AA Program Is Living Legacy Of Bill Wilson

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 Alcoholics Anonymous.

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.

No 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?

Of course.

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.

"Yes;' he said, "and I guess you are too. I low long?"

  'Twelve years;' she said. "You?"

  "Eighteen years", he said.

They held 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.

"London," she said.

Later, the 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 simple:'

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.

Bill Wilson's Grave Stone

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