Who is Bill W and why are you his "friend"?

Posted on July 28, 2005 at 01:09 AM

Have you ever heard a term or phrase used in a conversation in which you had know idea what it meant? Sure it's happened to all of us at one point in time, we either play it off like we know exactly what they are talking about or stare blankly at the person like a deer in headlights. Quite recently I have found myself in this very same situation having heard the phrase "I'm a friend of Bill W" being used on TV and not knowing what the character was referencing.

The most recent occasion in which I heard this phrase used was on the HBO series "Entourage". If you've seen the show you may be familiar with the scene I'm talking, it takes place in this Season's Episode 11 ("Aquamansion") where Turtle tries to raise enough cash in order to buy himself some cashmere P.J.'s, allowing him to be properly clothed for that night's festivities at Hugh Hefner's mansion. Being short on cash, Turtle gets the idea to return some recently purchased Mac equipment to the Apple Store in hopes he can get cash instead of Mac Store credit. His hopes are dashed when he tries to persuade his friend/Apple Store clerk with an offer of weed to make the transaction go more smoothly to which she replied, "I'm a friend of Bill W's now." Needless to say he (and I as well) had no idea who Bill W. was and walked out of the store with a $2000 store credit instead of the cash he so desperately needed.

So after hearing this phrase being used on different TV shows over and over for the past few weeks and not knowing whatt it meant I turned to my trusty friend Google. I entered the search phrase "Bill W" into the box and hit search. As it turns out Bill W is short for Bill Wilson, the founder of Alcoholics Anonymous. To say you are a "friend of Bill W." is to subtely convey to the person with whom you are speaking that you are either a member of AA, or that you are now sober, and no longer abuse drugs or alcohol. Mystery solved, if I had only done that sooner I would have saved myself the confusion.

But speaking of AA, you may believe it or not, but this blog has attended an AA meeting. Though not as a participant mind you, but merely as a guest. A friend of mine had a father who was/is an alcoholic (technically in AA you're an alcoholic even if you've been sober for 20 years) and asked if I would like to go to his AA meeting. This was no ordinary AA meeting but an event that would commemorate his being sober for 20 years. Given the opportunity now I would probably pass, but this being about 12 years ago, and me being 18, I couldn't resist. So I went.

To say the meeting was an unusual experience would be a understatement on my part. There auditorium where the meeting was held was packed full people (approx. 100-200) and it was a mixture of Alcoholics who hadn't had a drink in decades to people who probably finished off a stiff drink earlier that day. But it was exactly like you'd see in the movies or on TV. Everyone who went up to speak prefaced their comments with the standard A.A. line "Hi my name is _____ and I'm an alcoholic." But what caught me off guard was the response to this statement by those in attendance. It wasn't your standard, monotone, un enthused response of "hi ____ ." like you see on TV, but more of an exuberant, excited, and engaged "HI _____!!!!!!!!" which really caught my attention. As the evening progressed, I looked forward to this brief moment after someone introduced themselves because it added a little humor to what was other wise a depressing, mind boggling display of the effects of alcohol abuse.

All in all the experience was a real eye opener. I definitely wouldn't recommend it to anyone who is bored and looking for something to do on a Friday night, but if you really wanted to go Fight Club Narrator/Tyler Durden for an evening, it would be a good place to start. Though as bad as it was, I imagine it would be much better than going to a support group for testicular cancer with the name Robert Paulson on your name tag. I doubt they would find your actions humorous. (Disclaimer: The aforementioned comments were Fight Club references meant to be shameless attempts at humor. If you have no idea who Tyler Durden or Robert Paulson are and find yourself staring at their names like a deer in headlights, I suggest you look them up.)

Permalink | Comments (8) | TrackBack (0) | post to del.icio.us | submit to Digg


i saw the bumper sticker today and googled it to find out who the hell bill w. was. now i know. thanx fur enlightening me.

drink up.

Posted by: mike | May 2, 2008 02:28 PM

Only as sick as your secrets!

Stumbled across your page looking for hats that read "A friend of Bill W." August 18, 2010 will be sober 25 years and bit longer without street drugs. I went through 2 rehabs before the age of 20. I am 46. Do the math.


Posted by: Brett C. | May 25, 2010 02:10 AM

I was curious about this too. Thanks for the info. Oh, and by the way... in that episode of Entourage, it was Johnny Drama that didn't know who Bill W. was. Turtle had to tell him he was an idiot and that meant the chick was in AA.

Posted by: Usman | June 8, 2010 09:36 PM

Regarding your thoughts on "I'm a friend of Bill W." Here's a funny story that recently happened to us when we were selling our produce at a farmer's market:

We purchased a used truck with a bumper sticker reading "I'm a friend of Bill W." We wondered what it meant but we really didn't find out until recently. I posted a picture of a table with my preserves for sale with our truck's bumper in the background on facebook. People were sending me messages about Bill W.

We were at a farmer's market selling our produce and a lady came up to me, put her hand on my arm and with a very kind look on her face said to me, "I'm a friend of Bill W., too, dear!" I tried to explain that the bumper sticker was on our truck when we bought it, and that I was not a friend of Bill W., but to no avail, I could not convince her that I wasn't a friend of Bill W!

Posted by: debr | September 24, 2010 10:29 PM

Love this! Fight Club is amazing. I just started a detox and the AA people who have come to my site scare me. They are a little cult-ish. :) Come check it out, love to know what you think. :)



Posted by: Angel | November 10, 2010 04:39 PM

You went to a shitty AA meeting if you didn't have a good time! Go to a young people's AA meeting and you'll see that we are by far not a glum bunch!

A friend of Bill W. (23 years old and living happy and full of life, in a way I never could before!)

Posted by: A friend of Bill's | March 26, 2012 05:42 PM

I am indeed a member of the organization you are talking about. I have been a member of AA for a little over 29 years. My wife and children have no idea what kind of a monster I was. The AA program has saved my life! I had nowhere else to go, "my only options were jails, institutions, or death.” It is a misnomer that it is a program to help people stop drinking, it is actually a program that teaches me how to live without alcohol, which in turn makes me a better person(hopefully), and become self supporting through my own contributions(get a job). Then I learn how to live life on life’s terms. I am so thankful this program and all those men and women that trudged the road before me so that I could have a life worth living.

Posted by: Joe B. | April 13, 2012 08:31 AM

I love the sauce. A quart a day keeps depression away!

Posted by: Hugo | May 15, 2012 11:05 AM

Post a comment

(required, but never displayed)