While under treatment at Towns Hospital , Bill Wilson experiences a flash of white light and an overwhelming sense of well-being that frees him from his alcoholism. Bill’s “hot flash,” as he would later call it, leads him to associate with the Oxford Group. It should be noted, however, that Bill’s experience is quite different from the typical Oxford Grouper’s experience, and these differences have their effect on the way he relates to the Group’s practices.
Shortly before his final treatment at Towns, Bill is approached by Ebby Thatcher, a former drinking companion of Bill’s who is now sober due to his involvement with the Oxford Group. Ebby introduces a reluctant but curious Bill to the Oxford Group and its program. Bill responds by checking himself into Towns.
The spiritual experience Bill has at Towns is as powerful as it is spontaneous. He is relieved of his need to drink even though he had not yet attempted any of the Oxford Group practices. Bill hadn’t shared, examined himself by the Four Absolutes, or made any restitution, yet he walked away from Towns a new man. And Bill was filled with a passion to help other drunks.
When Bill later begins attending Oxford Group meetings, he does so not so much for the sake of his own soul, as to research how the Group works with alcoholics. Apparently, Bill is not at all interested in anything else the Group might have to offer. James Houck, a surviving Oxford Group member, remembers Bill like this:
|He was never interested in the things we were interested in. All he ever wanted to talk about was alcoholism.
Also, Bill is not interested in the fact that Oxford Group practices can be applied to problems other than drinking.
|Bill did not think drinking was a sin and he did not share the OG’s view of other human failings either…he had no interest in giving up smoking, and Bill seems always to have been ladies’ man…he also seems to have been unconcerned about the Group’s views on the subject. Houck recalls that [Bill] often regaled its members with tales of his exploits.
For Bill, it seems, to be sober is enough. In fact, it is more than he ever dreamed possible. If Bill is only interested in as much of the Oxford Group experience as will help him to help other drunks, it is probably because he sees his own sobriety as an unsurpassed miracle. He is sober. He is going to live. How could anything matter more than saving the life of another?
It is important to note, however, that Bill has only a limited experience with the Oxford Group program, as this will later effect his interpretation of the Twelve Steps. Also, that fact that Bill places a high value on sobriety and a much lower value on moral purity will effect his style of working with others, both in person and in writing, and so Bill’s values will become infused into the structure and character of AA.
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