The Foundation for Art & Healing recently participated in a special evening of theatre sponsored by NYU Langone Medical School. FAH Founder and President, Jeremy Nobel MD, MPH served as a panelist during a post-performance talkback session of the off broadway revival of Bill W. and Dr. Bob. Dr. Nobel, joined the playwright, Samuel Shen and two actors for a poignant and engaging discussion with the audience about the play and recovery issues. Bill W. and Dr. Bob tells the inspiring and often humorous story of the two men who pioneered Alcoholics Anonymous, and their supportive wives, who founded Al-Anon.
In 1929, famous New York stockbroker Bill Wilson crashes with the stock market and becomes a hopeless drunk. Dr. Bob Smith, a surgeon from Ohio, has also been an alcoholic for thirty years, often going into the operating room with a hangover. Through an astonishing series of events, the two men are brought together and, realizing that “the only thing that can keep a drunk sober is telling his story to another drunk,” forge a relationship. They help each other stay sober, and then pass on what they’ve learned to others.
This production celebrates the power of recovery, educates the public about the disease of alcoholism by breaking down barriers and stigmas, and supports outreach to all who still suffer and their friends and loved ones. That is why the Foundation was pleased to support the performance through subsidizing a number of seats at the performance where 50% of the audience members were either in recovery or working tirelessly on diagnosis and treatment.
During the talkback session many in the audience who were impacted by alcoholism shared their experiences. Alicia, a group leader with Al-Anon said she was, “thrilled that the wives who founded Al-Anon were central to the storyline.” Drew, a recovering alcoholic, said he “appreciated seeing the building blocks for my support system, that gives me a lifeline whenever I feel alone.” And then there was Jeff, who drove several hundred miles to see the performance, who felt, “this play should be performed in every city so that everyone—addicts, friends, family—can all share this message.”
This drama not only tells the extraordinary story of the founding of Alcoholics Anonymous, but it also goes to the heart of what the practice of medicine is all about: the risk of isolation, and the healing power of good connection. This speaks directly to the mission of the Foundation for Art & Healing and we were proud to support such a remarkable evening that collectively engaged so many in the healing power of creative expression.