Books, Journals, New Media Section Editor: Harriet
S. Meyer, MD, Contributing Editor, JAMA; David H. Morse, MS, University
of Southern California, Norris Medical Library, Journal Review Editor.
Physicians frequently advise patients with a drinking problem to attend
Alcoholics Anonymous (AA). Many physicians, however, have only a vague knowledge
of AA's methods and origins. This brief, well-written book painlessly provides
interested readers, including patients and their doctors, an understanding
of the principles and history of AA through an examination of the life of
its cofounder Bill Wilson.
Susan Cheever, who has written previously about her own successful struggles
with alcoholism, begins her biography by tracing Wilson's turn-of-the-last-century
boyhood, when he struggled with an unstable family while immersed in the values
and natural beauty of rural Vermont. Overcoming early family-inflicted traumas
by drawing upon his innate tenacity and talent, Wilson achieved a measure
of success and happiness by late adolescence and realistically looked forward
to a bright future. This optimism ended abruptly with the unexpected death
of his first love and ushered in what was to be a lifetime series of deep
depressions. As this first depressive episode ended, an 18-year period of
alcoholism began, which Wilson initially controlled while establishing a successful
marriage and business. The control was predictably brief, and eventually his
alcoholism consumed everything of importance to him except his marriage, which
survived only because of his wife's persistent (and largely unexplained) loyalty.
Liskow BI. Bill Wilson. JAMA. 2004;292(12):1495-1496. doi:10.1001/jama.292.12.1495