Author Home: Bill and Lois Wilson

Books by Bill Wilson

Two books that I’ve read many times, Alcoholics Anonymous (a.k.a., The Big Book) and Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions. 

Two Birthdays

On March 10th, I celebrate two birthdays: my physical birthday and my sobriety birthday.

Today I’m happy to report that I’m 53 years old and celebrating 18 years of living clean and sober. I’m one of those people who feel like life gets better with each passing year. Being sober is a huge part of that.

Pilgrimage

Yesterday my wife Laura and I made a pilgrimage to the home of Bill and Lois Wilson in Katonah, NY which is about 70 miles east of where we live. Bill was one of the co-founders of AA and Lois was a co-founder of AL-ANON.

 

It was a gorgeous late winter day. The sun was reflecting off the recent snow and birds were chirping.  Me (on left) and Laura in front of the historical marker.

The House

In 1941, after years of homelessness, Lois and Bill purchased this home due to generous terms offered by a friend. 

 

Sitting at the kitchen table that was in Lois and Bill’s home in Brooklyn. It was at this table in 1934 that Bill’s newly sober friend, Ebby, suggested to the religion-resistant Bill, “Why don’t you choose your own conception of God?” Ebby had gotten sober with the help of the Oxford Group, a Christian organization, and Bill resisted the idea of a “Czar of the Heavens.” This conversation formed the seed of what would become Step Two of the Twelve Steps: “Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.”

Wit’s End

Although Alcoholics Anonymous was headquartered in New York City, Wilson’s home quickly became a hub of activity with visitors coming from near and far. Bill eventually built this small writing studio on the hill for himself that they named “Wit’s End.”

 

Sitting at Bill’s desk in Wit’s End. He wrote part of Alcoholics Anonymous (1939) on this desk and many of his other books and essays. The Big Book is the book that launched thousands of recovery books based on its ideas, particularly the Twelve Steps. It is, perhaps, the book that established the field of recovery. Prior to AA, people didn’t think there was hope for alcoholics. As many of you know, the Twelve Steps have been helpful for people facing a multitude of challenges and addictions.

 

Stepping Stones is a non-profit, tax-exempt, privately run historic site.

The Tour

The Stepping Stones Welcome Center is a converted two-car garage. Informational posters with photos line the walls and give the visitor background information on Bill, Lois, their life together, and the development of Alcoholics Anonymous and Al-Anon. They also have books, DVDs, t-shirts, hats, and other memorabilia for sale. The tour starts in this room with an introduction by a volunteer who then leads visitors through each room of the house, which is very much the way Lois left it when she died in 1988. (Bill died in 1971.) Lois had established the foundation with the intention of opening the home as a museum. The tour ends in Wit’s End.

Other than the kitchen table and Bill’s desk, photography isn’t allowed inside the home or Wit’s End. Click here for a virtual tour on the Stepping Stones website. It was hard not to take photos. Its a wonderful home with bulging bookshelves. Both Lois and Bill were big readers. If you’re curious about their reading tastes, click here for a spreadsheet of all the books in their house. The list includes three books by Willa Cather. I spotted two of them on the tour. It was also hard not to touch.

Reservations Needed

If you’re interested in visiting Stepping Stones, walk-in visits are not currently an option. You’ll need to make a reservation for their daily 1 p.m. tour. Volunteers told me they do fill up fast in the spring and summer, so start making plans now.

Gratitude

I am beyond grateful for the work of these early pioneers in the field of alcoholism and recovery. They have saved countless lives. I won’t go into detail about my story, but I will say it took me a bunch of tries before sobriety “stuck” for me. After 18 years, I still don’t take it for granted. One day at a time.


Stepping Stones
62 Oak Road
Katonah, NY
steppingstones.org

Helpful links:

 



Categories: Biblio-Adventure

Tags: , , , , ,

15 replies

  1. Congratulations, Chris. That’s a great achievement. (Linda)

  2. Congratulations. What a lovely way to celebrate your double birthday.

  3. Happy Birthday and congratulations!

  4. Thank you, Chris, for taking us to the home of this quiet person who has helped so many. I loved reading his story and seeing how much his journey has impacted you and others. It’s a reminder to me that even doing things that seem small at the time can change the world for the better long after we are gone. In our political climate, I sometimes forget this.

  5. I wish you happy birthday in every sense, Chris. This was a really interesting glimpse at the life and home of two people whose work has helped so many people. You make me want to learn more.

    • Thanks, Lory! They are such inspirations. I read Susan Cheever’s bio of Bill when it came out years ago and this visit made me want to read it again, and learn more about Lois.

  6. Congratulations! And what a wonderful place to get to visit.

  7. Happy birthday on both counts, Chris. Eighteen years is incredible – well done! 🎈

  8. Congratulations to You! Every year is a milestone – I come from an alcoholic father and sober is the only way to go! One day at a time!

Trackbacks

  1. Library Visit: Katonah Village Library, NY • WildmooBooks

What do you think? Leave a comment and let's talk!

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: