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Bill W.: A Biography of Alcoholics Anonymous Cofounder Bill Wilson [Paperback]

Our Price $ 16.14  
Retail Value $ 18.99  
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Item Number 158911  
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Item Specifications...

Pages   256
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 9" Width: 5.9" Height: 0.7"
Weight:   0.7 lbs.
Binding  Softcover
Release Date   Oct 12, 2001
Publisher   St. Martin's Griffin
ISBN  0312283911  
EAN  9780312283919  

Availability  0 units.

Item Description...
Draws on interviews with Bill Wilson's wife to provide a close-up look at a man whose work transformed the lives of thousands of people but who led a complex, sometimes turbulent private life. Reprint. 15,000 first printing.

Publishers Description
When Bill Wilson, with his friend Dr. Bob Smith, founded Alcoholics Anonymous in 1935, his hope was that AA would become a safe haven for those who suffered from this disease. Thirty years after his death, AA continues to help millions of alcoholics recover from what had been commonly regarded as a hopeless addiction. Still, while Wilson was a visionary for millions, he was no saint. After cofounding Alcoholics Anonymous, he stayed sober for over thirty-five years, helping countless thousands rebuild their lives. But at the same time, Wilson suffered form debilitating bouts of clinical depression, was a womanizer, and experimented with LSD.
Francis Hartigan, the former secretary and confidant to Wilson's wife, Lois, has exhaustively researched his subject, writing with a complete insider's knowledge. Drawing on extensive interviews with Lois Wilson and scores of early members of AA, he fully explores Wilson's organizational genius, his devotion to the cause, and almost martyr-like selflessness. That Wilson, like all of us, had to struggle with his own personal demons makes this biography all the more moving and inspirational. Hartigan reveals the story of Wilson's life to be as humorous, horrific, and powerful as any of the AA vignettes told daily around the world.

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More About Francis Hartigan

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Francis Hartigan is a corporate communications professional who has worked with the print media and produced documentaries. He was the secretary of and confidant to Bill Wilson's wife, Lois. He lives in New York City.

Francis Hartigan currently resides in New York City, in the state of New York.

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Reviews - What do our customers think?
Snake Oil Salesmanship  May 17, 2008
Marital difficulties
Wilson was serially unfaithful to his wife Lois. Wilson 's affairs with women caused controversy and concern within AA and it was common knowledge in New York AA circles. His interest in younger women increased with his age, and caused Barry Leach and other friends of Wilson to form a "Founders Watch". People were assigned to keep an eye on Wilson during the socializing that followed AA functions and to separate and steer away those young women who caught Wilson's interest. Wilson, like many in his generation, could be sexist, but he was also "capable of treating the women who worked with him with dignity and respect". In the mid 1950s he began an affair with Helen Wyn, a woman 22 years his junior, "in duration, intensity and scope" this was different from his other affairs. Wilson at one point discussed divorcing Lois to marry Helen. Wilson with determined perseverance was able to overcome the AA trustees objections, and renegotiated his royalty agreements with them in 1963, which allowed him to include Helen Wynn in his estate. He left 10% of his book royalties to Helen and the other 90% to his wife Lois. In 1968 with Wilson's illness making it harder for them to spend time together, Helen bought a house in Ireland.

Alternative cures and spiritualism
In the 1950s Wilson experimented with LSD in medically supervised experiments with Gerard Heard and Aldous Huxley. With Wilson's invitation his wife Lois, Father Dowling, and Nell Wing also participated in experimentation of this drug. Later Wilson wrote to Carl Jung, praising the results and recommending it as validation of Jung's spiritual experience. (The letter was not in fact sent as Jung had died.)

At a parapsychology meeting in the 1960s, Wilson met Abram Hoffer and learned about the potential mood-stabilizing effects of niacin. Wilson was impressed with experiments indicating that alcoholics who were given niacin had a better sobriety rate, and he began to see niacin "as completing the third leg in the stool, the physical to complement the spiritual and emotional." Wilson also believed that niacin had given him relief from depression, and he promoted the vitamin within the AA community and with the National Institute of Mental Health as a treatment for schizophrenia. However, Wilson created a major furor in AA because he used the AA office and letterhead in his promotion.

For Wilson, spiritualism (communicating with the spirits of the dead) was a life-long interest. One of his letters to his spiritual adviser Father Ed Dowling suggests that while Wilson was working on his book Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions he felt that spirits were helping him, in particular a 15th century monk named Boniface.[18] Wilson believed that the living could communicate with the dead and kept a "Spook Room" in his basement, where he along and others would conduct seances with a Ouijiboard, as well as experiment with automatic writing. Despite his conviction that he had evidence for the reality of the spiritual world, Wilson chose not to share this with AA.
Insightful Look at the Human Bill W.  Nov 1, 2007
I've been a "friend" of Bill and Dr. Bob since Christmas 1990, and have read a lot of material, both "conference approved" and other, and this book is probably the best biography of Bill W. that I've come across. I have to disagree with the reviewers who gave this work a low rating... I do not see this biography as a "hatchet job" or any sort of attempt to demean or diminish the memory of Bill Wilson.

