The International Christian Recovery Coalition
Impaired No More Project
Copyright 2011 Anonymous. All rights reserved
Focus Clip Two: “Just Before Bill W. Got Sober”
Decisions for Jesus Christ-- “The Rest of the Story”
1. Often, the stories regarding Bill W. begin with the escalation of his
drinking problem. Then they turn abruptly to the dramatic story of Ebby
Thacher’s visit to Bill and what Bill did after that. But there is a major
hole in the story. It doesn’t even hint at what we now know happened
with Bill and Jesus Christ shortly before Bill got sober at Towns Hospital.
2. And the impact of Bill’s story can only be small, only very limited,
unless and until the reader also learns and understands how God’s role in
recovery fit into the Christian background that so heavily influenced Bill and
3. That’s “the rest of the story.” That is what will be told here.
4. The story really begins with Rowland Hazard. He’s the American
businessman of whom Bill wrote (Big Book, p. 26). He it was who began the
powerful rescue operations helping drunks that became the A.A. of today.
a) Rowland Hazard treated with the renowned psychiatrist, Dr. Carl
Jung in Switzerland, in order to be freed and released from his alcoholism. At
length, Dr. Jung told Rowland that he could not help him. Rowland, he said,
had “the mind of a chronic alcoholic,” (Big Book, p. 27). He did suggest,
however, that Rowland might receive help through a “vital spiritual
experience” (Big Book, p. 27). Many years later, in correspondence
with Dr. Jung years, Bill identified this solution experience as “a
spiritual or religious experience—in short, a genuine conversion.” Bill also
called the cure a “conversion experience.” (“Pass it On” pp. 382-83). At that
time, in responding to Bill, Dr. Jung used the Latin word “spiritus” and
described the cure as “the highest religious experience.” (“Pass It On” p. 384).
b) Rowland then associated himself with the Oxford Group. But what
has little, if ever, been noticed or discussed is the fact that Rowland Hazard
also made a decision for Jesus Christ. (A.A. Spiritual History Workshop, Jay
Stinnett, Reykjavik, Iceland, March 11, 2007, slide 52:)
“1932 New York. Rowland returns and joins the Calvary Church, studies
[with] Rev. Sam Shoemaker, and gives his life to Christ. His obsession to
drink is removed.”
c) Such surrenders were not uncommon among Oxford Groupers. In
fact, Rowland’s mentor Rev. Sam Shoemaker frequently led people to Jesus
Christ at the first opportunity (New Light on Alcoholism, p. 474
“Conversion”). In processionals from Shoemaker’s church to Madison
Square, Sam in full religious vestment led the group which carried the sign
“Jesus Christ changes lives.” (New Light on Alcoholism, p. 471.) Even in the
Midwest, it was Shoemaker who, in 1933, led the alcoholic Russell Firestone to
Jesus Christ in a train compartment, facilitating Russell’s immediate,
miraculous relief from alcoholism for a time (The Akron Genesis of Alcoholics
Anonymous, pp. 33-34.). An event which marked the beginning of the whole
Akron chain of events that led to the founding of A.A. in Akron in 1935.
(The Akron Genesis of Alcoholics Anonymous, pp. 27-36.)
d) Rowland Hazard himself made his decision for Jesus Christ
in the backdrop of Shoemaker’s Calvary Church in New York. He became
much involved with Sam Shoemaker’s Calvary Church. He was a vestryman.
He was a member of Shoemaker’s Oxford Group businessman’s team, and he
was personally mentioned by name in the Shoemaker’s personal journals—
photo copies of which we examined at the home of Shoemaker’s daughter,
Nickie Shoemaker Haggart. (New Light on Alcoholism, pp. 537, 539, 558-59.)
e) We have discovered nothing to date that can answer the question
when, where, or even whether, Rowland was led to Jesus Christ by
Shoemaker himself. But Rowland made a decision for Jesus Christ
and was relieved of his alcoholism—just as Dr. Jung said might happen.
5. Rowland and two Oxford Group friends (Cebra Graves and Shep
Cornell) rescued Ebby Thacher from incarceration for alcoholism. Then
they coached him.
a) Ebby said: They “told me that they had run into the Oxford Group
and had gotten some pretty sensible things out of it based on the life of
Christ, Biblical times. . . I was much impressed because it was what I had been
taught as a child and what I inwardly believed but had laid aside. . . .
Rowland. . . had had a thorough indoctrination (in Oxford Group teachings). .
