From the BlogMeet Ron


Dear friends,

One second you are aware of your breath as a vague expansion in your lower chest. The next thing you know you are mid-way through a revenge fantasy involving a burnt offering (badly scorched lasagna in this case, better not to ask …)

You know the drill: When you notice that you’re thinking, just say to yourself, “thinking” and then bring your attention back to your breath.

As a teacher, I often struggle to get across how incredibly amazing and ground-breaking it is to actually recognize thought in vivo – as they are unfolding in the present moment.

Because we do not just know that we are thinking, we are seeing how thought creates our personal experiential reality.

The Irish mindfulness blogger Karl Duffy gives the example of someone experiencing a recent break-up. He observes:

“Do you feel that gut-wrenching pain bubbling up from the center of your being? Yes – it’s all coming from your thoughts about the event in the moment. Not from her or him (although he or she was a jerk to do that to you). But from a thought.”

Thought torments us when we don’t see it thought as just thinking happening in the present moment, not as we mistakenly feel that s/he is the cause of our present pain.

The pain already happened, maybe long ago. But we experience afresh as if it is happening again now, through the trickery of thought!

Our meditation practice allows us to see how we’re presently creating this experience. And how at some preconscious moment we agree to participate in this virtual reality of our own creation.

We create this virtual reality as our thoughts spread out in an associative tangle, branching this way and that, creating a world which seems as real to us as a dream feels real while we are dreaming it.

What makes this mental creation problematic is we don’t recognize it as virtual. We get attached to it. We act on the basis of it. And it can lead to a great deal of suffering for ourselves and others.

We create vast worlds of past and future, and get lost in them.

We get lost in thoughts about what happened, about how we responded to what happened, about how we wished we had responded to what happened in some other way; about how we wished what happened had been different.

Sound familiar?

We get also get lost in thoughts about what we hope will happen, about how we hope it will play out, about how we hope we will respond.

We get lost in thoughts about what we are afraid will happen, about what else might happen if it does occur, about how we are afraid we will respond, about how we hope to respond.

And there are untold variations on these two themes of past and future!

These are endless narrative loops that play over and over in the mind, the trains of thought pulling out of the station one after another and taking us for a long ride down the track before we even know we’re aboard.

As we bring meditative awareness to our moment to moment experience, we recognize what is occurring right now is this nothing but a stream of mental events, often tethered to the past or the future.

With practice we can say internally “Oh here comes that stream of thought once again, the one that leads me to so much apathy and sadness”…or doubt, or lust, or conflict, or addiction, or whatever.

This process of recognition is captured beautifully by the poem “Autobiography in Five Short Chapters” by Portia Nelson:

I walk down the street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk
I fall in.
I am lost … I am helpless.
It isn’t my fault.
It takes me forever to find a way out.

I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I pretend I don’t see it.
I fall in again.
I can’t believe I am in the same place
but, it isn’t my fault.
It still takes a long time to get out.

I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I see it is there.
I still fall in … it’s a habit.
my eyes are open
I know where I am.
It is my fault.

I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I walk around it.

I walk down another street.

When we recognize we’re getting involved in a familiar pattern of thought that leads to trouble, the skillful thing is to let go, to walk around the hole. Or even better — to walk down another street.

When our mindfulness matures, we see the thoughts passing away without doing anything else.

So let’s keep practicing, for our own well-being, and for those of others.

Aloha, Tom, Katina and the kids

Forgiveness: Letting go of grudges and bitterness

Forgiveness: Letting go of grudges and bitterness
When someone you care about hurts you, you can hold on to anger, resentment and thoughts of revenge — or embrace forgiveness and move forward.
By Mayo Clinic Staff
Nearly everyone has been hurt by the actions or words of another. Perhaps your mother criticized your parenting skills, your colleague sabotaged a project or your partner had an affair. These wounds can leave you with lasting feelings of anger, bitterness or even vengeance.
But if you don’t practice forgiveness, you might be the one who pays most dearly. By embracing forgiveness, you can also embrace peace, hope, gratitude and joy. Consider how forgiveness can lead you down the path of physical, emotional and spiritual well-being.
What is forgiveness?
Generally, forgiveness is a decision to let go of resentment and thoughts of revenge. The act that hurt or offended you might always remain a part of your life, but forgiveness can lessen its grip on you and help you focus on other, more positive parts of your life. Forgiveness can even lead to feelings of understanding, empathy and compassion for the one who hurt you.
Forgiveness doesn’t mean that you deny the other person’s responsibility for hurting you, and it doesn’t minimize or justify the wrong. You can forgive the person without excusing the act. Forgiveness brings a kind of peace that helps you go on with life.
What are the benefits of forgiving someone?
Letting go of grudges and bitterness can make way for happiness, health and peace. Forgiveness can lead to:
Healthier relationships
Greater spiritual and psychological well-being
Less anxiety, stress and hostility
Lower blood pressure
Fewer symptoms of depression
Stronger immune system
Improved heart health
Higher self-esteem
Why is it so easy to hold a grudge?
When you’re hurt by someone you love and trust, you might become angry, sad or confused. If you dwell on hurtful events or situations, grudges filled with resentment, vengeance and hostility can take root. If you allow negative feelings to crowd out positive feelings, you might find yourself swallowed up by your own bitterness or sense of injustice.
What are the effects of holding a grudge?
If you’re unforgiving, you might:
Bring anger and bitterness into every relationship and new experience
Become so wrapped up in the wrong that you can’t enjoy the present
Become depressed or anxious
Feel that your life lacks meaning or purpose, or that you’re at odds with your spiritual beliefs
Lose valuable and enriching connectedness with others
How do I reach a state of forgiveness?
Forgiveness is a commitment to a process of change. To begin, you might:
Consider the value of forgiveness and its importance in your life at a given time
Reflect on the facts of the situation, how you’ve reacted, and how this combination has affected your life, health and well-being
Actively choose to forgive the person who’s offended you, when you’re ready
Move away from your role as victim and release the control and power the offending person and situation have had in your life
As you let go of grudges, you’ll no longer define your life by how you’ve been hurt. You might even find compassion and understanding.

What happens if I can’t forgive someone?
Forgiveness can be challenging, especially if the person who’s hurt you doesn’t admit wrong or doesn’t speak of his or her sorrow. If you find yourself stuck:
Consider the situation from the other person’s point of view.
Ask yourself why he or she would behave in such a way. Perhaps you would have reacted similarly if you faced the same situation.
Reflect on times you’ve hurt others and on those who’ve forgiven you.
Write in a journal, pray or use guided meditation — or talk with a person you’ve found to be wise and compassionate, such as a spiritual leader, a mental health provider, or an impartial loved one or friend.
Be aware that forgiveness is a process and even small hurts may need to be revisited and forgiven over and over again.
Does forgiveness guarantee reconciliation?
If the hurtful event involved someone whose relationship you otherwise value, forgiveness can lead to reconciliation. This isn’t always the case, however.
Reconciliation might be impossible if the offender has died or is unwilling to communicate with you. In other cases, reconciliation might not be appropriate. Still, forgiveness is possible — even if reconciliation isn’t.
What if I have to interact with the person who hurt me but I don’t want to?
If you haven’t reached a state of forgiveness, being near the person who hurt you might prompt you to be tense and stressful. To handle these situations:
Remember that you can choose to attend or avoid specific functions and gatherings. If you choose to attend, don’t be surprised by a certain amount of awkwardness and perhaps even more intense feelings.
Respect yourself and do what seems best.
Do your best to keep an open heart and mind. You might find that the experience helps you to move forward with forgiveness.
What if the person I’m forgiving doesn’t change?
Getting another person to change his or her actions, behavior or words isn’t the point of forgiveness. Think of forgiveness more about how it can change your life — by bringing you peace, happiness, and emotional and spiritual healing. Forgiveness can take away the power the other person continues to wield in your life.
What if I’m the one who needs forgiveness?
The first step is to honestly assess and acknowledge the wrongs you’ve done and how those wrongs have affected others. At the same time, avoid judging yourself too harshly. You’re human, and you’ll make mistakes.
If you’re truly sorry for something you’ve said or done, consider admitting it to those you’ve harmed. Speak of your sincere sorrow or regret, and specifically ask for forgiveness — without making excuses.
Remember, however, you can’t force someone to forgive you. Others need to move to forgiveness in their own time. Whatever the outcome, commit to treating others with compassion, empathy and respect.

