Bill Wilson didn’t plan on becoming the creator of one of the most influential organizations to have been established in America in the 20th Century. In fact, when he had his first drink when he was a 22 year old, the last thing he was thinking was becoming an alcoholic and hitting bottom 17 years later, only to transform himself and countless others into sober individuals.
The Alcoholic Years
For 17 years after his first drink Bill Wilson suffered from alcoholism. By 1933 his once promising career as a Wall Street investor was no more and he and his wife found themselves in poverty. When through a friend he began to attend Frank Buchman’s Oxford Group, the meetings gave him the strength to sober up.
A Moment of Inspiration
It wasn’t until the end of the next five months of sobriety in a hotel lobby in Akron, Ohio that Wilson’s “religious experience” and transformation occurred. Bill Wilson stood in that hotel lobby in Akron, Ohio after a blown business deal wanting a drink, but instead his religious epiphany led him to help others and from small groups Alcoholics Anonymous was born.
Anonymity: The Key to Success
Bill Wilson achieved success through being the “anonymous celebrity.” Early on in his transformation from lonely alcoholic to the humble leader, Wilson wrote and developed the 12 Traditions and 12 Steps, which ultimately developed as the core piece of thought behind Alcoholics Anonymous. After some time he developed the “Big Book,” based on his teachings and understandings from his support groups and the 12 Steps. Bill Wilson not only preached support groups based on anonymity, he lived by attending his own groups as Bill W. Wilson remained Bill W. until 1971, the year he died.