Al-Anon Lifer

Anonymous sharings from a long-time member of Al-Anon, which is a safe place to recover from the effects of alcoholism in a friend or relative...

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Lois Wilson's Family Home in Brooklyn

By pure luck, we ended up staying in Brooklyn on our last
weekend trip to New York City. We had some time on our
hands so were able to walk the couple blocks to Lois Wilson's family home, the home she and Bill Wilson were living in when he finally got sober. It was also the home where Bill not only held the first A.A. meetings in New York, but housed a lot of drunks. It is privately owned and not a museum, unlike Dr. Bob Smith's home in Akron, Ohio, where Bill W. and Dr. Bob had their first meeting which was the beginning of A.A. We were able to see that home in 2005 on our way back from the A.A. International in Toronto. In the future, I hope to visit Stepping Stones, the Wilsons' next and final permanent home which is outside NYC (see blogroll).

The significance of seeing Lois' beautiful home in Brooklyn Heights is knowing that even though her father was a doctor and her upbringing was that of privilege, she married an alcoholic. And even though Bill got sober, Lois was the only one working and bringing home a paycheck for years. She was also cooking, cleaning, and doing laundry for all the drunks that came and went in her beautiful family home. But it wasn't enough. She eventually lost her family home and she and Bill were essentially homeless for a long time until they were able to buy Stepping Stones.

When I read her biography, The Lois Wilson Story: When Love Is Not Enough by William G. Borchert, I realized just how sick Lois was. For 15 years after her husband co-founded A.A. she continued to take care of most his needs, enabling him to put most of his time and effort into A.A. and thus stay sober, but also to be a part to Lois losing her family home in the process. Of course, she didn't have Al-Anon like I do, and I'll be forever grateful to her for helping start a recovery program for me and all the other family members and friends of alcoholics who need a "home" for themselves to recover from the family disease of alcoholism.

Even with recovery, I stayed married to an active alcoholic for 15 years while in Al-Anon. I didn't lose my home, but I lost a lot of friends and jobs along the way, and wasted a lot of energy on negativity, anger, and dire unhappiness. My husband is sober now and I am grateful, even to Lois for enabling Bill to work with a bunch of drunks right in her home, 24/7. I can't imagine. I don't even let my husband use our family phone line for taking A.A. calls. I've asked him to use his cell phone.

I know I need to work harder at being compassionate towards alcoholics; after all, it says in one of our traditions that part of our primary purpose is to encourage alcoholics in their recovery. At the same time, I need to keep a balance between being there for them and taking care of myself. I believe that Lois learned this later on, after she lost her family home, but only after she had her own program and began minding her own business. How wonderful that she did, and that she passed it on through Al-Anon. Because of her legacy, I have discovered my own ability to "Live and Let Live." Thank you, God!

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At Saturday, April 25, 2009 4:49:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for the post. I also read Lois' story and was so helped and moved by it. I find so many similarities between my situation and hers. Thanks again.


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