Bill Wilson and Other Women

Bill Wilson and Other Women
Posted on October 1, 2014
Bill and Lois
History cannot proceed by silences. The chronicler of ill-recorded times has none the less to tell the tale. If facts are lacking, rumors must serve. Failing affidavits, he must build with gossip.
Winston Churchill
By bob k
In “Bill’s Story,” the protagonist lets us know that among his problems as a drinker, there were assignations with “other women,” leading to remonstrations from his aggrieved wife.
”There were many unhappy scenes in our sumptuous apartment. There had been no real infidelity, for loyalty to my wife, helped at times by extreme drunkenness, kept me out of those scrapes.” (Big Book, p. 3)
“Despite his technical innocence, something at least imaginably adulterous did occur, and more than once.” (Bill W. and Mr. Wilson, Matthew Raphael, p. 53)
Decades later, a non-inhaling U.S. President would sound much the same – “I did NOT have sex with that woman!” And, of course, “It depends on what the meaning of the word ‘is’ is.”
Innocence, by way of technicality. Or, in the case of the AA founder, possibly a white lie for the protection of Lois Wilson.
It is worth remembering that this was a different era, an age in which many wives of the men of power or prestige, wealth or genius, turned a blind eye to a certain amount of sexual philandering, if they were able to “keep up appearances.”
In one of the many films about JFK, Jacqueline becomes enraged, not by her husband’s infidelity, but by his lack of discretion.
Pass It On
“Pass It On,” first published in 1984, documents some bizarre, and possibly embarrassing scenarios involving clinical depression, Ouiga boards, séances, vitamin therapy, and LSD experimentation, but there are no accounts of marital infidelity. That there is not the barest mention of Bill’s most serious lover, Helen Wynn, belies any attempts to present “Pass It On” as less than sanitized.
Helen Wynn was bequeathed ten percent of Wilson’s book royalties. This was both in his will, and in an agreement with GSO.
It is likely that AA’s “official” account, “Pass It On” would have been further redacted if not for an injudicious granting of full archives access to Ernest Kurtz in the late 70s, when he was researching the incomparable chronicle of AA history, “Not-God.” The “cat was out of the bag” on LSD, etc. in 1979.
Robert Thomsen
Bill WOf all the Wilson biographers, no one had greater direct access to the founder than Robert Thomsen. He worked directly alongside Bill for twelve years, from 1959 to 1971. Published in 1975, the Thomsen biography, “Bill W.” as would be the case with the “Conference Approved” “Pass It On”, was “authorized.” “Lois read and approved (it).” (Bill W., Susan Cheever, p. 224)
Under such scrutiny, Thomsen was a co-conspirator in the “code of silence” and was able only to include one small hint at matters sexual. “…Fitz, Hank and Bill were three extraordinarily healthy males… men who had meant to live life passionately…” (Bill W., Robert Thomsen, p. 226)
In spite of being undeniably “sanitized,” the Thomsen effort is worth reading, although not above legitimate criticism. “That the book contains neither documentation nor index reinforces the notion that Bill W. is more of a biographical novel than a biography.” (Raphael, p. 19)
His description of a Clinton St. meeting of the 1930s is particularly heartening for non-believer  AA members, decades later.
“There were agnostics in the Tuesday night group, and several hardcore atheists who objected to any mention of God. On many evenings Bill had to remember his first meeting with Ebby. He’d been told to ask for help from anything he believed in. These men, he could see, believed in each other and in the strength of the group. At some time each of them had been totally unable to stop drinking on his own, yet when two of them had worked at it together, somehow they had become more powerful and they had finally been able to stop. This, then – whatever it was that occurred between them – was what they could accept as  a power greater than themselves.”  (Thomsen, p. 230)
Francis Hartigan
Pulitzer Prize winner, “Nan Robertson in her 1988 book, ‘Getting Better,’… briefly discusses Bill’s sex life.” (Cheever, p. 227)
“She (Lois) believed in him fiercely and tended his flame. Yet, particularly during his sober decades in AA in the forties, fifties and sixties, Bill Wilson was a compulsive womanizer. His flirtations and his adulterous behavior filled him with guilt, according to old-timers close to him, but he continued to stray off the reservation.” (Getting Better, Nan Robertson, p. 36)
Bill W.These peccadilloes received an even greater airing in the 2000 Francis Hartigan bio, once again titled “Bill W.” Hartigan was Lois’ secretary in the 1980s, and was given access to her voluminous supply of records and letters relating to her husband, and to AA itself.
“Bill Wilson’s personal popularity in AA circles was enormous. People would wait in line at large AA gatherings just to touch his sleeve. Many treated him like the Messiah or, in today’s world, a rock star… Wilson also had his enemies, many of them people who were previously among his staunchest allies. They accused him of betrayal, of power mongering, of lacking principle… of personal immorality, and even of insanity… With the exception of the womanizing, none of those charges were true.” (Hartigan, p. 1)
Clearly, Hartigan was not out to do a hatchet job, but to present a picture of Bill Wilson without the customary air-brushing.
James Houck, an old Oxford Grouper who has been brought to some notoriety by “Back To Basics” founder, Wally P., “recalls that he (Bill) often regaled its (Oxford Group’s) male members with tales of his exploits… Bill was frequently ‘checked’ for his smoking and womanizing, but he simply ignored these admonitions.” (Hartigan, pp. 68-69)
Hartigan also interviewed Tom Powers Sr., Bill’s writing partner on the “Twelve & Twelve,” who stated that “Bill was frequently overwhelmed by the guilt and remorse he felt as a consequence of his infidelities and the turmoil his affairs were causing within the Fellowship.” (Hartigan, p. 170)  Powers insisted that Wilson’s guilt over his infidelities was responsible for his depression. No argument was returned. “You’re right… But I can’t give it up.” (Hartigan, p. 171)
“While other people I spoke with insisted that Lois never knew about Bill’s affairs, Tom insisted that ‘Lois knew everything and she didn’t have to guess about it, either. A lot of people tried to protect her, but there were others who would run to Stepping Stones to tell Lois all about it when they saw Bill with another woman.” (Hartigan, p. 171)
Sexual fidelity does not seem to be something of which Bill Wilson was capable.
“His father was not faithful, and it was not something he had been brought up to consider a value… Barry Leach, a longtime AA member who was a close friend of Bill’s for more than twenty-five years, Jack Norris, and Nell Wing all said that Bill had let them know how badly he felt about his unfaithfulness to Lois.” (Hartigan, p. 172-173)
Two Wynns, No Losses
Helen Wynn
Helen Wynn
Bill met Helen Wynn at an AA meeting, when he was about sixty. Eighteen years his junior, the former actress was by all accounts a very attractive woman with tremendous charisma. “Of all the women Bill was close to outside his marriage, none had as much impact as Helen Wynn.” (Cheever, p. 229) This one was different, and the liaison was to continue for fifteen years.
“Soon after the affair began (in the mid 1950s), Bill got Helen, who had been sober only a short time, a job at AA Grapevine… (where) she worked her way up over a period of years to become  the managing editor. After Helen left the Grapevine in 1962, Bill contributed to her support, though when he wanted to direct a portion of his royalty income to her, the AA trustees refused to do it. Bill was furious.” (Hartigan, p. 192)
In the end, she inherited a royalty share but lived on only a few years beyond Bill’s death. This relationship went way beyond any previous involvements. This was a “soul-mate” situation, and it seems that Bill had to be talked out of “divorcing Lois so that he could marry Helen. A number of people thought that, given the strength of his feelings for Wynn, only his sense of obligation toward Lois kept him from going through with it.” (Hartigan, p. 195)
Some years earlier, there had been another Wynn.
 “Another alleged mistress has been outed by novelist Carolyn See in a memoir of her familial drinking life. It seems that Wynn C., See’s father’s second wife, had once ‘come within a hair’s breadth of becoming the First Lady of AA.’ For a while during the late 1940’s or early 1950’s, ‘she and Bill had been a mighty item.’ A tall and buxom beauty…Wynn ‘was a knockout, and she knew it, and dressed like a chorus girl.’” (Raphael, p. 130)
Bill wouldn’t, and couldn’t, marry her, but he put her story in the book, the second edition of Alcoholics Anonymous. In her tale, “Freedom From Bondage,” she takes a self-deprecatory jab at her succession of relationships. “I had always been a cinch for the program, for I had always been interested in mankind – I was just taking them one man at a time.” (BB, p. 548)
Founder’s Watch
Bill sometimes went to AA events alone.
“When Bill wasn’t accompanied by Lois (or later, Helen) he could often be observed engaged in animated conversation with an attractive young newcomer. His interest in younger women seemed to grow more intense with age. Barry Leach… told me that in the 1960s he and other friends of Bill’s formed what they came to refer to as the ‘Founder’s Watch’ committee.” (Hartigan, p. 192)
This group had the specific mission of short-circuiting these flirtations before they could become potentially inappropriate involvements.
Susan Cheever
My name is BillOf the Bill W. biographers, Susan Cheever is the most controversial, while at the same time, perhaps the finest writer. Her descriptions of the Vermont mining town of Wilson’s youth are outstanding, and we are treated to a sense of history in tales of Ethan Allen and the Green Mountain Boys.
Cheever, herself an “un-anonymous” AA member, also delves into Bill’s sexuality, and the code of silence surrounding it. “Bill sex life is still a secret, something AA members buzz about over coffee after meetings, but something which has been excised from the official literature and – for the most part from the official AA archives.” (Cheever, p. 224)
According to Cheever, there are letters from Bill to Lois, in which he tries desperately to explain away a flirtation and kissing incident with Lois’ younger sister, Barb. To prove his straightforwardness Bill offers full disclosure of his sexual history, which began when he was young. “His first sexual experience occurred when he was thirteen, and it was with an older girl who worked at the hotel.” (Cheever, p. 68)
