From the January 2011 magazine.

January 2011: Editor’s letter (Welcome)

At what point did you admit you were powerless over alcohol?

According to Bill W., writing in the March 1960 AA Grapevine, “This simply means that all of us have to hit bottom and hit it hard and lastingly.” That bottom comes in many forms, and the essays in this month’s special section are particularly poignant accounts of powerlessness.

In “The Drunk who Came in from the Cold,” a man wanders out of a treatment center into a 20-below-zero Alaskan night and ends up by some miracle in an empty, but open, AA meeting room instead of a bar. In “Out of Bounds,” an inmate has to see the insanity in a fellow prisoner to understand the...