book are available for free on the Internet. It seems that somebody was too sober to remember to renew the copyrights...
http://www.recovery.org/aa/download/BB-plus.html

The Alcoholics Anonymous web site is: www.alcoholics-anonymous.org


Alcoholics Anonymous Comes Of Age     William G. Wilson
Alcoholics Anonymous World Services, Inc. (AAWS), New York, 1957, 1986.
Harper, New York, 1957.
ISBN: 0-91-685602-X
LC: HV5278 .A78A4
Dewey: 178.1 A1c
This is Bill Wilson's version of the history of Alcoholics Anonymous. It suspiciously differs from known history here and there.


'PASS IT ON': The story of Bill Wilson and how the A.A. message reached the world     attributed to 'anonymous'; really written by Alcoholics Anonymous World Services, Inc. staff
Alcoholics Anonymous World Services, Inc. (AAWS), New York, 1984.
ISBN 0-916856-12-7
LC: HV5032 .W19P37x 1984
LCCN: 84-072766
Dewey: 362.29/286/O92
This is the official, council-approved version of the history of Alcoholics Anonymous. A lot of it is lies and distortions and re-writing history, and Bill Wilson's tall tales. Strangely enough, there is also some very interesting stuff in here, including chapter 16, which describes Bill's spook sessions and séances, talking with the spirits of the dead, and communicating with spirits through spirit rapping and the Ouija board. See pages 275 to 285.


Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions
(written by William G. Wilson and Tom Powers, published as 'anonymous'.)
Alcoholics Anonymous World Services, Inc. New York, NY, 2000.
ISBN 0-916856-06-2 (smaller hard cover edition, 2000)
ISBN 0-916856-01-1 (larger hard cover edition, 1984)
Dewey: 362.2928 T969 1965
LC: 53-5454
This is one of the most insane and vicious books around. It is right down there with Mein Kampf as far as its ratio of lies to truth, and hate content, is concerned. It is ostensibly Bill Wilson's explanation of his Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions, but it is really something quite dark and evil, Bill Wilson's poisonous contempt for human nature masquerading as spirituality. It was written while Wilson was in the middle of his eleven-year-long bout of deep clinical depression, and it shows. It is really a brutal, hateful assault on the character of people who happen to have a drinking problem. Bill Wilson hated himself and his own character flaws, so he projected all of his own weaknesses and character flaws onto the alcoholics around him, and also onto a mythical stereotypical alcoholic, and then said, "Look at him. Look at how disgusting he is. We are all like that." This whole book is non-stop guilt induction.
      By the way, Bill Wilson said in a letter to Father Edward Dowling, S.J., that he was getting "good help" in writing this book from the spirits "over there" in the spirit world whom he contacted during séances. Father Dowling answered that he feared that Bill might be messing with evil, lying, spirits from the dark side. Who knows, maybe he was...


The Language of the Heart     William G. Wilson
A.A. Grapevine, New York, 1988.
ISBN 0-933-68516-5
LC: HV5278 .W15 1988
LCCN: 88-71930
This is a collection of Bill's writings, speeches, and letters, assembled after his death.


Lois Remembers     Lois Wilson
Al-Anon Family Group Headquarters, Inc., 1991.
ISBN 0-910034-23-0
Lois' book is pretty pathetic: it was probably ghost-written for her, somebody else putting words into her mouth, yet again, because it came out in 1979, long after Bill's death, when she was also very old and frail. The Lois Remembers book parrots much of the standard party line in the Big Book, including the ridiculous "jealous of God and A.A." story:

Slowly I recognized that because I had not been able to "cure" Bill of his alcoholism, I resented the fact that someone else had done so, and I was jealous of his newfound friends...
      God, through the Oxford Group, had accomplished in a twinkling what I had failed to do in seventeen years.
Lois Remembers, page 99.


Grateful To Have Been There     Nell Wing
Parkside Publishing Corporation, Park Ridge, Ill, 1992.
ISBN 0-942421-44-2
Dewey: 362.2928 WING
This is an interesting book, even if it is a complete whitewash and gloss-over. Nell Wing was Bill Wilson's secretary for about 35 years, so it is understandable. And we can see the obvious fingerprints of the other true believers, helping Nell to tell the standard stories in exactly the same way as others have, like Bill's conversations with the ghosts of Nantucket. (Page 56.)
Quotes: here and here and here.


DSM-III-R == Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Third Edition Revised.
Published by the American Psychiatric Association, Washington, DC. 1987.
ISBN 0-521-34509-X (casebound); ISBN 0-521-36755-6 (soft cover).
Dewey: 616.89 D536 1987


DSM-IV == Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition.
Published by the American Psychiatric Association, Washington, DC. 1995.
ISBN 0-89042-061-0 (casebound); ISBN 0-89042-062-9 (soft cover).
Dewey: 616.89 D536 1994


DSM-IV-TR == Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition, Text Revision.
Published by the American Psychiatric Association, Washington, DC. 2000.
ISBN 0-89042-024-6 (casebound); ISBN 0-89042-025-4 (soft cover).
LC: RC455.2.C4 D536 2000
Dewey: 616.89 D536 2000 or 616.89'075—dc21
See page 323 for delusional disorders.


