Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Happy Birthday Lois W.

Yesterday was Lois Wilson's birthday. I talked a bit about it last night in the meeting. And how dismal and dark her life must have felt during Bill's drinking years. Yet, she triumphed. And used her realization of the effects of alcoholism on families to help herself and countless others.

I put this information from the book The Lois Wilson Story: When Love is Not Enough by William Borchert to give you an idea of her despair and recovery:

"Near the bottom of her husband Bill's downward spiral into alcoholic hell, when he collapsed one night in a drunken stupor in the hallway of their Clinton Street, Brooklyn home, Lois Wilson felt she could bear no more. Pounding hysterically on his chest, she screamed out in despair: "You don't even have the decency to die!"

The compelling story behind this painful, oft-repeated scene that eventually led to the founding of one of the most important movements of the twentieth century is dramatically revealed in Hazelden Publishing's new book, "The Lois Wilson Story: When Love Is Not Enough." (Hazelden, September 30, 2005. $24.95)

Lois Wilson, the wife of the man who co-founded Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), stuck by her husband through his seventeen years of tormented and abusive alcoholic drinking, believing that her unconditional love could get him sober. But it could not. The daughter of well-to-do parents, this loving and determined women watched her husband, Bill Wilson, destroy his career, his relationships and his health, checking into and out of alcoholic sanatoriums as he neared the point of insanity and death. Finally, through a life-changing spiritual experience, Bill Wilson was led to another alcoholic named Dr. Robert Holbrook Smith, in Akron, Ohio and together in 1935 the fellowship of AA was born.

It was through her heart-rending, emotional struggle and her witnessing other spouses and children similarly impacted that Lois Wilson came to realize that alcoholism is a family disease and that the solution was a program for recovery, a family support group that came to be known as Al-Anon.

From her priviledged childhood in turn-of-the-century New York City, to her unexpected but exhilarating courtship with the dashing Bill Wilson, to her socialite status as a "Wall Street Wife" in the Roaring Twenties, to the couple's audacious cross-country motorcycle excursions in the 1930s, Lois was every bit the adventure-seeker her legendary husband was. But nothing could have prepared her for the chaos, pain, and loss caused by her beloved Bill's descent into the depths of alcoholism. In the end, however, her husband's addiction proved not to be the tragic undoing of this brilliant, promising couple, but rather the beginning of one of the twentieth century's most important social movements.

The "Twelve Step Programs" that Lois Wilson developed for Al-Anon and her husband, Bill, developed for Alcoholics Anonymous are among the most successful forces for good in the world today. They have saved millions of lives, restored millions of families and are the basis for more than 300 self-help groups growing around the world-from Narcotics Anonymous to Overeaters Anonymous.

Lois and Bill Wilson are heroes to recovering people worldwide and generations who credit AA and Al-Anon and the Twelve Steps with saving their lives. Like other influential heroes, they were far from perfect. The story of Lois Wilson is a poignant but not always pretty love story, and to his credit, Borchert tells this story with a straightforward candor that lets us appreciate the immense toll alcohol takes.

Lois devoted her own life to Bill and to AA/Al-Anon, working tirelessly and selflessly, so that she became not only a guiding light but also a symbol of the movement itself, its nurturing spirit, revered and beloved by all who knew her. Bill Wilson died in 1971. Lois Wilson died in 1988, at the age of 97."


  1. thanks for your comment. i've finally heard something that makes me feel a bit better about this 'situation'. behold, logic and reason are beginning to sink it...

  2. Makes me wonder what kind of person Lois was to have had the will-power to stay in this marriage and work through it. I did not have this sense of will-power and left after 23 yrs. Does that make me less of a person, I wonder? Hopefully not.

  3. wow - i had not heard that story yet. glad you shared it.

  4. now that i've read this properly...

    that's some kind of love that!

    p.s. behind every successful man is a successful woman... giggle

  5. Oh, I loved this book. I recall thinking how sick Lois was and then realizing that she didn't have Al-Anon like I've had all this years :-)

  6. THis is a lovely post, God Bless Lois and all the other tireless Al-anons


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