Did the Founder of Alcoholics Anonymous Ever Fall off the Wagon?

After 37 years of sobriety, Bill Wilson, a co-founder of Alcoholics Anonymous, was dying of pneumonia. His last wish was for three shots of whiskey. According to a 2004 Washington Post article, Wilson's biographer Susan Cheever found out about this wish and its subsequent denial from medical records kept by Wilson's nurses. So, whether he liked it or not, Wilson maintained his sobriety from the time he took his last drink in 1934 until his death in 1971.

Seven months before his death, Wilson delivered an address to the Alcoholics Anonymous 35th Anniversary International Convention in Miami Beach, Florida. He concluded his speech with the words, "God bless you and Alcoholics Anonymous forever." He was instrumental in the formation of the General Service Conference -- the worldwide board of trustees of AA -- so that all AA groups could be accountable to one body. Alcoholics Anonymous and subsequent 12-Step groups have followed this model ever since.

More about Alcoholics Anonymous:

  • The only requirement for membership in any Alcoholics Anonymous group is the desire to stop drinking.
  • AA literature is distributed in over 250 languages.
  • AA groups meet on every continent except Antarctica, in countries as far-flung as Vanuatu, Indonesia and Nepal.

Frequently Asked Questions

Did the founder of Alcoholics Anonymous ever relapse after the organization was founded?

Bill Wilson, one of the co-founders of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), struggled with alcoholism before establishing the organization. After AA was founded in 1935, there is no well-documented evidence that Wilson relapsed into drinking. He remained sober until his death in 1971, dedicating his life to the AA movement and helping others achieve sobriety.

What was the role of Bill Wilson in the founding of Alcoholics Anonymous?

Bill Wilson, often referred to as Bill W., played a pivotal role in the founding of Alcoholics Anonymous. Along with Dr. Bob Smith, he developed the original Twelve Steps program and the concept of peer-to-peer support for alcohol recovery. Wilson's personal experiences with alcoholism and his desire to help others were instrumental in shaping AA's philosophy and methods.

How has Alcoholics Anonymous impacted the treatment of alcoholism since its inception?

Since its inception, Alcoholics Anonymous has had a profound impact on the treatment of alcoholism. It has provided a supportive community for millions of individuals seeking sobriety through its global network of meetings. The organization's Twelve Steps program has been widely adopted and adapted for various other addiction recovery programs, highlighting its influence in the field of addiction treatment.

Are there any statistics on the success rate of Alcoholics Anonymous?

Quantifying the success rate of Alcoholics Anonymous is challenging due to the anonymous nature of the program and the variability in how success is defined. However, some studies suggest that AA can be effective for many individuals. According to a 2020 study published in the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, AA and Twelve-Step Facilitation interventions can lead to higher rates of continuous abstinence compared to other treatments.

What support does Alcoholics Anonymous offer to individuals who have relapsed?

Alcoholics Anonymous offers a non-judgmental and supportive environment for individuals who have relapsed. The organization encourages members to return to meetings and work the Twelve Steps, emphasizing that relapse can be a part of the recovery journey. AA's approach is to provide ongoing support, understanding, and encouragement to help members recommit to sobriety and continue their recovery process.

More Info: Cato Institute

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