And, there were more.
In getting past the incident with Barb, ”…they set the pattern for their long marriage. Bill was passionate, and abashed by his behavior; Lois was forgiving and comforting.” (Cheever, p. 68)
Bill’s writing reflects an inner acquaintance with immoderation. “In Step Six (of the Twelve and Twelve), he notes that ‘since most of us are born an abundance of natural desires, it isn’t strange that we often let those far exceed their intended purpose.’” (Cheever, p. 233)
“I can resist anything but temptation.”- Oscar Wilde
The Big Book
“We all have sex problems. We’d hardly be human if we didn’t.” (BB, p. 69) Ideally, in AA, sex can be treated like any other problem, but it’s clear that “sex is not just ‘any other problem’ for Wilson”. (Raphael, pp. 127-128)
“We want to stay out of this controversy. We do not want to be the arbiter of anyone’s sex conduct… God alone can judge our sex situation… We earnestly pray for the right ideal… If sex is very troublesome, we throw ourselves the harder into helping others… It quiets the imperious urge…” (BB, p. 69-70)
AA’s fifth step is a confession, but Wilson warns that “we cannot disclose anything to our wives…which will hurt them and make them unhappy.” (BB, p. 74) And what if, (in sobriety): “Perhaps we are mixed up with women in a fashion we wouldn’t care to have advertised… If we are sure our wife does not know, should we tell her? Not always, we think… If we can forget, so can she. It is better, however, that one does not needlessly name a person upon whom she can vent jealousy.” (BB, p. 81-82)
Biographer, Matthew Raphael (a pseudonym), himself an AA member, finds this whole approach astonishingly convenient. “In its scrupulous desire to protect the ‘innocent’ third party, such a passage seems remarkably self-serving, exculpatory of the husband’s ‘wild’ behavior, but admonishing the wife’s ‘natural’ (but potentially hysterical) ‘jealousy.’ If we choose to forget the offense, then why shouldn’t she?”
To Wives
Bill W and Mr Wilson“What’s truly incredible in Wilson’s handling of adultery is his impersonation of a woman’s point of view in the chapter he would not permit Lois to write.” (Raphael, p. 129)
”He will tell you he is misunderstood. This may lead to lonely evenings for you. He may even seek someone else to console him – not always another man.” (BB, p. 111) “The menacing coyness of this threat is calculated to put any uppity wife in her place, which is to be seen, perhaps, but definitely not to be heard.” (Raphael, p. 129)
“His preoccupation with infidelity, however likely sprang from his own history of philandering, no trace of which, unsurprisingly, is to be found in official AA publications.” (Raphael, p. 130)
There are many men of achievement who have exhibited a preoccupation with sex. Are their accomplishments diminished by this? For some, a great deal. For others, not at all. Some undoubtedly see a level of hypocrisy separating AA’s spiritual “code of conduct,” and the actions and attitudes of its founder.
“It is worth remembering that Bill was raised almost a century ago (written in 2000), and while he could justifiably be accused of possessing sexist attitudes, he was also capable of treating the women who worked with him with dignity and respect. When Bill wrote the literature now being objected to as sexist, he was reflecting the prevailing attitude of his time.” (Hartigan, p. 197)
In 1964, shortly after the assassination, Arthur Crock, the grand old conservative columnist of “The New York Times” wrote of President John F. Kennedy, “The truth explains what the gathering myth obscures – that he was endearingly and admirably human.”
The same could be as easily be said of William Griffith Wilson.
The featured image at the top of this article is a picture of Bill and Lois Wilson, taken after the funeral of Dr. Bob.
Key Players Front CoverThis is one of 32 chapters in the book, Key Players in AA History by bob k, published in 2015 by AA Agnostica. A paperback version of the book is available at Recovery 101 and at Amazon USA. As well, you can get the paperback version at Amazon Canada and at Amazon – UK. Key Players in AA History is also available at all of the standard online outlets in all eBook formats, including Kindle, Kobo and Nook, as well as an iBook for Macs and iPads.
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Bill Wilson and Other Women — 31 Comments
Susan J. on January 3, 2015 at 6:37 pm said:
Well, I don’t compare Bill W. to Kennedy for anything other than flawed men can still be capable of good things. I believe Bill was. If I based everything solely on personalities or a moral compass, I would have to throw out the Constitution, the Declaration of Independence and many other otherwise good things that were contributed to by men who cheated on their wives, owned slaves, were drunks or anything else undesireable.
bob k on January 4, 2015 at 11:11 am said:
I think that that is the EXACT comparison that was made.
Bernie B. on October 6, 2014 at 10:47 am said:
I was in one of the first Alateen groups on this misbegotten planet. Met the unloving couple at Lois Al-Anon picnic in May of 1958. Instantly disliked the emotionally uninterested Bill W. Went to a few college course with the then closeted Barry Leach who ghost wrote the Al-Anon basic text. He and Lois had a verbal contract stated he would be remunerated for his work – it never happened. So much for “honest programs”.
Tommy H on October 6, 2014 at 12:15 pm said:
I heard that Barry had been stiffed for writing, I think, Living Sober, but this other is news to me.
Where does your information come from?
Tiffany O on October 4, 2014 at 12:13 pm said:
Another thought provoking article and discussion. So refreshing. Thank you to the author and everyone who has commented. Being able to step out beyond the confining walls of Big Book worshiping AA and into rational and realistic discussion is literally saving my life! Thank you!!
wisewebwoman on October 3, 2014 at 9:11 am said:
Thanks for a well written article. I was reminded, when reading it, of a group bus trip I took to Akron, Ohio for a Founder’s Day weekend many years ago.
Our bus stopped at a restaurant for dinner and we had a private room with a huge table. One of the members threw a topic (amid much laughter) on the table when he said:
“We’re all alkies here. I think we should talk about the other five addictions underlying our primary one.”
It was a most wonderful couple of hours as everyone shared honestly from the heart.
And yes, all 50 of us there shared the “sex addiction” gene whether straying from committed relationships or not.
I remember the overwhelming sense of relief as we all hugged before climbing back on the bus.
So yeah, Bill W., you’d have enjoyed that informal meeting.
bob k on October 2, 2014 at 11:57 pm said:
In the pages covering the 4th step, the BB states, “..we treat sex as we would any other problem,” and I have treated the sex essay as I would any other essay. I have reviewed the histories and biographies and provided an overview of what has been written. The words in the piece are mostly not mine.
Of course, there is a lot of speculation involved. A lot of the evidence is “hearsay.” Individual accusations could be dismissed. It’s the accumulation that builds the case.
Thanks to Bill White for the opening words from Sir Winston. There is no video to be reviewed, nor stained dress to be DNA-tested.
Here’s an interesting quote that I missed from Bill’s autobiography. Starting in about 1955, Bill began recording recollections of his life. These tapes were used to posthumously publish “My First Forty Years.” The following is in the AFTERWORD.
“There will be future historical revelations about Bill’s character and behavior in recovery that will be interpreted, by some, as direct attacks on the very foundation of AA. Bill often wished he could be just another AA member with no trace of notoriety. But such revelations will, in the end, only reinforce Bill’s humanness and, most important, the extent to which Bill acted to the best of his ability to protect AA from himself.”
Thomas B. on October 3, 2014 at 10:13 am said:
Well said, Bob. In my reading of and about Bill throughout my recovery, I am heartened and encouraged by his human frailties. When I read about some of his less-than-noble attributes and characteristics — the reality of his humanness — it comforts me as I continue to struggle with mine, making perhaps some progress but never perfection. He remains for me a powerful example of an addicted alcoholic, who continues to recover despite his notable character flaws.
None of us experience miracle cures; instead, we experience “daily reprieves contingent upon the maintenance of our spiritual condition,” however such “spiritual condition” may manifests itself in our humanness . . .
Michael on October 2, 2014 at 7:33 pm said:
A good read is “After the Ecstasy, the Laundry” by Jack Kornfield. There are no saints. Even Gandhi may have had some serious problems with sexual repression, influenced by the British Victorian era. He was determined to destroy some ancient Hindu temples because of depictions of Trantric sex. He was stopped thankfully. This is no more enlightened than the Taliban destroying ancient Buddhist monuments. It doesn’t take away from all that he accomplished. Bill W’s imperfections do not take away from his accomplishments. It’s good to know the truth and if it prevents people from anointing Bill W. a saint, all the better. I’m still grateful for what he did. AA may be flawed but I don’t think Bill W’s personal life should be used as evidence. The literature stands alone, imperfect and a reflection of a sexist era for sure. Thankfully Al-Anon and many other programs have grown from the AA model. A tribute to the founders of AA. Many wives and husbands of alcoholics have turned to these programs to receive the help they need.
Tommy H on October 2, 2014 at 9:58 pm said:
Well said.
JHG on October 2, 2014 at 12:25 pm said:
Even apart from the philandering, Wilson didn’t exactly treat Lois with the respect she deserved. Even though she knew a thing or two about being married to an alcoholic both drunk and sober and would later become the founder of Al-Anon, not only did Bill not ask her to write the BB chapter “To Wives,” he even asked Dr Bob’s wife to write it, according to DR. BOB and the Good Oldtimers,:
Bill suggested that Anne have a chapter in the book to herself. “My feeling,” said Bill, “is that Anne should do the one portraying the wife.” Her modesty — her inclination toward staying in the background — may have been the reason she did not write it.
