From Alcohol to Depression with Bill Wilson

It came as a bit of a blow to win the war against alcohol only to end up in a new battle against depression. It is like experiencing the victory of conquering a mountain only to find that you are actually standing on a hill, and the real mountain is still there before you. Maybe my alcoholism was only ever a symptom of my underlying problems with depression – it’s as likely as anything else.

Mountains and dark clouds

Bill Wilson Suffered From Depression Too

Bill Wilson was the co-founder of Alcoholics Anonymous, and he also had to deal with depression for decades after he gave up the booze. I read his autobiography a few months ago (My Name is Bill W.), this describes how he had periods of living under the dark cloud that lasted months at a time. On the days when he managed to drag himself into work, he’d just sit at his desk with his head in his hands. Bill Wilson helped create one of the most popular self-help movements ever, but when it came to depression he was powerless.

I’m not an AA-person, but I find Bill Wilson to be a bit of an inspiring character. He managed to achieve guru-status, but he didn’t fall into the trap of claiming to be perfect. Bill was more interested in looking for solutions to his continuing problems, and he was willing to share his findings with anyone who would listen. There are many within the AA movement who would like to portray him as some type of saint, but it is exactly because he never pretended to be this that makes him so interesting for me.

Bill Wilson’s Letter About Depression

Bill Wilson candidly discussed his problems with a depression in a letter he sent to a close friend. I found the following paragraphs particularly interesting:

Last autumn, depression, having no really rational cause at all, almost took me to the cleaners. I began to be scared that I was in for another long chronic spell. Considering the grief I´ve had with depressions, it wasn´t a bright prospect.

I kept asking myself “Why can´t the twelve steps work to release depression?” By the hour, I stared at the St. Francis Prayer … “it´s better to comfort than to be comforted.” Here was the formula, all right, but why didn´t it work?

Suddenly, I realized what the matter was. My basic flaw had always been dependence, almost absolute dependence, on people or circumstances to supply me with prestige, security, and the like. Failing to get these things according to my perfectionist dreams and specifications, I had fought for them. And when defeat came, so did my depression.

Bill Wilson hit the nail on the head here as far as my depression is concerned. I’m convinced that my symptoms occur because of my tendency towards self-absorption. I’ve always been a dreamer, and this means my life is full of disappointment because reality never lives up to my dreams. There is this persistent feeling that I’m being cheated out of something and that I’m being treated unfairly by the universe. I carry around these unrealistic expectations, so I’m constantly setting myself up for a fall. It is this steady stream of disappointments that mean the dark clouds are always there waiting for me.

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3 thoughts on “From Alcohol to Depression with Bill Wilson

  1. This thing about reality being only reality is actually really important. The cool thing about reality is that is real. And when fantasy lets you down, as it always will, being real is everything. Reality is beautiful even in its ugliness because it is the real thing and reality is actually more amazing than anything we can imagine. It is, however, an acquired taste, I think. I remember looking at the funny looking people walking through the mall underneath the beautiful pictures of young air brushed models pasted on the high walls above them and thinking humans actually look more like the trolls in the movies than they look like the people in the movies! And I had the thought of how if I were the artist creating all the faces of humanity, how beautiful each of these funny faces would appear to me.

  2. Also, that day in the mall I noticed that the most beautiful people in the mall (besides the children of course!) were the people who were clearly enjoying each other, be they lovers, mothers or best friends, etc…

    1. That is a very interesting point Liz. I think when we are in a negative mindset, we do send of negative energies and attract them as well. When we are happy and in good company it is like we are a magnet for all the positive things in life.

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