The movie “My Name is Bill W” was about William Griffith Wilson (Nov 26, 1895 – Jan 24, 1971) He was better known as Bill Wilson or “Bill W’. He was the co-founder of Alcoholics Anonymous with Robert Holbrook Smith AKA Dr. Bob. After seeing this movie I did some additional research. He and his sister were abonandoned by both parents and left to live with his maternal grandparents. Bill also experienced severe depression when he had a girlfriend die from surgery complications. He met his future wife Lois Burnham in 1913.
In 1916 Wilson’s class was mobilized and one year later he was commissioned as an artillery officer. It was while training in Massachusetts that Bill W took his first drink. First was a beer and then a few weeks later came the “Bronx Cocktails”. He wrote, “I have found the elixir of life”. In June of 1918 he married Lois just prior to being sent to fight in World War I. After the war he and his wife lived in New York.
A telling sign of his alcohol problems were that he failed to graduate law school because he was too drunk to pick up his diploma.
He became a stock speculator and travelled extensively with his wife. They lost 2 babies for unexplained reasons. She almost died with the second loss. There was a lot of stress associated with his job and this caused more drinking, as did the standard business social drinking. In 1929 he was involved in the stocks for General Electric. His drinking by this time is heavy. And was noticed by his father in-law who suggested he go se a specialist. He is seen by Dr. William D. Silkworth.
He denies that he has a “Drinking Problem” even though he has an enlarged liver at this point. He ends up losing his job when he is caught drinking with another woman. He at this time is also now starting to be picked up by the police for drunkenness. In 1931 Bill and Lois are forced to move in with Lois’ father. Lois is able to get a job in a department store. Bills drinking caused him to show up at her work drunk and he caused a scene. Four times in 1933 Bill W was committed to the Charles B. Towns Hospital for Drug and Alcohol Addictions.
Again, he was treated by Dr. Silkworth. Dr. Silkworth was still not able to convince Bill to stop drinking even though he told him that he would either die or be locked up permanently. He and long time friend (and drinking buddy) Ebby Thatcher were school friends and WWI Veterans. In November 1934 Bill W invited Ebby over for some drinks and to relive old times. Ebby announced to Bill’s surprise that he had quit drinking and that he found religion. He told hi about “The Oxford Group” and the teachings of both Rowland Hazard and Carl Jung.
Wilson still declined to completely stop drinking. He once again was admitted to the hospital on Dec 11, 1934. This ultimately became his sober date. Ebby came to visit him a few days later and helped him start to work what would later become “The Steps”. At first staying sober was difficult and this is where he called a father, Father John” of a church to talk to “another Alcoholic”. He was eventually sent to talk to Dr. Bob. Together they fought thru and stayed sober and formed what would become Alcoholics Anonymous. Dr. Bob took his last drink on June 10, 1935. They found talking to other “Drunks” helped them to stay sober. Bill W and Dr. Bob they started recruiting more alcoholics to help. This was in Akron Ohio. By 1940 there were meeting in Akron, Cleveland, and New York. Dr bob was called, by Bill W, the “Prince of Twelfth Steppers”. On his death bed Dr. Bob told Bill W “Keep it Simple” and “One Day at a Time”. Both Dr. Bob and Bill W remained sober for the rest of their lives. Ebby wasn’t as fortunate and struggled with Sobriety for the rest of his life.
Movie “My name is Bill W”
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