Lois did not write the chapter, either; she wasn’t asked. When she suggest she do so, Bill said, “Oh, no. It should be in the same style as the book.”
Recently Lois said, “I’ve always been hurt by it, and I still don’t know why Bill didn’t ask me, although I never brought it up again.”
Bill himself wrote the chapter that came to be called “To Wives,” and Marie B., the wife of a member from Cleveland, wrote a personal account for the story section of the first edition. (p. 152)
bob k on January 18, 2015 at 12:12 pm said:
One of the ironies, and a delicious fragment of AA trivia is that at the time the Big Book was being written, one of the Wilsons had been published, and it wasn’t Bill. Lois had an article or two on decorating published in a national magazine.
If anything gets changed in the book (Don’t hold your breath, folks), it won’t be the “God stuff;” it will be TO WIVES.
Laurie A on October 2, 2014 at 6:18 am said:
Thomsen wrote that Aldous Huxley claimed Bill W was “the greatest social architect of the 20th century”, but gives no provenance for that remark. I doubt that Thomsen made it up, but where/when did Huxley write/say it?
Robert Lefever, founder of the PROMIS addicitions treatment center in Kent, England, suggested that nowadays Bill would probably have joined other fellowships for his addictions to nicotine and lust. Fact remains that our co-founder stayed abstinent from alcohol from the day of his last drink till the day he died 36 years later (though Cheever records that he cried out for whisky on his deathbed; once an alcoholic always an alcoholic).
She also wrote:
Bill … was never able to be the man his followers wanted him to be, or that his wife wanted him to be – or even, on most days, the man HE wanted to be. He tried to discourage the idea that he was a leader, or any kind of model for human behaviour. He fought the idea of himself as a hero; he knew better… He never held himself up as a model … he insisted again and again that he was just an ordinary man.
May the guy rest in peace.
Lech on January 18, 2015 at 11:46 am said:
I’m not the man I want to be either, but still pretty content with what I have achieved and/or been blessed with.
Denis Kilborn on October 1, 2014 at 10:01 pm said:
Delighted to see further debunking of the Bill Wilson sainthood fairy tale that has been floating around AA for too many years. Great post!
Lech on January 18, 2015 at 11:57 am said:
Bill’s personal faults are not an issue for me. What concerns me far more is that he established a structure based on crypto-christian principles, and that so many AAers treat his dogma as divinely revealed truth.
This has led to an anti-intellectual bent in our fellowship that ignores or denounces any questioning of the ‘the principles’. We spout nostrums based on convictions that are not supported by anything but anecdotal evidence. I ran into an example of this a couple of days ago at post-meeting coffee. A chap at table with a good deal of time in AA orated on what keeps people sober – regular attendance at meetings, sponsorship, service work, working the steps. This all based on nothing but personal observation no more valid than my own over the decades. The only common characteristic I have seen among those who stay sober is that they don’t drink.
SusanJones on January 18, 2015 at 12:13 pm said:
Well, perhaps what he was sharing is what people do in order to not drink.
Tommy H on January 18, 2015 at 12:56 pm said:
Very well said, Lech.
You last sentence sums it up.
David B. on October 1, 2014 at 9:55 pm said:
Thankyou for the perspective, Bob K. You have presented further evidence that Bill Wilson’s lack of trust in himself permeated his Big Book and 12 & 12 writings, caused him to ultimately be distrustful of others, and strongly informed his behavior, even while dry from alcohol. That’s seemingly where the “preachy” and shameful language comes from. The travesty in this is that the Big Book’s Official title is: “Alcoholics Anonymous: The Story of How Many Thousands of Men and Women Have Recovered from Alcoholism,” suggesting that the Big Book was written by and/or about an amalgamation of AA successes. From what I can see, the entire book is Bill’s Story. One man’s experience makes a great narrative, not a longitudinal study or sacred text. As a result, it cannot, for me, represent an all-inclusive playbook for recovery from alcoholism. Of course, that’s just my opinion. I could be wrong.
MarkInTexas on October 5, 2014 at 10:30 am said:
Indeed. To point out what should be otherwise obvious, is the challenge for most thinking people today.
Christopher G on October 1, 2014 at 9:51 pm said:
Thanks Bob – Shit slingin’ is one of my favorite pastimes, in fact I think it pre-eminates baseball. Love the fact or fiction that ol’ Willie is just as human as me. AA needs no deities, clay-footed or otherwise.
Tommy H on October 1, 2014 at 8:55 pm said:
I do believe there are historians who think Hartigan is naive to take Powers at his word without any substantiation.
In the last ten years or so, I have seen opinions expressed that Wynn was depressive or could connect with Wilson on his depression, something Lois was incapable of doing.
We really don’t know what was going on and are using late 20th/early 21st century thinking to analyze what was going on in a different age. That doesn’t add up in my book.
Good article. Really opens up some discussion.
Wilson was no saint.
Pete F. on October 1, 2014 at 5:50 pm said:
Great article, though I think it goes too far towards dismissing Bill W.’s hypocrisy and charlatanism in its comparison of Bill W. to Kennedy.
Wally K. on October 1, 2014 at 4:08 pm said:
Here is another memorable posting on my favorite recovery web site. It is very important to me that we in recovery do not deify our founders, rewrite our program’s history, or in any way create a religion of AA recovery. Recognition of our humanity reminds us that we are each accountable for our personal recovery, and that our program, warts and all, is a wonderful mechanism to drive a full life, free of alcohol, and of course, free of any mythology.
daniel on October 1, 2014 at 3:30 pm said:
All I know is that Bill was an alcoholic and that I did not have a great track record.
If it was not for Bill, Bob and the others I would not be here today living a different life. I’m very grateful.
Thomas B. on October 1, 2014 at 2:41 pm said:
Wonderful article, Bob !~!~! Such an important piece of history gathering together from the wide variety of sources in one place a truthful picture of the reality of who Bill was — to my male mind, his humanness regarding sexuality in no way detracts from what he was able to manifest during a decidedly different time with different mores and customs.
Shortly after Nan Robertson’s book, Getting Better: Inside Alcoholics Anonymous was published, which was the first to openly touch upon his infidelities, I interviewed Lois with Margaret McPike as part of research we were doing about Ebby Thatcher, who spent the last couple of year’s of his life sober at Margaret’s McPikes Farm near Ballston Spa, New York. I was impertinent enough to pose a question to Lois about Bill’s infidelities. I watched a steel curtain of her personality close down on her face as she curtly replied, “Bill was never unfaithful to me in his entire life.”
I compassionately realized how crucial it was for her to protect not only Bill’s, but her own reputation as well. Such is the power of sex in our faux god-fearing puritanical, which simultaneously spends billions of dollars yearly supporting the porn industry.
steve b on October 1, 2014 at 1:52 pm said:
Bill W helped to organize and lead AA, which are perhaps good points, but I can’t say I admire him. His irrationality (belief in spirits and god) made him posit a nonexistent god as the force which causes people to get sober. To me, this is pretty stupid. And his persistent socially unacceptable behavior with women makes me wonder why he thought moral improvement was the route to sobriety, for, after all, he was staying sober while cheating on his wife. His hypocrisy makes me think of big-time preachers threatening hellfire for sinners even as they themselves are cheating on their spouses and on their taxes. All in all, Bill had a lot in common with many AAs, in that he sobered up, prayed to his make-believe god, and smoked himself to death.
Pat N. on October 1, 2014 at 12:16 pm said:
Thanks for another great history lesson.
I hardly ever open the BB any more. Not only is it written amateurishly in the style of the30’s, it’s preachy and often sheer nonsense. I did re-read the chapter to wives, which I haven’t done in 30+ years, and was disgusted. Once again, his whole solution is to turn your cheating husband and your honest reactions over to his “God”. Didn’t work for him and Lois.
I don’t think I’ve heard sexuality as a topic in discussion meetings more than once, and I think that’s regrettable. We talk about addiction, mental illness, all kinds of criminal behavior, etc., but never discuss this central aspect of our humanity and its entanglement with our sober growth. I think it’s taboo status stems from the hypocritical Christianity of middle-class America in the 30’s reflected in Bill’s writing.
JohannaO on October 1, 2014 at 11:45 am said:
Initially I thought that such articles just perpetuate the Cult of Personality mythologizing the founders, but having sat through one too many readings of “To Wives”, it really is important to understand the “imperfections” and hypocrisy that motivated his writing. It is not just archaic and sexist, it is just plain BAD ADVICE. Long before I became an alcoholic, I was married to one. In desperation, I brought home The BB. My rageholic husband stayed up reading it, and announced that he would just wait for the lightening bolt, but I better learn to “never criticize, condemn,or be angry.” And “cheerfully see him through more sprees.” BAD ADVICE to Wives, from a very flawed, very selfish, very needy and demanding man. Apparently it worked on Lois, but I eventually saved my own life and got the hell out of there. Now when a meeting reads that, I say what I can about that truth before leaving. Johanna O
Camille on October 1, 2014 at 11:11 am said:
Those who have canonized Bill W. will never admit anything was wrong, especially the Big Book. We are all human; adding drugs and alcohol makes the ugly side of our human-ess even more prevalent. Live and Let Live. You really need to read between the lines of his writings to truly see what was going on. 25 years ago I stepped into AA, with their help I’m still sober without any interruptions in my sobriety. With that said, there is other ways to recover and stay recovered. AA is but one tool in the toolbox that fix the problem.

24 Sobriety Songs!






ERNIE G. – AA #4

ERNIE G. – AA #4
and Dr. Bob’s daughter, Sue’s first husband
The man generally considered AA number 4 was Ernie Galbraith, who first got sober in the summer of 1935, when Bill Wilson was still staying with the Smiths in Akron.
Described as a wild, devil-may care young fellow (page 158 in the Big Book); he had enlisted for a one-year term in the Army when he was only 14 (but could pass for 18). After getting out of the Army he went to Mexico where he worked for an oil company, then “rode the range” in Texas. He had been married twice and had a son. After returning to Akron he had trouble holding a job because of his drinking.
His parents were very religious and belonged to the same church as T. Henry and Clarace Williams of the Oxford Group. It was probably they who told Ernie’s parents about how Dr. Bob and Bill Wilson had found a way to quit drinking. They urged Ernie to go to see Dr. Bob and eventually he did.
He agreed to be taken to City Hospital where he was tapered off. It took several days, he wrote, “for my head to clear and my nerves to settle.” After about six days in the hospital he was visited by Dr. Bob, Bill Wilson and Bill Dotson, who explained their program to him, and he agreed to give it a try. “And it worked,” he wrote, “as long as I allowed it to do so.”
He only “allowed it to do so” for about a year and then “became self-confident and then careless.” He went on a seven-month slip.
Finally, after seven months of drinking, he went back “unshaven, unkempt, ill-looking, bleary-eyed,” and asked for help again. He wrote that he was never lectured about his “seven month failure.”
Ernie “never really jelled,” according to Dr. Bob. Sue remembered that “they didn’t quite know what to do with him. He even got to where he wanted to get paid for speaking at meetings.”
He had periodic relapses, which got worse and worse until the time he died. Dr. Bob’s daughter, Sue, about 17 at the time, said that the first time she saw Ernie he stopped her on the street to ask her how to get to Dr. Smith’s house. She pointed out the house, but didn’t tell him that she was Sue Smith.
Beginning shortly after she finished grade school, Sue had been seeing a boy named Ray Windows. She claims that her parents disapproved of Ray and tried to break them up.
Sue believes her father deliberately tried to get her interested in Ernie in order to keep her away from Ray. She didn’t like Ernie at first; she thought he was a “smarty.” She described him as “stout, with reddish hair and a round face with blue eyes. He was outgoing, the life-of-the-party type. Ernie was single then and he kept coming to the house, and I think my dad got the bright idea that if he could get Ernie to take me out, and he’d pay the way, he might be able to get me away from Ray. We’d go down and get hamburgers, and Dad would buy them. I knew all that, but I didn’t realize it was in connection with Ray at the time. Now I think it was. I think Dad was using Ernie, and it backfired on him.”
When Ray got a job out of town and moved away, “Ernie gradually started to have some appeal,” Sue wrote. “He was an older person and he had a good sense of humor. We always had fun. We joked together. He was a real storyteller. He could make my Mom and Dad laugh like nobody I’ve ever seen, just sitting around the kitchen table, telling stories, and drinking coffee. Like I say, they were pushing me, so I figured they liked him. And that was kind of different.”
Sue still saw Ray when he would come home for visits, but eventually she broke it off with Ray and married Ernie. Her parents disapproved, perhaps for other reasons as well, but certainly because they knew Ernie was drinking again.
He was drunk when he married Sue in September of 1941. Her parents did not attend. Sue said she never told them she was married and believed they had heard about it or read it in the papers.
The only witnesses, besides the minister, were Ernie’s parents. Sue had moved out of her parent’s home about nine month’s before, with the admonition from Dr. Bob, “Just remember, young lady, wherever you go, you take yourself with you.”
Sue said that Ernie continued drinking that time until about 1946, when “the only reason he quit was the doctor thought he had a heart condition, and it scared him to death. I don’t think he ever had a heart condition. I don’t think he had a heart.”
While Sue was somewhat reconciled with her parents, apparently they were never again close. Sue said they didn’t visit or send flowers when her children were born. They never said anything to Sue about Ernie, but she believes her father “would talk to other people about him. I heard Dad grew a healthy dislike for him. And Bill — well, Bill came down one time when Ernie and I were still together, and Bill and I made this tape about A.A. and Dad. But on that tape, Ernie said something to Bill and Bill shot back at him, ‘I gave upon you a long time ago, you son of a bitch!’ That’s right on the tape.”
Sue and Ernie had two children, a son (Mickey) and a daughter (Bonna). Ernie and Sue divorced about 1965 and he remarried.
On June 11, 1969, Bonna shot herself, after first killing her six-year old daughter. She was 23 at the time of her death. Sue claims that Bonna was an alcoholic and was also using “diet pills.”
Sue wrote, “Ernie never got over it. Bonna died June 11, 1969, and he died two years later to the day, June 11, 1971.” Later Sue married her childhood sweetheart, Ray Windows. Ray died August 3, 1989.
Sources: “The Children of the Healer, the Story of Dr. Bob’s Kids” and “Dr. Bob and the Good Oldtimers”.
Ron Richey
545 Queen St.#701
Honolulu, Hi 96813

