The Lois Wilson Story: When Love Is Not Enough

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This movie features Barry Pepper as Bill Wilson, the founder of Alcoholics Anonymous, and Winona Ryder as Lois Wilson, who subsequently created Al-Anon. It was written by William G. Borchett who was close friends with Lois. The novel and film “describe in compelling detail Lois’s comfortable beginnings, her attraction to a clever and persistent young man, her years of despair as drinking claimed an ever-increasing part of Bill, her joy when he sobered up, and her frustration as AA came to dominate Bill’s life” (source [PDF]).

Published in 2010

Viewing Time: 1 hour, 36 minutes


“Before I wrote this film, Lois generously allowed me to tape many of her remembrances of years past and her struggles before, during, and after Bill’s drinking years. I used some of these poignant and intimate recollections to create a true-to-life movie that garnered a number of awards including a Best Actor award for James Woods.” (source [PDF])

“Charmed by Bill’s vibrant personality and promise in their early life together, Lois Wilson spent years making excuses for him and covering up his behavior when he was drinking. She never stopped loving him and believing in him even as his disease progressed, but she felt shame, anger, humiliation, anxiety, and fear as his actions became increasingly unreliable and boorish. She shared Bill’s elation along with his sense of discovery and mission when he sobered up, only to find herself irritated with Bill over his subsequent preoccupation with Alcoholics Anonymous and lack of attention to her.” (source)

Screenshot from When Love is Not Enough: The Lois Wilson Story; Alcoholics Anonymous, Alcohol, Recovery

“I struggled with both guilt and anger, a swing of emotion that kept Bill the center of my life. I left him with the belief that it would make him stop … when he’s sober, I’ll come home.”


“The climactic moment of this roller-coaster ride came one evening in 1937 when Lois Wilson threw a shoe at Bill for abruptly putting her off in order to hurry away to a meeting with other recovering alcoholics. With her action came an epiphany—the realization that she, too, needed to change. Her next inspiration was to seek out and talk to the wives of other alcoholics. Their honest and intimate sharing of experiences led to the discovery that she was not alone in her plight.

Al-Anon was born from that common understanding, from the realization that continuing to share their “experience, strength, and hope” could help family members and others affected by an alcoholic to recover, just as sharing common experiences can help alcoholics recover in A.A. For over fifty years now, Al-Anon has provided hope and help to millions of those close to alcoholics.” (source [PDF])

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