AA is a Cult, part 31

Content warning: The following post discusses Bill Wilson’s history of spousal abuse, including verbal, emotional, financial, and physical forms. AA literature which diminishes these actions and casts blame on victims of domestic violence is quoted for commentary purposes. 

One of the primary tenants of Buchmanism, the religious faith of Frank Buchman’s followers the Oxford Group, was that in any conflict, all parties are guilty. Buchmanite parables of conflict resolution between labor and management or between husband and wife always ended with each person admitting how they were wrong. This ideal simultaneously supported the Group practice of public confession and absolved abusive, manipulative, or exploitative members of full responsibility for their actions. 

When ousted Buchmanite and alcoholic Bill Wilson essentially stole a branch of the Oxford Group to be his new Alcoholics Anonymous group, he took this concept of shared blame with him. Bill W. was a violent and abusive husband who continually ascribed his bad deeds to forces beyond his control. He was a spiritual leader when it suited him, and helpless (and incapable of blame) when it suited him more. 

This theology told him his wife Lois was at least equally at fault, and that her complaints about his bad behavior were equal sins to his own. In a prior entry we learned that as an active drinker, Bill verbally and physically abused his wife, had her support him with a retail position, and once threw a sewing machine at her. AA literature never specifies if it was a hit or a miss. 

The following passage is credited to “Anonymous” but was written by Bill W. In this probably autobiographical story, Bill wrote of an AA member who smoked and drank coffee to excess. The man’s explosive tantrum in response to his wife urging him to quit these vices is presented as a natural consequence, while the wife is portrayed as a shrill harpy. (As ever, full credit and appreciation to the Orange Papers for finding the relevant passages.) 

“One of our friends is a heavy smoker and coffee drinker. There was no doubt he over-indulged. Seeing this, and meaning to be helpful, his wife commenced to admonish him about it. He admitted that he was overdoing these things, but frankly said that he was not ready to stop. His wife is one of those persons who really feels there is something rather sinful  about these commodities, so she nagged, and her intolerance finally threw him into a fit of anger. He got drunk. 

Of course our friend was wrong — dead wrong. He had to painfully admit that and mend his spiritual fences. Though he is now a most effective member of Alcoholics Anonymous, he still smokes and drinks coffee, but neither his wife nor anyone else stands in judgment. She sees she was wrong to make a burning issue of such a matter when his more serious ailments were being rapidly cured. 

“Our friend”, the “most effective member of Alcoholics Anonymous”, was so powerless over alcohol (and cigarettes, and coffee, and rage) that it’s not really his fault his wife, “one of those persons” who “feels” his “commodities” are “sinful” “admonished” and “nagged” him until “her intolerance finally threw him into a fit of anger.” 

Sure, he fessed up to being wrong but it’s clear who really made him drink by daring to speak about his other vices when his alcoholism was so “rapidly cured” he threw drunken tantrums to get his way. And she never dared speak of it again. Bill Wilson died of emphysema complicated by pneumonia. Lois outlived him. 

Next up: Bill Wilson the predatory cheater

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