Hank Parkhurst – New York’s AA #2

Hank Parkhurst – New York’s AA #2

Hank Parkhurst was a salesman, an agnostic, a former Standard Oil of New Jersey executive, who had lost his job because of drinking and wound up at Towns Hospital, where Bill found him in the fall of 1935.
He was Bill’s first success in New York, the first alcoholic in New York to ever stay sober even for a little while. (He stayed sober for four years.)
The first mention of Hank in the Big Book is on page xxix of “The Doctor’s Opinion.” He was the man Dr. Silkworth described who “seemed to be a case of pathological mental deterioration. … He adopted the plan outlined in this book.” One year later Dr. Silkworth didn’t recognize him.
He is also the man mentioned on page 136 who “was living in a large community.” The community was Montclair, New Jersey, where Hank apparently had moved from Teaneck, New Jersey, where he was living when he first stopped drinking.”
Hank was a red haired, tall, broad-shouldered former athlete with a salesman’s drive and enthusiasm. He had at least one new idea a minute, and plenty of energy. Judging from a picture of him posted on the Internet, he was quite a handsome man.
After Hank got sober, he and his wife, Kathleen, traveled from Teaneck, New Jersey, every Tuesday to the meetings at the Wilson house in Brooklyn.
So enthusiastic was Hank in his early sobriety that one night when Hank, Bill and Fitz Mayo (“Our Southern Friend”) were driving down Park Avenue in Hank’s convertible, Hank suddenly stood straight up, and grasping the steering wheel in both hands and with the wind beating against him, he yelled, “God! God almighty, booze was never this good.”
When Bill and Lois lost their home on Clinton Street, Brooklyn, it was to Hank’s home in New Jersey that they moved. The entry in Lois’s diary for that day read: “Left 182 for good. Went to Parkhursts.”
Lois said that when they moved to the Parkhursts, “Hank and Kathleen started holding Sunday meetings at their new home in Montclair, New Jersey, and Bert T. let us continue our Tuesday meetings [formerly held at Clinton Street] at his elegant Fifth Avenue tailor shop.”
By the time Bill and Lois moved out of Hank’s house there were also AA meetings in Montclair and South Orange, New Jersey.
A former agnostic, Hank came to believe in some sort of “universal power,” but he lead the fight, helped by Jim Burwell, in the debate about God in the twelve steps, which resulted in the compromise “God as we understood Him” being adopted. Hank wanted to leave God out completely and refer instead to the “spiritual nature” of the recovery the steps were designed to bring about.
Hank had an office at 17 William Street, Newark, New Jersey, which was “the headquarters for a rapidly failing business,” according to Bill.
The “rapidly failing business” was Honor Dealers, which Hank had conceived, according to one source, as a way of getting back at Standard Oil, which had fired him. His plan was to provide selected gasoline stations with the opportunity to buy gasoline, oil, and automobile parts on a cooperative basis.
Ruth Hock’s immediate impression of Hank when she interviewed for a job at Honor Dealers was “that he had a vibrant personality, that he was capable of strong likes and dislikes, that he seemed to be possessed of inexhaustible energy — and that he liked to make decisions.”
Her first impression of Bill was that he was a person of slow, deliberate decisions and, she suspected, not much real interest in their service station business.
Ruth remembered very little gasoline business being conducted there. A lot of people dropped in to discuss their drinking problems, and on more than one occasion she observed Bill and Hank kneeling in prayer by the side of Hank’s desk with one of these visitors, an Oxford Group custom when seeking God’s guidance.
Hank ran the business as Bill became more and more involved in writing the Big Book, which he dictated to Ruth Hock. On page 149 of the Big Book chapter “To Employers,” Hank mentions the “little company.” He also mentions two “alcoholic employees, who produce as much as five normal salesmen.” The two employees were, according to Lee C., Bill Wilson and Jim Burwell (“The Vicious Cycle”).
It was largely Hank who was responsible for Works Publishing being created to publish the Big Book. He signed the stock certificates himself as “President.” When Bill protested he said there was no time to waste, why be concerned with small details?
Eventually a post office box was chosen in one of New York’s downtown post offices as the most central point of the whole metropolitan area, Long Island and New Jersey included. And it seemed appropriate to establish an office near this post office.
Backed by the book stockholders and by Ruth, Bill made the proposal. Henry, whose new job took him into western New Jersey, objected violently. He wanted to take the book business and Ruth wherever he went.
According to Bill, “he was heavily beset with other problems, too.” Bill may have been alluding to Hank’s desire to get a divorce from his wife and marry Ruth Hock.
Hank’s return to drink was preceded by a period of increasing anger, depression, and paranoia, during which his life fell apart. He took a job in western New Jersey he didn’t want, and his alienation from Bill and the others seems to have begun when he tried to take the Alcoholic Foundation’s office, and Ruth Hock, with him. Ruth didn’t want to go, and no one wanted to see the office moved.
Hank had been in charge of Works Publishing’s finances, and when called on to make an accounting, he was unable to produce any records to indicate where the money had gone. Apparently there was no clear line drawn between Honor Dealers, Works Publishing, and Alcoholic Foundation expenses, or even between expenses Hank incurred in conjunction with his Works Publishing activities and his personal expenses.
When he was confronted with this at a stockholders’ meeting, he became very resentful and began inventing stories about his office being robbed and his records disappearing. It was at this meeting that Dr. Silkworth saw signs of paranoia in Hank and soon warned Bill that he might become dangerous.
Some blurring of the financial picture was inevitable when it came to Ruth Hock, who was simultaneously working for Honor Dealers, Works Publishing, and the Alcoholic Foundation, which were all headquartered in the same office.
Ruth said that Hank was an impatient man who was trying to pressure Bill into a pace that wasn’t Bill’s way, so he became dissatisfied and critical of many of the things Bill did and believed.
Part of his unhappiness, Ruth admitted, involved her. “Hank and I were interested in each other. I had at one time seriously considered marrying him.” When Ruth finally decided not to, Hank blamed Bill.
The Honor Dealers office eventually was closed, and the office for the Alcoholics Foundation moved to New York. Ruth Hock was moved to the New York office, as was the furniture.
Eventually, the groups decided that the book profits should go to the Alcoholic Foundation, and that Bill and Hank should turn over their shares and those who had purchased shares were to sell them to the Alcoholic Foundation at par value. The fellowship would own and control the Big Book and all future publishing projects.
Bill turned in his shares, but Hank, who by then had started drinking again, refused to do so. No one knows just when Hank started drinking, but Lois’s diary for June 13 and 14 of 1939 indicates that Hank was fighting with his wife and was determined to divorce her. The entry for September 5 read, “Kathleen [Hank’s wife] phoned to say she thought Hank was drunk.” September 6 she wrote: “Hank drunk, phoned Bill in the afternoon.” The September 7 entry noted that he was still drunk.
The problem of Hank’s stock was solved when one day he showed up “completely broke and very shaky,” according to Bill. “He pointed out that most of the office furniture still belonged to him, particularly the huge desk and the overstuffed chair.”
The furniture had been paid for at least once before, but Bill agreed to pay him again if he would turn over his stock. He accepted two hundred dollars for the furniture and turned in the stock.
But Hank resented Bill’s persuading him to turn over the stock, and to make matters worse, soon Bill was granted a royalty on the book, similar to one that had already been voted for Dr. Bob.
Hank’s son said that Hank always felt he had been treated badly and that Bill had made a deal with the foundation that excluded Hank from any future share in the book’s profits. The entire issue was clouded by the fact that Hank’s drinking had put a wall between him and many members who eventually supported royalty payments for Bill.
Hank wrote a memo to Bill in late 1939, which is quoted in full in “Pass It On.” It asked questions that echo still today, questions about the separation of a moneymaking business and work for the love of it, about individualism and the cult of personality that was already beginning to gather around Bill and Dr. Bob.
Hank asked: “Did Jesus Christ have an office? … Would money that would be spent on an office be better spent for traveling expenses for people spreading the good news? Will there be a Grand Pooh-Bah of A.A.?”
Some think that Hank wanted to be the “Grand Pooh-Bah of AA”, evidence his making himself President of Works Publishing instead of Bill. Perhaps he was jealous of the attention Bill was getting as a founder of A.A. He wasn’t the first and he would not be the last.
Bill wrote him a courteous but reserved response, which is also quoted in “Pass It On.” It implies that Hank was drinking at the time: “Another point — the gang would like you to come back with us very much. It would be helpful to you, to them, and most helpful to me. Even with respect to the book, it is difficult to sell your suggestions and ideas to people who sometimes feel that you are no longer one of them.”
At any rate Hank finally broke down completely and went on a terrific bender, after four years of sobriety, and he “never again showed any real sign of recovery.”
Soon Hank went to Ohio and began spreading vicious tales attacking Bill Wilson. Bill was grateful that Dr. Bob and Anne Smith disbelieved his stories, but many, especially Clarence Snyder and Henrietta Seiberling (who had never liked Bill) did believe Hank’s tales. In Cleveland, some started calling for Bill’s exclusion from Alcoholics Anonymous and even accused him of financial trickery.
In New York, they began hearing about several Cleveland groups that wanted to secede and break off all connection with Bill Wilson’s brand of AA.
Finally, these stories grew so out of proportion that Dr. Bob and Bill decided to go to a dinner in Cleveland to discuss the situation.
When the dinner was over, the chairmen of various Cleveland groups ushered Bill and Bob into a hotel parlor, where they were met by an interrogation committee, a lawyer and a certified public accountant. The stories all came out. One claimed that he had talked to a trustee in New York and knew for a fact that the previous year Bill and Bob had divided sixty-four thousand dollars.
While they were shocked, Bill and Dr. Bob had come prepared. Bill had brought witW.”, by Francis Hartigan; “Not-God, A History of Alcoholics Anonymous”, by Ernest Kurtz; “How it Worked — the Story of Clarence H. Snyder and the Early Days of Alcoholics Anonymous in Cleveland, Ohio”, by Mitchell K.; and private communications from Lee C.
h him a certified audit of all AA financial affairs from the very beginning.
It showed that although Dr. Bob was supposed to receive a royalty on the book, he had got none — everything had gone back into AA work. He still received a stipend of $30 a week from the fund John D. Rockefeller, Jr., had started, but that was all.
Bill had been getting the same $30, and for the past year he’d been drawing $25 a week from the book company. His total income was $55 a week.
The committee’s accountant studied the statement, then read it aloud and testified to its accuracy. The committee apologized, and some seemed genuinely chagrined. They said they would squelch the insidious rumors, but this never entirely happened.
And all this grief for Bill — who did not hide his hurt — was caused by Hank, the first man he had helped to get sober in New York and who had been his partner.
Hank reportedly was at one time married to Clarence Snyder’s sister-in-law (this must have been one of his several marriages after the divorce from Kathleen), and later Clarence worked with Hank selling porcelain mugs and figurines all throughout the 1940s. After Hank’s divorce from Clarence’s sister-in-law, the business finally went under and Clarence’s association with Hank dissolved.
Hank did get back on the program for a short time later on, and remarried Kathleen after several bad marriages. He died in Pennington, New Jersey, in 1954. Lois ascribed his death to drinking, and others have said he was also on pills. Sadly, it was apparently his disagreement with Bill that kept him from returning to the Fellowship.
Despite Hank’s return to drinking, and the pain he caused Bill, AA owes him a lot. Without Hank the Big Book might never have gotten off the ground.
Ruth Hock said, “It wouldn’t have been written without Bill, and it wouldn’t have been published without Hank.”
Hank’s story “THE UNBELIEVER” was in the first edition of the Big Book.
SOURCES: “Alcoholics Anonymous”; “AA Comes of Age”; “Pass It On”; “Getting Better Inside Alcoholics Anonymous” by Nan Robertson; “Bill

