Monday, October 22, 2012
Thoughts on the movie Bill W.
We went to see the movie "Bill W." yesterday. I had heard that it was good. Many of the local AA and Al-Anon groups were going to see it. So we went on a date to the movies.
I have to say that the talking and munching of popcorn stopped when the movie started. No one made a sound during the entire movie. It was enthralling for me. I had read some biographies on Bill and Lois but to hear his voice and to see so many archived photos of him was truly wonderful.
The movie started by someone saying “Bill Wilson was a stinking, rotten drunk.” And the story of how he became that drunk and went on to start AA is played out on the screen with some re-enactments but mostly through onscreen interviews with A.A. historians and authors, with current members whose faces are filmed in shadow to preserve anonymity, and through the words of Bill himself. Then there are the poignant typed excerpts from letters written by Wilson and from his wife Lois' diary.
I have to say that seeing the steps scroll past in the film and hearing about how AA was about to fall apart when Bill wrote the twelve traditions was really moving for me. I love the traditions and wish that more people understood just how important they are in keeping meetings and relationships alive. I thought that his own personal struggles with depression when he felt trapped as the "deity" of AA was another part of the film that I found particularly sad.
He isn't put on a pedestal in the film. His use of LSD and marital infidelity is discussed. And his explanation that he is just an ordinary man with character defects brought home the enormous pressure that he must have been under to get AA going, keep it going, and to not be deified by the organization. On his deathbed, he asked for liquor. He tried to make Lois feel guilty for not giving it to him. His asking for booze at the end of his life was explained by his not being in his right mind. At the same time, another says alcoholism is "cunning, baffling and powerful".
At the end of the movie, there are facts that scroll down the page: 30 million copies of the book Alcoholics Anonymous that have been sold, there are 2 million members in 170 countries, and about 60 recovery programs that use the 12-step approach. Powerful stuff.
“He piloted this course out of the very deep woods that alcoholism is,” one recovering alcoholic says in the film. So very true.