Every member of Alcoholics Anonymous and the various other 12 Step Programs have heard of the co-founder William Griffith Wilson, better known as Bill Wilson or Bill W. Through reading the âBig Book,â we hear many stories from alcoholics, Bill Wilson included, being the primary author of the book originally titled âAlcoholics Anonymousâ in 1938. From then the program has taken on the name of this book and has expanded to millions of members across the globe. Not many people know of the story of how and why Bill Wilson got sober through his spiritual awakening.
In 1901 Charles B. Towns opened a hospital in New York on 293 Central Park West with partner Dr. Alexander Lambert. Charles Towns was not licensed to practice medicine and on October 1909 together they claimed to have a treatment cure to alcoholism and addiction that required less than five days. This treatment was a recipe Charles Towns is said to have obtained from a country doctor. The recipe was a mixture of belladonna (the poison known as Deadly Nightshade), fluid extracts of xanthoxylum (prickly ash) and hyoscyamus (henbane).
Between 1933 and 1934 Bill W. was admitted to Towns hospital four separate times. He was pressured in by his wife and paid for by his brother-in-law at an expensive cost of up to $350 for a four or five day admission which would be the equivalent cost of $5,610 today. Bill Wilson, unfortunately, relapsed after all of his first three trips into the Towns Hospital.
In December of 1934 Bill Wilson found himself reunited with an old drinking friend named Ebby Thatcher. Ebby however was no longer drinking and told Bill of the âOxford Group,â a church based organization with members devoted to living a spiritual life guided by the principles in Christianity.
A few days after meeting with Ebby, Bill staggered back into the Towns hospital drunk. William D. Silkworth, Billâs physician, sedated Bill and woke him every hour giving him pills, cathartics and tinctures of the Belladonna treatment regime. This is when Bill had his spiritual awakening. Billâs friend Ebby came over to the hospital and tried to convince Bill to turn to a Christian god and join the Oxford Group to achieve sobriety. Hours after this Bill, in delirium, responded with âIâll do anything! Anything at all! If there be a God, let him show himself!â At that moment Bill experienced a blinding light alongside an ecstatic sense of freedom and peace. When Bill told Silkworth what happened he was told âSomething has happened to you, I donât know or understand it but youâd better hang onto it.â
From that moment on Bill remained sober and went on to form Alcoholics Anonymous, never drinking again until the day he died.
However, it was recognized, even at that time, that Belladonna contained hallucinogenic properties. Belladonnaâs hallucinogenic properties are strengthened when one is intoxicated or suffering from alcohol withdrawal. Bill, at the time, mustâve been suffering from extreme alcohol withdrawals as he was days without a drink. Was Billâs spiritual awakening simply a result of a hallucination whose subject was directed by the previous discussion with Ebby Thatcher? Most likely it was so.
This doesnât change all that has come from it but does give an interesting insight into how Alcoholics Anonymous was, in essence, founded by Bill Wilson being poisoned as part of a treatment regime. Without this treatment, many alcoholics to this day would be suffering still.
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