AA Program Is Living Legacy Of Bill
By Byron Roberts
He faint rays
of an early October sun winked between puffy black rain clouds, doing their best
to warm the Vermont mountains.
In a clearing
cut out of the maple and pine trees on the side of one of those mountains is a
cemetery with simple, tattletale gray headstones lined up, row on row.
The cemetery is just outside the cozy town of East
Dorset, once known as the "Marble Capital of the United States." (The town's
quarries provided much of the marble for buildings in the nation's capital, as
well as the New York City Public Library)
It is not just another New England small-town
cemetery. It is a very special cemetery, very special to millions of members of
Because here one of the two founder's of that
fellowship is buried, in [lie same town in which lie was born.
The name on the stone reads simply "William G.
Wilson, 1894-1971.' That's it. Nothing else.
mention of [tow lie and another native Vermonter, Dr.
Robert Smith, met in Akron, Ohio, in
1935. And how that meeting gave roots to AA.
Can anyone figure the odds of two Vermont sons,
both hopeless alcoholics, meeting in Akron, Ohio, and starting one of the
world's most humanitarian fellowships?
But to a white-haired man on this October Sunday
in that silent cemetery, those odds were insignificant.
HE said he was
there to pay homage to the memory of Bill Wilson, to break into the hush with
the words he
had waited 18 years to say, to say at this exact spot: "Thank you, Bill."
This man had been an uncompromising drunk for
almost half his time on earth, 28 years scooped out of a life, day by wrenching
day. he had lost jobs, wives, family, lost his dignity and his self-respect. He
had suffered the misery and the devastation that all alcoholics suffer.
He had seen
the inside of jails on many occasions, been asked to leave restaurants and had
slept in doorways, under bushes and on benches.
He had wanted
to quit drinking countless times. He did -- countless times.
But one Monday evening lie went to an AA meeting
and something happened. For the first time, he said, he was with people who
understood what so many others had not.
From that May
evening, he said, his life had gradually and steadily moved tip and out of
misery. He followed every bit of advice, every suggestion. Gradually, He said,
his cynicism grew into astonishment as he learned how the program has reached
out and touched desperate individuals for more than 50 years. (In fact, AA's
original l2-step program has been adopted and adapted by other groups.)
So on this trip to Vermont, He finally was able to
say out loud, "Thank you, Bill."
Then he sat back and looked out at the mountains,
thinking. lie felt warm and safe.
Then a car drove up. A lady got out and walked up
the path, then down the row of graves, counting them. When site got to tire
eighth stone site stopped.
She stood al the foot of the grave, looking at the
headstone. She looked at the sky. Then site rummaged in her purse and took out a
large coin-like object. She went to the headstone where piles of similar coin
like tokens were stacked. Site put hers on a pile and took one from another
pile. (Called "chips, they mark lengths of sobriety in the fellowship.)
Then she came and sat next to the white-haired
man. "You a friend of Bill's?" she asked.
said, "and I guess you are too. I low long?"
hands. They looked off into the distance. Tears came. Finally she said "I have
to go, now. I have to go home."
"Where do you live?" lie asked.
white-haired man said on the way back home, he thought of the simplicity of the
AA program, and how Dr. Bob Smith would always remind Bill Wilson to "keep it
Then lie chuckled and read again the directions to
Bill Wilson's grave, directions handed out at the Wilson House, where Bill was
born in 1895. (The red-painted house with white columns, on Village Street,
holds AA and AI-Anon meetings.)
The directions read: "Bill's grave is the eighth
stone on the left from the tree stump".
Simple, but it works.
The Washington Times©
Just outside the flown of East Dorset, Vt., on the side of a mountain, is the grave of William t3. Wilson (below), co-founder of Alcoholics Anonymous.
Return to the Newspapers, Magazines, etc Page
Return to the A. A. History Page
Return to the West Baltimore Group Home Page