Bill was not saint, and he never really sought sainthood. If some hold him to saintly standards or infallible behavior, those depictions were\are pressed on him.

Hartigan successfully describes Bill's childhood, young adulthood, service years, marriage and the early years of AA's struggles in great detail. Until I read this book, I knew from other readings that Bill had many faults, but I did not fully appreciate the depth of his alcoholic behavior, and its effect on both Bill and Lois. I also did not appreciate the severity Bill's lifelong struggle with deep depression.

This biography also does a good job putting context and details to Bill's lesser known "adventures" which folks hostile to AA use to discredit Bill and the AA program.

Bill experimented with LSD, starting in the 50's and into the 60's... starting when the drug was legal and being investigated for psychotherapeutic potential to help alcoholics and schizophrenics.

Bill actively promoted niacin for alcoholics, dragging the AA name into this promotion, but it was out of enthusiasm and hope to help the still suffering alcoholic. He was called to task for this, and the AA name removed from such endorsements.

Bill was unfaithful to Lois and maintained long term relationships outside his marriage. This biography, written by the personal secretary to Lois at the end of her long life, makes no excuses for this behavior, but does add context.

I came away with greater appreciation of Bill Wilson, the man, who overcame many serious problems to help create an organization that has helped many thousands of people live better lives.
The book is truthful without lingering on the rough spots.  Mar 20, 2006
The author went to work for Bill W's widow. Eventually this book resulted, after both were dead.

The book provides a much needed perspective. It is clear on Bill's early atheism (which he called agnosticism) and helps focus how AA is a spiritual program and not a religious one and wny.

Over and over again it explains the forces that were being reacted against. If you've listened to Bill and Charlie (they are available for free on the internet as mp3 downloads for ipods and similar products -- or your computer), this fills in the gaps.

For example, everyone knows about Bill as a womanizer in his later years. What people do not know is that about the time he turned forty, his wife decided that she was done with sex. She was older than he was, went through menopause and retired from sex. No wonder that has he got into his fifties he started thinking of her more as a mother figure and less as a wife figure.

In a modern hospital, such as where my wife works, everyone knows about "banana bags" (IVs that are yellow from the b-vitamins, especially niacin, used routinely on alcoholics who have serious problems because of bad diet) -- but I never knew that started with niacin for alcoholics.

Or the rumors of financial misuse -- at complete odds with poverty and the audits -- now I know how they started and how they kept going.

I'm not an alcoholic (well, I've never had a drink, so I'm at least a very dry alcoholic), though I've sent a number of clients to 12 step programs, until recently I did not have the slightest idea what they were about.

With this I understand what makes AA different from every other program out there, why it found that balance and how it was shaped and touched by the personality of its founder.

The book is an easy read, and gripping. I finished it over a weekend, along with other projects and preparing and teaching a Sunday School lesson.

It was interesting, complex, consistent and had a basic appreciation and fondness for the subject.

I'm not sure how it plays inside AA, but from the outside I find myself admiring Bill W and AA a great deal from having read this book. Heck, I even got started on the "Big Book" (I've read about half of it so far).

If you've gotten to this page where the book is advertised, it is probably worth your while to buy it. I got my copy at half price books for six dollars. They had a bundle of them. Used copies in excellent to new condition abound.

Buy it, read it, think about it. Well worth the read.
As I see It  Jul 25, 2005
This is an amazing bio of Bill W.

I've read pass it on and afew other AA related books, nothing has held my interest with such awe as this wonderful book.

This book gives you a better understanding of Bill. Everyone has there own opinion.
Hartigan's treatment of the Wilson story  Mar 28, 2005
Of late, I have been doing a lot of research work and writing on the differences in religious views, religious background, and religious influences on A.A. co-founders Bill Wilson and Dr. Bob Smith. In that connection, I have found myself turning more and more to Francis Hartigan's account and quoting portions of it in various contexts. The Bill Wilson story itself has been hacked around in so many ways, many of them inaccurate, that I look for the tidbits that show the author's real familiarity and lack thereof with the subject at hand. In Hartigan's case, I found his recital of the "spiritual experience" by Bill's grandfather, Hartigan's details on Lois Wilson, and Hartigan's accurate observations on Bill's decision for Christ at the Calvary Rescue Mission to be most refreshing and quotable. Among the plethora of recent books on Bill's life, I believe this Hartigan biography and the Bill W. Autobiography from the "Bedford Papers" as reported by Hazelden to be two important resources for learning A.A.'s historical, spiritual background. Dick B.

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