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Biography: "Freedom From Bondage"

Wynn C. L., California.
(p. 553, 2nd edition, p. 544 3rd edition, p. 544 4th edition.)

They Lost Nearly All

"Young when she joined, this A.A. believes her serious drinking was the result of even deeper defects. She here tells how she was set free."

Wynn joined A.A. in California in 1947 at age thirty-three.

She was described by the novelist, Carolyn See, one of her several step children, as "tall, and with a face that was astonishing in its beauty. She had "translucent skin with a tiny dusting of freckles, Katharine Hepburn cheekbones, bright red hair, and turquoise eyes." She was a "knockout."

She believed that her alcoholism was a symptom of a deeper trouble, and that her mental and emotional difficulties began many years before she began to drink. But AA taught her that she was the result of the way she reacted to what happened to her as a child.

She was born in Florida and, like Bill W. before her, her parents separated when she was a child, and she was sent to live with her grandparents in the Mid West. She reports feeling "lonely, and terrified and hurt." (This common childhood experience may have been one of the reasons for the reported close friendship she had with Bill W.)

She married and divorced four times before finding A.A. The first time she married for financial security; her second husband was a prominent bandleader and she sang with his band; her third husband was an Army Captain she married during World War II; her fourth husband was a widower, with several children.

One A.A. friend quipped when first hearing Wynn's story, that she had always been a cinch for the program, for she had always been interested in mankind, but was just taking them one man at a time.

Sometime after 1955 when her story appeared in the Big Book, she married her fifth husband, George L., another A.A. member. George and Wynn were married for several years and his daughter Caroline lived with them when they were first married. After they were divorced, according to Caroline, she dated a wealthy insurance executive whom she had hoped to marry.

George and Wynn were a popular team speaking at meetings. "My dad was Wynn's opening act," said Carolyn. "He couldn't help but be funny. Then he would defer to Wynn, whose tale was hair-raising."

Carolyn writes: "Wynn's mother had deserted her in order to go out and live a selfish life. An unloving grandmother reared her in strict poverty. She contracted typhoid fever and hovered between life and death for about ninety days. All her hair and (though she would not admit this) her teeth fell out."

She recovered at about age sixteen. Her beautiful red hair grew back in and she wore dentures "stuck in so firmly that no one saw her without them." According to Caroline, "she began carving out a career as a femme fatale, and started drinking to bridge the gap between the grim hash-slinging reality she was born to, and the golden mirage of American romance she yearned for."

Wynn said in her story that she didn't know how to love. Fear of rejection and its ensuring pain were not to be risked. When she found alcohol it seemed to solve her problems - for a time. But soon things fell apart and jails and hospitals followed. When she wound up in a hospital for detoxification, she began to take stock and realized she had lived with no sense of social obligation or responsibility to her fellow men. She was full of resentments and fears.

When she wrote her story she had been in A.A. eight years and her life had changed dramatically. She had not had a drink since her first meeting, and had not only found a way to live without having a drink, but a way to live without wanting a drink.

Wynn believed she had many spiritual experiences after coming to the program, many that she didn't recognize right away, "For I'm slow to learn and they take many guises."

On the last page of her story Wynn says: "As another great man says, 'The only real freedom a human being can ever know is doing what you ought to do because you want to do it.'" That "great man" may have been Bill W.

Wynn and Jack P. of Los Angeles started more than 80 meetings in hospitals, jails and prisons in Southern California from about 1947 to 1950. Jack P. reports that during this period they were widely criticized by other members of the Fellowship who thought this was not something A.A. should be doing.

"A.A. can be said to have worked for my father and Wynn," wrote Carolyn. "Although they would divorce, neither of them would ever take a drink again."

George died from lung cancer. Wynn, too, suffered from cancer and when first diagnosed became very active in the American Cancer Society.

Carolyn comments: "Here's the other thing my father wanted, above all else, to write. My first and second husbands wanted above all else, to write. All I ever wanted was to write. But guess who really got to be the writer? Who's the one in our family, who has actually changed, improved, transformed thousands of lives? The woman who wrote 'Freedom from Bondage' under the section 'They Lost Nearly All' in the A.A. Big Book. The girl who lost all her teeth from typhoid when she was in her teens, who slung hash way up into her forties, and who died a cruel death from cancer when she was way too young. She couldn't have done it if she hadn't 'lost nearly all.'"

The date of Wynn's death is unknown, but she apparently died in poverty. When her cancer returned, several years after she had divorced George, she contacted Carolyn trying to reach him because she needed financial help. Carolyn tried to persuade her father to help Wynn. When he refused it upset Carolyn who was genuinely fond of Wynn. Her last words to Carolyn were "I've always loved you," and Carolyn believes she truly did.

Sources: Personal communications with Carolyn See and her book: "Dreaming, Hard Luck and Good Times in America," University of California Press.

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