AA Here Meet With Chief of Society


Tucson Daily Star 4/6/44

By Louis Witzeman

They call him simply “Bill.” He’s the head of Alcoholics Anonymous, national organization of men and women who were formerly alcohol addicts

Tall, lanky, with his hair slightly grayed, he looks more like a Texas cattleman than a Vermonter and an ex-Wall Street broker. One of the shrewdest of amateur psychologists, he today concludes his visit to Tucson as the guest of the Tucson unit of “AA.”

Bill has led an interesting life. Alcoholics Anonymous – actually there was no name for the group until 1939 – got its start in 1934 in Akron, Ohio, at a time when Bill had been pronounced an “incurable alcoholic” by medical men. He was in Akron on a business trip and had made a failure of it.

After he had been pronounced “incurable” a few months before, he had taken a hospital “cure” for alcoholism and it had worked for a month. Faced by failure, Bill saw his “cure” relaxing its hold, just as it had several times before.

Talked Out Of Binge

Before he lost control of himself, however, he happened to meet an Akron doctor who was also an alcoholic. The two of them got together and talked themselves out of going on the binge they had both contemplated. Instead, they found the release they had sought in trying to stop other alcoholics from other binges.

They weren’t very successful – Bill says so quite bluntly. In the first
year of their work, the two of them led just five men to recovery, the next year ten, the next 20 and the next 60. In spite of the fact that he had been on the receiving end of virtually every sort of cure in existence, Bill had not found any key to what later developed into his own special knack.

Then, in 1939, he decided to put his ideas on paper. He wrote an anonymous book, entitled it “Alcoholics Anonymous” and thus founded the organization.

In it he finally found expression of his ideas.

Progress Swift

Once the book was written, progress became swift. Headquarters were established in New York City and today AA adds approximately 500 members per month. Thousands write to find out what the group has to offer.

It’s a combination of the attitudes of the preacher, the doctor and the former alcoholic, he says. He recognizes alcoholism as a disease, one of which no one can ever be “cured” but from which he can “recover.”  Never when there is a chance of a relapse is there a cure, he says, and any alcoholic stands a chance of a relapse. An alcoholic can recover by the change in outlook advocated by the doctors or the faith advocated by the clergy, Bill says, but it is AA’s job to provide the element which makes the remedy stick. That element, he says, is simply association with other alcoholics in “converting” them.

Anonymity Used

Anonymity is the protection that allows a man to try to cure himself of his addiction, Bill maintains.

He and the Akron doctor together founded their groups on that thesis. In 250 communities they now number 10,000 members. They have chapters in Canada, Australia, and India in addition to those in the United States.

Traveling service men all over the world spread their work. In New York City they maintain an office employing four full-time secretaries.

Bill’s salary is paid by a special fund created by John D. Rockefeller which gives him $30 per week. In addition to this, he makes approximately the same amount from sales of his books. He and his four secretaries are the only paid members in the entire organization of 10,000. No chapter pays any dues for any work other than its own – there are no national dues.

Board of Trustees

A board of trustees composed of seven men manages the organization’s financial activities in New York. This board is composed of four New York business men and three former alcoholics. The four business men, with three of the secretaries, are the only members of the entire group of 10,000 who are not former alcoholics.

Tucson’s group is small – now consisting of 14 members. It was formed only a few years ago. Like all groups of its sort, it permits no use of names of members. Those interested in its work need simply write to Box 4432, University Station. All whose names are turned in to the group will be personally visited by a member of the group. To those interested in being cured, AA will point out that it can cure 50 per cent of them on the first try, and 25 per cent on the second. The remainder will either fall out completely, or be partially cured.

Bill was paying his first visit to Tucson last night. He came here two days ago from the Pacific coast, where he was visiting other groups. Last night he met members of the Tucson group. Today he goes on eastward with his wife, planning to visit other towns and other AA units as he goes.

(Our thanks to "Barefoot Bill" for the above.

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