The Clinical Interview Using DSM-IV, Ekkehard Othmer, M.D., Ph.D. and Sieglinde C. Othmer, Ph.D.,
American Psychiatric Press, Inc., 1994.
ISBN 0-88048-541-8
Dewey: 616.8914 O87c 1994


Alcoholics Anonymous: Cult or Cure?     Charles Bufe, 1998.
See Sharp Press, PO Box 1731, Tucson AZ 85702-1731
ISBN 1-884365-12-4
Dewey: 362.29286 B929a 1998
(This is the second edition; it has noticeably more information than the first edition. The first edition is: ISBN 0-9613289-3-2, printed in 1991.)


Bill W. Robert Thomsen
Harper & Rowe, New York, 1975.
ISBN 0-06-014267-7
Dewey: 362.29 W112t
This is a good biography of William G. Wilson, even if it is very positively slanted towards Mr. Wilson, because the author knew Mr. Wilson and worked beside him for the last 12 years of Mr. Wilson's life, and this book was prepared from the set of autobiographical tape recordings that Bill Wilson made before he died. So expect it to praise Mr. Wilson a lot. Still, this book will tell you about some of Bill Wilson's warts, his fat ego, his publicity-hound behavior, and his years-long "dry drunks"...


Bill W. My First 40 Years     'An Autobiography By The Cofounder of Alcoholics Anonymous'
(This is Bill Wilson's autobiography, supposedly published anonymously.)
Hazelden, Center City, Minnesota 55012-0176, 2000.
ISBN 1-56838-373-8
Dewey: B W11w 2000
This book was assembled by ghost writers at Hazelden from the same autobiographical tape recordings of Bill Wilson that Robert Thomsen used for his book.


Bill W. and Mr. Wilson — The Legend and Life of A.A.'s Cofounder     Matthew J. Raphael
University of Massachusetts Press, Amherst, Mass., 2000.
ISBN 1-55849-245-3
Dewey: B W11r 2000
This book was written by another stepper — the name 'Matthew Raphael' is a pen name — and it generally praises Bill Wilson and recites the party line about most things, but it also contains a bunch of surprises, like detailing Bill's sexual infidelities, his and Bob's spook sessions — talking to the 'spirits' in séances through the use of Ouija boards, spirit rapping, and channeling, LSD use, and publicity-hound megalomania.


Bill W. A Biography of Alcoholics Anonymous Cofounder Bill Wilson     Francis Hartigan
Thomas Dunne Books, An imprint of St. Martin's Press, 175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010, 2000.
ISBN 0-312-20056-0
Dewey: B W11h 2000
Francis Hartigan was the secretary of and confidant to Bill Wilson's wife Lois. This book is pretty much a white-wash and tells the whole story from Bill's point of view. But it does contain a few surprises, like the chapter "The Other Woman" which details Bill's love affair with Helen Wynn, and hints at all of his other affairs where he cheated on Lois, both before and after sobriety, all of his married life.


Be Here Now     Baba Ram Dass
Hanuman Foundation, 1971.
This is the original, first, book that Ram Dass published about the teachings he had received from Neem Karoli Baba.
The very first printing was a boxed edition the size of a 33 1/3 RPM phonograph record, and the box contained such a record, and the book was printed on recycled brown grocery bag paper. Alas, the later editions are not so neat.


Not-God: A History of Alcoholics Anonymous     Ernest Kurtz
Hazelden Educational Foundation, Center City, MN, 1979.
ISBN 0-899-486065-8 or ISBN 0-89486-065-8 (pbk.)
LC: HV5278
LCCN: 79-88264
Dewey: 362.2/9286 or 362.29286 K87 1979
This is a very pro-A.A., toe-the-party-line history of Alcoholics Anonymous, but it is still a valuable resource for a wealth of historical facts and details.


AA: The Way It Began     Bill Pittman
Glen Abbey Books, Seattle, Washington, 1988.
ISBN 0-934125-08-2
LC:
LCCN: 87-73390
Dewey: 362.29286 P57 1988
Takes an uncritical look at the events leading up to the founding of Alcoholics Anonymous. Ends at the publication of the Big Book. Still, it contains a lot of information about alcoholism treatment before A.A..


