December 11th, 1934, Bill Wilson, completely defeated by alcoholism, arrived at Towns Hospital in New York City to be checked in, holding the very last drink of alcohol that he would ever take. He didn’t know it at the time, and had no idea that his life along with millions of others were about to be transformed.
Bill spent the previous 13 years in the grasp of alcoholisms’ hold on him. The good times and bad, marriage and broken relationships, career successes and lost jobs, dry times and drunkenness. In Bill’s last months of drinking, he made several trips to the hospital for detoxification with little lasting success. Each time a relapse occurred the hope of lasting sobriety dwindled to the reality that his wife Lois was told by Bills’ doctor, Dr. William D. Silkworth, that “Bill will have to be locked up somewhere unless soon go mad or die.”
Then a spark of hope arrived in a childhood friend of Bill and Lois, Ebby Thacher, who also suffered from alcoholism and had found a release from his problems through “Religion” and The Oxford Group. Ebby was invited over to talk with Bill in the Fall of 1934. This meeting was the secret to recovery, a conversation of one alcoholic sharing hope with another. Ebby shared with Bill the formula for recovery that released him from his alcoholism.
On page 40 of the book Dr. Bob and Bill W. Speak by Michael Fitzpatrick, it details the formula that Ebby shared with Bill:
“Bill shared what have become known as the “original six steps.” These six steps were used by the nameless society that became Alcoholics Anonymous in 1939. Bill claimed that these steps came directly from Ebby, The steps an alcoholic needed to take were:
-Admitted that he couldn’t manage his own life.
-Got honest with himself as never before.
-Make a confession of his character defects.
-Try to sweep away the debris of the past and mend broken relationships with others.
-Experience a new kind of giving that demanded no rewards.
-Accomplish these things by asking God for His help.”
Bill was moved by this example of transformation right before his eyes in his friend Ebby and felt a bit of hope. Bill rebelled against the “God Concept” and continued drinking for several weeks but could not get this formula for recovery out of his mind. He ultimately made the decision that it was time to go to the hospital to be dried out. That day was December 11th, 1934.
Bill arrived at the door of Towns Hospital waving a bottle, shouting to Dr. Silkworth “I have something!”, to hear the response, “I’m afraid you do, you better go on up to bed.”
Bill spent the next three days detoxing from liquor in the hospital. During that time he received another visit from his friend Ebby, who shared with him again this formula for recovery. Bill continued his rebellion to God, falling into another depression. In desperation, Bill cried out “If there is a God, Will He show Himself?”
This is the great moment of Bill Wilson’s life, his “White Light Spiritual Experience”, where his hospital room lit up with a great bright light, feeling that he was standing on a mountain top, a great wind blowing all around with the grace of God, leaving him in a “different world” where a great peace came over him, being released of his obsession to drink and the realization that there is a God.
This experience in the hospital, inspired Bill to share this formula of recovery with other alcoholics, leading to the founding of Alcoholics Anonymous and the recovery of millions of alcoholics over the past 86 years!
Here, Bill tells the story of his last drink in December 1934:
This recording is from the talk that Bill gave in Dallas, TX in 1951. You can listen to the entire talk here: Bill W. – “Cathedral of the Spirit” talk in Dallas, TX in 1951
The story told and quotes used above have been pieced together from a combination of Bill Wilson recordings that can be found in the Best of Bill category on RecoverySpeakers.com as well transcriptions of Bill Wilson recordings that can be found in the book Dr. Bob and Bill W. Speak by Michael Fitzpatrick.