Monday, January 11, 2010

When Love is not Enough: The Lois Wilson Story


Hallmark Hall of Fame -

When Love is not Enough: The Lois Wilson Story

Network: CBS

Original Air Date: April 25, 2010


Winona Ryder ... Lois Wilson
Barry Pepper ... Bill Wilson
Ellen Dubin ... Dora
Kristi Angus ... Anne Bingham
Paul Popowich ... Rogers Burnham
Sarah Manninen ... Elise Shaw
Adam Greydon Reid ... Ebby Thatcher
Luke Vitale ... Merchant
Brent Crawford ... Speakeasy Doorman


from CBS Press Release:

This Drama, Based on the Biography by William G. Borchert, Is About the Trials and Ultimate Triumph of the Co-Founder of Al-Anon, Whose Alcoholic Husband Co-Founded AA.

WHEN LOVE IS NOT ENOUGH: THE LOIS WILSON STORY, is a new "Hallmark Hall of Fame" presentation starring Golden Globe Award winner and two-time Academy Award nominee Winona Ryder ("The Age of Innocence," "Little Women," "Star Trek") and Emmy Award and Golden Globe Award nominee Barry Pepper ("61*," "Seven Pounds," "Flags of Our Fathers"). Spanning more than 30 years, this movie is based on the true story of the enduring but troubled love between Lois Wilson (Ryder), co-founder of Al-Anon, and her alcoholic husband Bill Wilson (Pepper), co-founder of Alcoholics Anonymous.

A college-educated young woman from an affluent family, Lois Burnham spent her winters in New York and summers in Vermont, where she began her deliriously happy courtship with Bill Wilson, a slightly younger man of modest means. She married Bill in 1918, and, after his return from duty at the end of WWI, the two set out to build a life together in New York City. While Lois worked as an occupational therapist at Bellevue Hospital, Bill struggled to find his niche. Lois strongly believed, however, that Bill was destined for greatness, and despite noticing an increase in his drinking habits, she showered him with love and support. Eventually, Lois persuaded a friend's husband to hire Bill at his financial firm. By 1927, Bill was a lucrative securities analyst on Wall Street and the couple was living a luxurious lifestyle. Despite Lois' countless efforts to control his drinking, Bill's addiction to alcohol spiraled further and further out of control until his job, their lifestyle and dreams were gone.

In 1935, after years of unsuccessfully struggling to cover for Bill and manage his disease, Lois finally saw him take control of his alcoholism; however, his sobriety was not the result of Lois's help, rather it came through the support of a fellow recovering alcoholic, Dr. Bob Smith. As Bill and Bob attained lasting sobriety and co-founded Alcoholics Anonymous, Lois began to question the value she had in her own marriage. After devoting 17 years to healing her sick husband, Lois felt isolated and resentful that he was sober without her help. Lois eventually discovered that she was not alone. She slowly engaged the wives of the men in Bill's program and came to realize that while Bill was addicted to alcohol, she was addicted to him - and that the family and friends of alcoholics are, in some ways, as sick as their loved ones. Lois gained the necessary understanding needed to repair her fractured relationship and to help millions of others do the same. She co-founded Al-Anon in 1951.

Movie Review:


See or Skip:




  1. I am anxious to see the movie. I believe there needs to be more information and help available to the families of the alcoholic. I am a licensed professional counselor and I also have personal experience living with an alcoholic father and marrying an alcoholic. It can make life feel overwhelming and often it is difficult to know what is truth, leaving you to not trust your own judgment. I have written a book; Streams In The Wasteland (How to get your life back if you’re living with an alcoholic) This book reaches deep into the heart of those affected by whose live have affected by another’s addiction and untangle the facts from lies. It is freeing when people who have lived years of not trusting their own instincts learn that the truth and strength they need is within them. Please visit to view the book.
    Streams In The Wasteland is a revolutionary book that:
    · Clearly explains, through cartoon characters, the relationship between the codependent and the alcoholic.
    · Readers will be able to identify if they are entangled in other forms of dysfunction.
    · Helps untangle the constant confusion that is in the life of a codependent.
    · Helps the codependent begin to trust his or her own judgment and believe in their own worth.
    · Helps the codependent see the struggle that goes on in their head when they try to break free from the alcoholic.
    · Helps explain the mind-set of the alcoholic.
    · Explains why a person who escaped one alcoholic relationship all too often finds they are again with an alcoholic.
    · Explains the codependent’s need to ‘fix’ the alcoholic.
    · Explains how the need to ‘fix’, keeps the codependent from focusing on their own health and their own life.
    · Explains how alcoholism has consumed and affected their lives.
    · Helps the codependent become aware that they have the ability to change their lives, no matter what the alcoholic does.
    · Compares to no book on the market.
    · This book was written to help the people who don’t know where to begin – begin. To trust in themselves, to make healthy decisions, to set healthy boundaries, to get their life back.

    This book is revolutionary in that it uses cartoon characters and scenarios to play out what goes on in an alcoholic relationship. Through this simple format, it is easy for anyone to begin the journey to self-help.

    Codependents feelings of alone, sadness, anger, etc. are also ‘hooks’ since the codependent can relate these same feelings to those they see the alcoholic having – the codependent wants to fix or take care of Alcoholic – protect him/her from their feelings. The cycle is blame, threaten, feel sorry for then protect the alcohol. What the CD needs to do is identify his/her feelings and then take step 2 which is forgive and take responsibility for them selves.

    LaVonne Los, MS LPC

  2. Anonymous says:
    Thank you, Hallmark Hall of Fame, for telling our side of the story.

  3. Cyril said...
    I watched the movie with the men and women in a twenty-eight day treatment program. The men watched the movie with an open mind and cheered Lois at the end of the movie. I attended my first Al-Anon meeting last year and it was a strange and wonderful experience. I am a recovering alcoholic with fourteen years and my wife is an active alcoholic. I was trying to use AA to help me deal with the feelings of anger towards my wife. I needed to attend Al-Anon to meet with other spouses of active alcoholics. I am also currently in college to become a chemical dependency counselor. I did a paper on Lois Wilson last year. So, watching this movie was very touching for my soul.


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