Alcoholics Anonymous in bold text with a woman in AA on the right

Alcoholics Anonymous has since its creation in 1935 spread to approximately 180 countries around the world, helping countless alcoholics in the process. The 2017 estimate for active worldwide membership was over two million recovering alcoholics. (1)

Alcoholics Anonymous is creation is largely credited to Bill Wilson, or Bill W. as members refer to him. But who was Bill Wilson of Alcoholics Anonymous? Here we go over ten things about Bill W. you may not have been aware of.

Bill W was raised by his grandparents

Bill Wilson’s parents actually abandoned him not long after his birth. HisThe Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous father never returned from a business trip, while his mother left to study medicine. (2)

Barely finished law school, but never picked up a degree

Bill attended law school after serving in World War I, but alcohol caused him to nearly fail out. Once he completed law school, he was too drunk to attend the diploma ceremony. (3)

Bill W. wrote Alcoholics Anonymous

Alcoholics Anonymous, popularly known as the “big book”, is the basic text that outlines the program. While no author is actually listed, Bill was the one who wrote the majority of the book (along with many other AA-related works). (4)

Bill W was once a successful stockbroker

Bill W made his living after World War I as a successful stockbroker. The Great Depression along with his alcoholism, however, left him in financial ruin. (2)

He experimented with finding alternative cures for alcoholism

Bill never stopped searching for an alternative cure for alcoholism. This included medically supervised LSD experiments and taking large doses of niacin. (5)

Movies have been made about his life

The life of Bill Wilson has been portrayed in various media over the years, including the film My Name Is Bill W starring James Woods. (6)

His wife also founded a recovery fellowship

Lois Wilson was married to Bill from 1918 until his death. She is credited as the co-founder of Al-anon, a recovery fellowship for the loved ones of alcoholics. (7)

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You can visit his home

The home of Bill and Lois Wilson, known as Stepping Stones, is now a preserved site. Visitors can tour the home and see various AA artifacts, such as the original draft of Alcoholics Anonymous. (8)

Final Note

This article is intended for those considering a new way of life, free of the pain of drug and alcohol addiction. For more information on recovery and anyone seeking help with addiction and substance abuse problems, please call True Recovery at (844) 744-8783 or visit us online.


  2. Alcoholics Anonymous World Services, Inc. (1984), “Pass it on”: the story of Bill Wilson and how the A.A. message reached the world.
  3. Bill W: My First 40 Years
  5. Francis Hartigan Bill Wilson p. 177-179.