When Love is Not Enough: The Lois Wilson Story (2010)

Spanning more than 30 years, this Hallmark movie is based on the true story of the enduring but troubled love between Lois Wilson (Winona Ryder), co-founder of Al-Anon, and her alcoholic husband Bill Wilson (Barry 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 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 Dr. 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."

Photos: Erik Heinila/Hallmark Hall of Fame


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