"Bill W." documentary to be shown in free screening

By Shelley Widhalm

The Surveyor

Have you wondered about the story behind Bill W. or who he even is?

The late Bill Wilson, the co-founder of Alcoholics Anonymous, is the subject of an award-winning documentary called “Bill W.,” which will be shown in a free screening March 15 at Grace Place. The group hosting the screening wishes to remain anonymous and is not associated with AA or with Grace Place but is using the venue—AA’s Twelfth Tradition is one of anonymity. 

“Grace Place church is a recovery-friendly church that believes AA and the church can work together to help people in the community. That’s one reason they were willing to host the event,” said Joe Herzanek of Berthoud, who plans to attend the screening. “It’s a very involved church.”

Grace Place is supportive of the screening, said Bill Miller, executive pastor of operations for the church.

“Addiction is obviously a huge challenge for many, many people, and alcoholism, directly or indirectly, impacts millions of men, women, and children. It doesn’t matter if you’re white, brown, or black, male or female, young or old,” Miller said. “Grace Place is happy to support AA’s effort to help people combat alcoholism by hosting this event, as well as a weekly AA meeting.”

According to a write-up about the film, Wilson was “a hopeless drunk near death from his alcoholism,” but in 1934, he found a way out of his addiction. A year later in Akron, Ohio, he and Bob Smith, also an alcoholic, created a way to help others through a 12-program that now has more than 2 million members worldwide. It consists of 10,000 groups, associations and fellowships of alcoholics helping other alcoholics maintain sobriety.

In 1955, Wilson turned over control of AA to a board of trustees. He remained sober until his death in 1971 and was included in TIME Magazine’s “Time 100: The Most Important People of the Century.”

The documentary, a full-length film lasting one hour, 44 minutes, has the subtitle, “Where do we aim what we thirst for?” The film, released in 2012, is meant to be informational and educational and includes interviews with Wilson and early members of AA, as well as audio recordings and archival footage that tell his story.

“It’s all archival footage and audio from him in his own voice,” said Judy Herzanek, Joe’s wife. “It was really hard for him to stay anonymous because people put him on a pedestal, and they talk about that.”

The screening, funded by an anonymous donor, will be at 2 p.m. March 15 at Grace Place, 375 Meadowlark Drive, in the Main Auditorium. Doors will open at 1:30 p.m.

“It’s just general awareness that there are resources for people struggling with alcohol and drugs,” Joe Herzanek said. “It’s for anyone who is interested in the plague of alcoholism and drug abuse in the country and would like to get insights from the video about why their loved one struggles.”

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