Bill W. Documentary Film Review


From Mitchell K.

Here is a little something I recently wrote after seeing the new Bill W. documentary film....

Over the decades I hope that I have evolved, grown, mellowed and matured. There are times when I know it is more like devolved than evolved but after all, being human comes with its own set of pitfalls and eureka moments.

I recently went to a showing of the new feature length documentary about Bill W. put out by Page 124 Productions. As I sat in the packed house I once again fell in love with the history of Alcoholics Anonymous. This was not a theatrical production despite the use of actors in some of the scenes. For me, the movie was a real portrayal of Bill as co-founder, man and alcoholic with everything each of those parts of his life entailed.

Of course, if the film could tell the ďrest of the storyĒ as radio broadcaster Paul Harvey was famous for doing this movie would be at least 27 hours long and it would lose its impact and beauty. Yes, I did say impact and beauty. The way this documentary was presented was impactful and between the new photographs, use of Billís actual voice and words and fantastic musical score it was indeed beautiful. I liked everything about the movie and probably would have enjoyed a few more hours of viewing pleasure but I understand that there are plans for adding additional footage into the DVD release.

Parts of the film reminded me of so many negative remarks Iíve heard over the years about Bill - some of them came from me. I humbly apologize for those insensitive and callous remarks, made without the understanding, knowledge and hopefully, insight I believe I have today.

People talk about Billís use of LSD without taking that use into historical context. When Bill was taking LSD, that compound was not looked upon as it is today or in the past few decades. It was looked upon at that time as a potential wonder drug which held promise to help thousands of people suffering from alcoholism, depression and other maladies. Bill took LSD under the care of physicians and those trained in the healing arts for specific medical purposes and not to get high.

Iím sure these same naysayers would also talk about someone using heroin in the late 1800ís when at that time when the Bayer Company introduced heroin, it was done so as a non-addictive substitute for morphine. These same people would have problems in 1885 when Cocaine Toothache Drops with ďInstantaneous Cure!Ē was advertised for use by children. It is all about historical context. The fact that Bill had participated in medically approved experiments with LSD given historical context is really not that important.

The other piece I see people talk about is Billís participation in spiritualism. Once again, historical context proves that much of society was also participating in spiritualist practices such as sťances and use of Ouija Boards. That was the ďINĒ thing of that period. Who knows, maybe in 50 or 100 years, people looking back at us might question our addiction with ďTweetingĒ or social networking. It was just what people did back then - historical context. Nothing evil intended.

Another of the topics always bandied about is talk of Billís asking for a drink on his death bed. None of these people who bring that up as something horrific ever take into account Billís oxygen starved brain, ravages of Emphysema and other medical factors which came into play during those last painful days of Billís life.

Billís relationships with women other than Lois is another big topic of negativity. I am not going to address any rumors or undocumented relationships but I will touch on Billís relationship with Helen W.

 Everyone knows Bill had a long history of severe depression. Lois also had very little patience dealing with Billís periods of depression. Helen on the other hand often nurtured Bill back to health from these periods lost in the abyss. There were times when Helen found Bill at the deepest part of his pain and who knows what would have happened if she hadnít saved him from those depths he couldnít pull himself out of? Where would AA be if Bill W., Co-Founder had completed suicide or returned to drinking? Where would AA be if it werenít for Helen? I thank God for Billís relationship with Helen because I may not be alive today if that relationship didnít exist. People say they owe their life to Bill and given how Helen probably saved Billís life on several occasions, they may also owe their lives to her as well.

In all reality, I donít believe any of the negativity has a whole lot to do with LSD or sťances or Billís reported relationships. I think these people just donít like AA because of some unfounded hatred of God and rather than just be honest, they pick on all this other stuff, taken out of historical context and twisted just to lash out at their God hatred.

AA isnít about a God of religion or sect or denomination. AA says throughout its literature it is about finding a God of your understanding. A Power greater than yourself of your own conception. If really questioned, many of these anti-AA people arenít really anti-AA. They are anti-religion. They just donít want to understand that AA isnít about religion or a God defined by religion.

Next time if your child has a tooth ache, think that if this was 1885 you might be giving them Cocaine Toothache Drops. Think about what people did back in the 1940ís as their ďsocial networkingĒ the next time you ďTweetĒ or update your Facebook status. Think about where you would be if Helen had not helped bring Bill back from teetering on the edge of the abyss and wasnít there and he had gotten drunk or completed suicide?

Even the Big Book says we are not saints. Bill certainly was not a saint. I certainly am not a saint. Are you?

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