On May 11, 1935, Bill W. encountered a threat to his newfound sobriety. During a business trip to Ohio, he found himself standing in the lobby of a hotel, craving a drink. With growing anxiety he contemplated his options.

Bill narrowed his choices to two: order a cocktail in the hotel bar or call another recovering alcoholic and ask for help in staying sober.

Bill knew that this choice came with high stakes. As an alcoholic who had nearly drunk himself to death, he'd endured four hospital stays for "detox." During his last visit he'd hit bottom and cried out for divine mercy: "If there be a God, let him show himself." At that moment, Bill felt a white light blaze through his hospital room. He was seized with "an ecstasy beyond description" and concluded that he was free from any need for alcohol.

But there was no divine blaze in the lobby of the Mayflower Hotel in Akron -- only the dim lights of the bar and the lure of a drink.

Pacing through the lobby, Bill passed the bar and found a church directory. Within minutes he was on the phone with a local minister. A series of calls put him in touch with an alcoholic surgeon named Dr. Bob. Bill arranged to visit the doctor at home.

Dr. Bob initially agreed to see Bill for only 15 minutes, but their meeting lasted for hours. Bill simply told of his drinking history and Bob identified with it immediately. Bill thanked Bob for hearing him out -- for his fellowship. "I know now that I'm not going to take another drink," Bill said, "and I'm grateful to you."

But the relationship did not end there. Bill stayed with Dr. Bob for the next three weeks. Through their friendship, Dr. Bob also gained sobriety. The surgeon never took another drink after June 10, 1935. That day -- Dr. Bob's "dry date" -- is officially counted as the start of Alcoholics Anonymous.

Bill and Bob began working with other alcoholics, helping them achieve sobriety one day at a time. Four years later, they published the book Alcoholics Anonymous, which explained their Twelve Step program of recovery.