June is a very special month for countless alcoholics all over the world. Whether or not they are high, drunk, sober, living or dead they are forever indebted to two men suffering from the same malady that happened to have a chance meeting some 83 years ago this month.
This is their story as I know it. Our own local legend Bill Wilson co-founded Alcoholics Anonymous on June 10, 1935 with Dr. Bob Smith in Akron, Ohio. This historic event happened when one alcoholic (Bill W.) told his story to another alcoholic (Dr. Bob) and from that day, each man managed to stay sober until their deaths. Both men had tried for years to get and stay sober on their own to no avail until that magical day. Prior to meeting Dr. Bob, Bill was sober for six months because he had what he described as a spiritual awakening. Bill was traveling on a business trip in Akron, Ohio when a deal fell apart that he was trying to close. He was so upset that he planned on going down to the hotel bar to get drunk but thought if he talked to another alcoholic he just might stay sober. After many phone calls that night he finally connected with Anne Smith, the wife of an alcoholic. Thankfully, Anne persuaded her husband Dr. Bob to meet with Bill in the morning. During this meeting in Dr. Bob’s kitchen a spiritual healing occurred for both men and miraculously neither person would ever have another drink thus was born the organization of Alcoholics Anonymous.
From that meeting and with the knowledge gained during the following months and years of helping others recover from alcoholism, Bill and the first 100 men and women of Alcoholics Anonymous “ AA” would come up with specific steps to recovery. Bill gave us these instructions as he was the major writer of the book Alcoholics Anonymous (1939) along with Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions (1953). These guides have become the text books and the printed directions on how this simple process helps alcoholics get and stay sober. Bill wrote these books while he and Lois lived at Stepping Stones in Katonah, NY. As time passed all other self-help groups were eventually based on the principles of “AA”. Lois Wilson, along with Anne B., co-founded Al-Anon in 1951. Five years later, Alateen was founded in 1956 by a 17 year old, named Robert because his dad was in “AA”, his mother was in Al-Anon and he needed to talk about his problems with kids his age. These three self-help groups are in support of the many family members affected by active alcoholism in their homes. These ordinary people suffering from the same afflictions came together and developed a way to treat the fatal disease of alcoholism and addiction.
The key for me about the story and success of Alcoholics Anonymous, Al-Anon, and Alateen is how a common problem, situation, predicament or in this case, the disease of alcoholism, can be solved when one person helps another person suffering from the same ailment. The ability to identify, support and help each other recover is the divine intervention of a Higher Power. That higher power is alive and thriving in our town and lives in each and every member of this community. If you are struggling with alcohol or any other drug, having terrible or negative and harmful thoughts or you are tired of being lonely and depressed like I was, please seek help within your community. Find someone that you can trust and ask them for help. You can find help in our community at churches, synagogues, mosques, hospitals, therapists, counselors, schools, neighbors, family, friends and strangers. If you do not want to seek outside help right away, try reading the book Alcoholics Anonymous and see if you identify with the stories or the suggestions of recovery. You may want to tour the Stepping Stones Museum at 62 Oak Road in Katonah and see Bill’s historic writing studio, attend a local open “AA”, Al-Anon or Alateen meeting or go to the Alcoholics Anonymous website at https://www.aa.org/, Al-Anon/Alateen website at https://al-anon.org/.
Sharing my inner most thoughts, fears, anxieties, troubles and struggles with another person helped me to break my isolation. I have learned and believe that alcoholism is physical, mental and spiritual in nature and if left untreated it will eventually kill me. I no longer physically crave alcohol, I no longer mentally obsess about alcohol and I am no longer spiritually bankrupt because of alcohol. I suffered in silence and by myself for many years and almost gave up, until I reached out and asked for help. I was a daily drinker for more than 15 years and tried quitting almost every other day. I was living in constant pain, fear, regret, remorse, doom and failure until I took a leap of faith hoping and praying that something might change if I could just stop drinking. My belief in a power greater than myself was and has been the basis of my recovery. I found that divine power in strangers that were willing to love me until I could love myself. They helped me to understand my fears, clean up the wreckage of my past, develop a higher power, to embrace the future, to believe in miracles and to grow spiritually. They only asked that I passed along what was so freely given to me. And for that I am willing and forever grateful.
AA’s preamble says: “Alcoholics Anonymous is a fellowship of men and women who share their experience, strength and hope with each other that they may solve their common problem and help others to recover from alcoholism. The only requirement for membership is a desire to stop drinking. There are no dues or fees for A.A. membership; we are self-supporting through our own contributions. AA is not allied with any sect, denomination, politics, organization or institution; does not wish to engage in any controversy; neither endorses nor opposes any causes. Our primary purpose is to stay sober and help other alcoholics to achieve sobriety.”