. . He passed as much of this on to me as he could. . . he made me believe in
them again as I had as a young man.” (“Pass It On, 113-14).
b) Evidence tends to establish that Rowland told Ebby much of
the entire Carl Jung encounter (My First 40 Years, 130-31).
c) Next, the Oxford Group men lodged Ebby in Calvary Mission – run
by Shoemaker’s church. And there Ebby made his decision for Jesus Christ
(T. Willard Hunter, “It Started Right There,” p. 6).
d) In fact, at Stepping Stones archives in the home of Bill and Lois
Wilson, I [Dick B.] found a manuscript titled “Bill Wilson’s Original
Story.” Every line was numbered. The numbers ran from 1 to 1180. . . .
In that manuscript, Bill began by describing Ebby’s first visit and Bill’s
impression of him: “The man was transformed; there was no denying he had
been reborn.” (Dick B., Turning Point, 99-100).
6. As to what transpired at Calvary Mission services and altar calls, Bill
Wilson himself elaborated on the services where, at the altar in Calvary
Mission, one made his decision for Jesus Christ (My First 40 Years, 136-37).
And Mrs. Samuel Shoemaker herself related to me [Dick B.] on the telephone
that she was present and witnessed Bill’s own decision for Jesus Christ there.
7. What has only recently been revealed by the biography of William D.
Silkworth, Bill’s psychiatrist at Towns Hospital (“A devout Christian [who]
attended . . . the Calvary Christian [Episcopal] Church, pp. 11-12) is
Silkworth’s advice to Bill Wilson about Jesus Christ.
a) Silkworth’s emphasized the healing of alcoholics through the power
of Jesus Christ (Silkworth: The Little Doctor Who Loved Drunks, pp. 49-52 ):
“. . . it was Dr. Silkworth who used the term “The Great Physician” to explain
the need in recovery for a relationship with Jesus Christ. . . . In the formation
of AA, Wilson initially insisted on references to God and Jesus, as well as the
b) Bill was not the only one to whom Silkworth (the devout Christian) had
recommended the healing of alcoholism by the “Great Physician” Jesus
Christ. See the lengthy and explicit account in Dr. Norman Vincent Peale’s
The Positive Power of Jesus Christ, pp. 60-62.
8. Specifically as to Bill, the Silkworth biography explains that on Bill
Wilson’s third visit to Towns Hospital, Silkworth had told Wilson he might
simply be hopeless, that Bill had a serious sickness, and that Bill might be a
“lost cause.” (Silkworth 45-46). Bill was, said Silkworth, showing some signs
of brain damage, and that he might have to “confine him, lock him up
somewhere if he would remain sane or even alive. He can’t go on this way
another year, possibly.” “This was my sentence,” said Bill. (My First 40 Years,
a) However, Silkworth also told Bill that Jesus Christ, (The Great
Physician), could cure him. (Silkworth, pp. 44-51).
b) And this was a prognosis—a powerful solution—whose efficacy Bill
confirmed later when he wrote (Big Book at page 191):
c) “Henrietta, the Lord has been so wonderful to me curing me of this
terrible disease that I just want to keep talking about it and telling people.”
9. After Bill had heard from Silkworth that he could be cured by the
Great Physician, it was Ebby himself who proved the point to Bill. For then,
Ebby visited Bill “fresh-skinned and glowing,” and sober. Bill quizzed him as
to what had happened. Bill quoted himself as follows: “Come, what’s this all
about? I queried. He looked straight at me. Simply, but smilingly, he said,
“I’ve got religion.” (Big Book, p. 9) [This was an Oxford Group expression
referring to having been changed by Jesus Christ through “conversion.”]
a) Ebby told Bill the details about Rowland Hazard, the Oxford Group
men, their comments, and their emphasis on God and prayer. (Mel B., Ebby,
pp. 6, 49-51, 64, 66).
b) And Ebby told Bill that God had done for him what he could not do for
himself—a phrase that became embedded in Bill’s own Big Book language,
pp. 11, 84).
c) Bill could not get Ebby’s rebirth and healing out of his mind (My First
40 Years, 134-35).
d) But then Bill decided that what had happened to Ebby at Calvary
Mission could possibly help him (My First 40 Years, 136). And off
Bill went to the Calvary Mission and the altar.
Our third focus clip will be on “The Conversion of Bill W. and Bill’s
subsequent “conversion experience” at Towns Hospital. See Dick B., The
Conversion of Bill W. www.dickb.com/conversion.shtml.
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