Henry G. (Hank) P. 1895-1954 AA #2 in New York

Henry G. (Hank) P.
Biography by Mike O. of 
“The Just Do It Big Book Study Group of Alcoholics Anonymous,” DeBary, Florida.
        Hank P. was a business dynamo who was the first alcoholic to recover in New York, following Bill W. Thus, Hank was New York’s AA#2. His was a vital contribution to AA: without Hank P. the Big Book might never have been published.
      Hank was born March 13, 1895, in Marion, Iowa into a family that had lived in that area for several generations. He was so gifted an entrepreneur that an associate once described him as being able to produce a good idea a minute for business. He had been a Standard Oil of New Jersey executive who was fired because of his drinking. Hank sought treatment at Charles B. Towns Hospital in Manhattan. He met Bill W. there during the autumn of 1935.
      Hank P. was the first New York alcoholic other than Bill to stay sober for any substantial amount of time. Hank was sober approximately four years, before he drank again.
      He is mentioned in “The Doctor’s Opinion” (page XXIX of the Big Book). Doctor Silkworth describes him as “–a case of pathological mental deterioration.” But, Silkworth added, “He adopted the plan outlined in this book.” And, the doctor admitted he hardly recognized Hank when he saw him a year later.
      But, perhaps more importantly, Hank is credited with contributing the major interview around which Bill wrote the chapter, “To Employers.” (Some historians believe that Hank himself actually wrote this entire chapter except the first two paragraphs.)
      After Bill and Lois W. lost their home at 182 Clinton Street, Brooklyn Heights, they moved to Montclair, New Jersey on April 26, 1939, and lived with Hank and his wife, Kathleen Nixon P. Hank and Kathleen had moved to Montclair from Teaneck, after Hank got sober. (He’s noted, again, in the Big Book, on page 163, as “–a man who was living in a large community.” That reference is to Montclair.)
      Hank P. could be quite personable and was considered a handsome man. He was tall, broad-shouldered, and red-haired and had been a good athlete in school. He and Kathleen had two sons: Henry G. P., Jr. (Hank, Jr., and Robert Stewart P. (Bob) and at least one grandson. 
      Hank was an agnostic when he came to AA. But, he evolved spiritually into a belief in a “universal power.” He and Jim B. led the fight against any mention of God in the Big Book. Hank P. and Jim B. wanted to leave God out of the book altogether, to make it a psychological book and refer only to the spiritual nature of recovery, produced by the practice of the principles of the Twelve Steps. The verbal war over the mention of God produced the compromise “—as we understood Him” which became part of the Book.
      Hank P. was renting an office at that time at 11 Hill Street, Newark. This office housed Hank’s company, Honor Dealers. It was a cooperative firm. Through it, gas station owners could buy gasoline, oil and automotive parts at lower prices through joint purchasing. Some thought it was Hank’s way of getting back at Standard Oil for firing him. But, the business went nowhere. It is considered likely that Bill authored the first two chapters of the Big Book in this Hill Street office.
      Hank then moved to another office at 17 William Street in Newark, one block north of the Hill Street address. The new office, #601, faced east, the preferred exposure. But, Hank’s money ran out, he didn’t pay the rent and the county sheriff evicted him. He then moved to a smaller office on the same floor of the same building, #604, which faced west. Bill dictated much of the remainder of the Big Book to Ruth Hock in this building. Ruth was a secretary for Honor Dealers and served in a similar capacity to the energetic effort, which would produce AA. 
      It was Hank who was the driving force behind the idea of forming a private company to publish the Big Book. The Trustees of the Alcoholic Foundation had opposed the idea of self-publishing. There were rewards, to be sure. Self-publishing could produce a financial return six times greater than author’s royalties. But, among the Trustees, the common feeling was that self-publishing was risky, that most such enterprises failed out of ignorance of the publishing business and that neither Bill nor Hank knew anything about publishing. That opinion was expressed by a majority of the Trustees at the Foundation’s first meeting, April 11, 1938. (The Foundation was established on that date as a charitable, tax-exempt entity to provide the movement with a legally formed, New York-based center.)
      Hank told Bill that since the Board of Trustees had not and would not raise a cent for the publishing project, he and Bill should not wait but should publish the book by themselves. They had little or no money, so: Hank convinced Bill that they should form a stock company and sell shares to their fellow alcoholics. Not only did Hank guarantee Bill that this approach would succeed, he insisted it was the only way to get the Book published. Bill felt somewhat reassured because a widely respected publishing executive, Eugene Exman of Harper Brothers, had told him that drafts of the first two chapters looked good and that a society like theirs really should own, control and publish its own literature.
      So: Hank and Bill formed Works Publishing Company, Incorporated, on September 21, 1938. (Some historians say that the company never was legally incorporated.) They issued six hundred shares of stock with a par value of $25.00 per share. Bill and Hank each received one-third of the shares. The remaining two hundred shares were to be sold to their fellow alcoholics. Money from the sale of stock would be used to pay expenses of the Newark office and to enable Bill and Hank to continue their work full time on the publishing project. The Alcoholic Foundation would receive author’s royalties from the book sales. Hank signed the certificates as “President.” Sales were slow.
      Hank P., the self-appointed “President,” had handled all the finances for Works Publishing. But, later, when he was asked to account for the money, he had no records. It appeared he had mixed the funds for Works, Honor and the fledgling fellowship together, along with his personal money and had no idea how to separate them.
      The publication date of the Big Book was April 1, 1939. It was printed by Cornwall Press, in Cornwall, New York. The US Copyright Office says there were 4,730 copies in the first printing. The first ten copies were delivered April 10th of that year to the Newark office Hank and Bill shared. It was a joyous moment!
      But, things soon went downhill for Hank. First, Bill obtained a postal box for the young fellowship across the Hudson River in lower Manhattan. Bill felt this location was the most convenient for reaching the area they intended to serve: New York City, Long Island and New Jersey. Bill then proposed moving the Alcoholic Foundation office itself to a point nearer the postal box. He felt there was no need to keep an office in Newark; Hank had closed Honor Dealers. But, since it had been his office, Hank was upset about Bill’s decision. The actual move, on March 16, 1940, to 30 Vesey Street, Room 703, in lower Manhattan angered Hank. And, when the furniture from his office moved across the Hudson, Hank was furious, even though he had sold the furniture to Bill. (That furniture remained with Bill W. for the rest of his life. First it went to AA headquarters in Manhattan. Later it moved to Bill’s studio, “Wits End,” at his home, “Stepping Stones,” at Bedford Hills, in the rolling, wooded hills of picturesque, suburban Westchester County, just north of New York City.)
      For Hank, this troubling episode appears to have been the least of it. In other respects, he was beginning to collide with life and getting bruised heavily in the process. He was becoming (as Dr. Silkworth previously described it) “–restless, irritable and discontented.”
      He had taken a new job-one he did not want — in western New Jersey. He had intended to take the office, the furniture and Ruth Hock with him.
