SARA TOTH – EDITOR
The Twelfth Tradition of Alcoholics Anonymous is, as the name suggests, anonymity. It’s a tradition that holds deep significance, and it is for this reason that the co-founder of AA — an international fellowship of about 2 million, spread across about 10,000 various groups and organizations — is often simply known as “Bill,” or “Bill W.”
It’s been more than 80 years since AA was founded by Bill W. and Bob Smith, a doctor out of Akron, Ohio. A group of members published Alcoholics Anonymous: The Story of How More Than One Hundred Men Have Recovered from Alcoholism (more commonly known as “The Big Book”) in 1939.
Their work inspired a play, Dr. Bob and Bill W., written by Janet Surrey and Samuel Shem, published in 1990 — that play then led, in a number of ways, to “Gary K. One Step at a Time,” a 59-minute-long documentary film that will be screened — at no charge — at 10 a.m. Aug. 20 at Chautauqua Cinema as a Meet the Filmmaker event with Bestor Cram, who will host a Q-and-A after the screening.
“Gary K. One Step at a Time” is the result of 10 years of work, as filmmakers from Invisible Island and Northern Lights Productions (Cram’s production company) tried to find ways to uncover the experiences of the recovery process laid out in “The Big Book.” Their work led them to Dr. Bob and Bill W., and the actor portraying Bill W. — Gary K. — who was struggling on his own journey of recovery. The film was a 2020 Official Selection of the Virtual Reel Recovery Film Festival.
As the actors — Gary K. and Richard Springle, as Dr. Bob — immersed themselves in their work, filmmakers bore witness to both their own lives and the lives of their “stage” characters. The film ends in Florida, where Gary K. is director of recovery education at Comprehensive Wellness Centers, a member of the Southeast Florida Recovery Advocacy Coalition and the Palm Beach County Substance Awareness Coalition Drug Task Force.
“Addiction is a performance; the real question for how this tragicomedy resolves is found in one’s commitment to developing a script,” Susan Gray wrote in her director’s statement for the film she helmed. “Gary K.’s struggles to fulfill that commitment become a reflection of how important purpose and guidance are in leading one on a pathway for stepping forward.”