Slaying The Dragon: The History of Addiction Treatment and Recovery in America     William L. White
Chestnut Health Systems/Lighthouse Institute, Bloomington, Illinois 61701, 1998.
ISBN 0-938475-07-X
LC: HV5279.W48 1998
LCCN: 98-11879
Dewey: 362.29'18'0973—dc21 or 362.291809 WHI
This book is a mixed product. The beginning, the history of early alcoholism treatment is excellent. But then the chapters on Alcoholics Anonymous are just reprints of the standard A.A. PR handouts. The strongest criticism of A.A. that he can muster is asking whether it will work as well for women and racial minoritites as white men, without ever having established that it works on white men. (That's the propaganda trick of Assume The Major Premise.) In fact, he dodges the whole question of the effectiveness of A.A. treatment by saying that A.A. isn't a treatment program, and A.A. doesn't keep records (page 176). Still, this book is required reading for the serious student of alcoholism and its treatment.
See the bibliography for more on this book.


A History of Addiction & Recovery in the United States     Michael Lemanski
See Sharp Press, PO Box 1731, Tucson AZ 85702-1731, 2001.
ISBN: 1-884365-26-4
Dewey: 362.29180973 or 362.2918 L547h
Also from See Sharp Press, another excellent critical analysis of the whole recovery industry, including A.A., treatment centers, and "codependency therapy".
Quotes: Mental health in A.A.


Addiction, Change & Choice; The New View of Alcoholism     Vince Fox, M.Ed. CRREd.
See Sharp Press, PO Box 1731, Tucson AZ 85702-1731, 1993.
ISBN: 0-9613289-7-5
Dewey: 362.29286i FOX
And yet another great book from the See Sharp Press. Fox covers:

  1. Heavy Drinking: Its Historical Context
  2. Alcoholism: Definitions & Opinions
  3. Polarization: Us vs. Them
  4. The Objective: Personal Autonomy
  5. Alcoholics Anonymous: Essence & Functions
  6. Alcoholics Anonymous: Effectiveness
  7. The Forces & Directions of Change
  8. The Independent Self-Help Programs
  9. Rational Recovery Systems Network
  10. Traditional Recovery Management
  11. Nontraditional Recovery Management
  12. Noninstitutional Recovery
  13. ...and more...
One of the things I like best is how Fox stresses just how damaging and dangerous it is for A.A. and N.A. to teach addicts that they are powerless over alcohol or their addiction, and have no choice in the matter. That is a ready-made rationalization for a drunkard to have another drink, and for a doper to shoot up again. And that is what the steppers do. Fox also does a good job of criticizing the arrogant "My way or the highway" attitude of self-righteous A.A. and N.A. sponsors.


Narcissism, Denial of the True Self     Alexander Lowen, M.D.
Macmillan Publishing Comany, New York, 1983, and
Collier Macmillan Publishers, London, 1983.
ISBN: 0-02-575890-X
LC: RC553.N36L38 1983
LCCN: 83-18794
This is a great book, a real classic. Dr. Lowen advances the idea that narcissism is not falling in love with one's self, but rather with a false image of one's self. More above.


Loving the Self-Absorbed: How to Create a More Satisfying Relationship with a Narcissistic Partner     Nina W. Brown, Ed.D., LPC, NCC
New Harbinger Publications, Inc., Oakland, CA, 2003.
ISBN: 1-57224-354-6
Dewey: 158.2 B879L
This book tells you how to cope with being married to an obnoxious narcissist. The one thing I couldn't see was, "Why bother?" Nina Brown makes narcissists sound so bad that you really don't want to be married to one. But if you are some kind of long-suffering masochist who really wants to go through it all, read this book.
Quotes: here and here and here.


Emotional Vampires: Dealing with People Who Drain You Dry     Albert J. Bernstein, Ph.D.
McGraw-Hill, New York, 2001.
ISBN: 0-07-135259-7 (hard); ISBN: 0-07-135267-9 (pbk.)
Dewey: 158.2 B531e 2001
This is a wonderful little easy-to-read book on the psychology of exploitative personalities. It's easy to identify both Frank N. D. Buchman and William G. Wilson as Narcissistic vampires — "Legends in Their Own Minds" who could not tolerate the least little bit of criticism, and who felt entitled to take the best of everything for themselves because they were so special, and who threw screaming temper tantrums when the common rabble displeased them.
Quotes: here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here.


The End of Affluence; The Causes and Consequences of America's Economic Dilemma     Jeffrey Madrick
Random House, New York, 1995.
ISBN: 0-679-43623-5
LC: HC106.7.M27 1995
Dewey: 330.973092—dc20
LCCN: 95-19946
A fascinating book. The author shows how our real rate of economic growth, after correcting for inflation, has been depressed and below average since 1973. From 1820 to 1973, the USA enjoyed an economic growth rate of around 4% per year, even after averaging in the great depressions, but the author believes that those heady days are gone forever. The Wild West is gone, the buffalo are gone, the free land, oil, and trees are gone, and the possibility of great rapid growth is gone.
Quote: here.


Also see the bibliography.




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