      Further, Hank wanted to divorce his wife, Kathleen, and marry Ruth. But, Ruth declined to go west with him and moved instead to the young fellowship’s new office in lower Manhattan. Ultimately she said “No” to Hank’s marriage proposal. Hank blamed Bill for her refusal.
      Hank further resented Bill’s asking him to turn in his stock certificates in Works Publishing, Inc. Members of the fellowship had decided in 1940 that all book sales profits should go to the Alcoholic Foundation. They decided that Bill and Hank should return their shares in Works Publishing. And, they asked those other members who had purchased shares of the stock to sell them to the Foundation at par value. In this way, the alcoholics reasoned, the fellowship would own the Big Book and anything it published in the future. Bill and Dr. Bob were to receive author’s royalties from the book sales, so that they both might continue to devote their full time to the affairs of the fellowship.
      Bill complied immediately. He turned in his shares of Works Publishing, Inc. stock to the Alcoholic Foundation. But, Hank, who had started drinking again, refused. He held onto the stock until he appeared unexpectedly one day, scruffy, drunk and destitute, at the New York office. He insisted the furniture in that office was his and demanded payment for it, even though he had been paid for it previously. Bill offered to pay for it again if Hank would hand in his stock. Hank accepted two hundred dollars and handed over his shares. He subsequently accused Bill of taking advantage of him in his drunken state. Later, Hank approached Bill several more times claiming he had never been paid for the furniture and Bill paid him again each time.
      Then Hank learned that AA had granted Bill a $25.00 a week payment from the sale of the Book. Hank considered the arrangement wrong. He resented it and was said to have become quite jealous of all the attention showered on Bill as A.A.’s co-founder.
      Hank’s oldest son, Henry G. P., Jr., said later that Hank always felt Bill had treated him unfairly with respect to the stock, the revenue from the Book sales and his office furniture. Years later sales of the Book mushroomed. But, Hank received no share of the profits.
      It is difficult to say precisely when Hank returned to drinking, but it appears to have been late in 1939. Lois W.’s diary for September 6, 1939, says Hank was drunk. Hank’s wife, Kathleen P. had reported Hank was drinking on September 5th. He never recovered, completely, although there were some occasional, brief periods of dryness.
      Hank and Kathleen divorced in 1939 and Hank married at least two other women during a return to drinking that lasted on and off for approximately eleven years. One of the women he married and divorced was a sister-in-law of Cleveland AA pioneer, Clarence S. He later married an oil heiress from a wealthy Houston family. She died about 1950 of a cerebral hemorrhage. Sources say Kathleen married a Wally van A., who, they say, was involved, somehow, in the publishing of the Big Book. (AA’s Archivists at GSO New York say they have no information whatever on anyone named Wally van A.) Later, during a brief period of dryness, Hank re-married Kathleen. Several sources say Kathleen was also an alcoholic: an episodic or periodic drunk. Hank’s obituary identified Kathleen as his widow. Exact dates of these marriages, divorces and the re-marriage have proven unavailable.
      Hank moved to Ohio and began spreading malicious stories there about Bill, charging that Bill W. had diverted AA’s money to his own personal use. Despite the fact that Hank was drinking, some Ohio AAs believed him, including Clarence S., who had started AA in Cleveland. A number of the Ohio AA’s began calling for Bill’s expulsion, accusing him of financial trickery and dishonesty. One Ohio A.A. swore he knew personally that Bill W. had taken as much as $65,000 from A.A. during the previous year. Several groups in Ohio wanted to secede from A.A. because of the charges and turmoil.
      To meet the situation head-on, Bill and Dr. Bob, hosted a dinner for all concerned in June 1942 in Cleveland. After dinner, they all gathered in a hotel parlor, where a local committee, complete with its own attorney and certified public accountant, interrogated Bill. Both Bill and Dr. Bob quietly but firmly denied all allegations and answered all questions. Bill W. presented the committee with a recent audit of all of A.A.’s financial affairs, showing, openly and clearly, his 25-dollar a week payment from sales of the Big Book. An identical payment had been arranged for Dr. Bob. (Bob had given some of his money to Bill and returned much of the rest to AA.) And, although it had nothing to do with the AA treasury, both Bill W. and Dr. Bob voluntarily told the committee of the 30-dollar-a-week income each received from a private fund set up to support them by John D. Rockefeller, Jr. so that both of them could continue their AA work full-time. The committee’s CPA carefully examined the audit, read it aloud, pronounced it accurate beyond question, and thus completely exonerated Bill. The committee members apologized to him.
      But, the emotional scars remained for Bill W. All this grief and scandal had been caused by a man he had helped to stop drinking, a man who once had been his partner. Opinions vary as to whether they ever completely settled their differences.
      Hank P. died January 18, 1954, at Mercer Hospital in Pennington, New Jersey, within two months of his 59th birthday. Lois W. said his death was due to drinking. Others claimed it was pills. Some thought it was both. His obituary says only that he died after a lengthy illness. Others noted that Hank’s disagreements with Bill and his subsequent resentments, mostly over Big Book matters, apparently kept Hank P. from returning to AA.
      Despite the pain and trouble he caused during the final years of his life, Alcoholics Anonymous would appear to owe a huge debt to Henry G. (Hank) P.. Ruth Hock, who was there for the entire adventure, said the Big Book definitely would not have been written without Bill and surely could not have been published without Hank. His story, “The Unbeliever” appeared in the first edition of the book that he was so instrumental in publishing.
SOURCES: The archives of the AA General Service Office; AA publications: “Alcoholics Anonymous”, “Alcoholics Anonymous Comes of Age”, and “Pass It On”; “Lois Remembers” by Lois Burnham W.; “Bill W.” by Francis Hartigan; “Not-God” by Ernest Kurtz; “Bill W. And Mr. Wilson” by Matthew J. Raphael; The Hopewell (N.J.) Herald; the US Copyright Office, Washington, DC and AA historians Al R. and Joe H.
I’m grateful for the above sources. Any errors are my own.
Written/researched during 1997 by Mike O. of “The Just Do It Big Book Study Group of Alcoholics Anonymous,” DeBary, Florida. (Author Revised: 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001.)

Ron Richey
3856A Claudine St.
Honolulu, Hi 96816



A startingly large number of AAs, if asked to name the person who had been the greatest help to them in achieving sobriety, would name a nonalcoholic, Sister Mary Ignatia of the Roman Catholic order of the Sisters of Charity of St. Augustine.

How, we ask, could she, who had no experience of alcoholism itself, have had the compassion and complete understanding which she has shown for every tiny facet of the complex mess which the suffering alcoholic always is? The great spirit in her tiny earthly body has lived tirelessly, weaving golden threads of spiritual inspiration
from one alcoholic to another, day after day, and year after year, whether her patient happened to be Protestant, Catholic, Jewish or of no religion at all.
Many have literally had body and soul, and early sobriety, held together by the never-ending strands of her love, concern, and dedication to the salvation of people like us. 
God moves in mysterious ways for all of us, but none of the wondrous mysteries of His grace could compare with the miracle of this tiny nun and her gift to our Fellowship. 
— A. A. Pioneers, I AM RESPONSIBLE: The Hand of AA
Ron Richey
3856A Claudine St.
Honolulu, Hi 96816