A rumor has persisted for years in the fellowship of AA that Bill wished he could have changed “rarely” to “never.” This is a myth.
In a letter to Les V., dated May 25, 1961 Bill W. stated: “Concerning your comment about the use of the word ‘rarely’ in Chapter Five of the Big Book. My recollection is that we did give a considerable thought at the time of writing. I think the main reason for the use of ‘rarely’ was to avoid anything that would look like a claim for a 100% result. Assuming of course that an alcoholic is willing enough and sane enough, there can be a perfect score on such character. But since willingness and sanity are such illusive and fluctuating values, we simply didn’t like to be too positive. The medical profession could jump right down our throats…I do remember thinking about it a lot.”
In addition, the following question and response were made at the 1970 General Service Conference, as part of the “Ask-It” Basket questions. Bill was, of course, still living at this time and was able to respond:
Q. Has Bill ever said, “If there was any change he would make in the Big Book, it would be to change the world ‘rarely’ to ‘never’ at the start of Chapter Five”? A. “No, Bill said he had never considered this” (1970 General Service Conference Report, p. 31).