When Love Is Not Enough: The Lois Wilson Story


In 1914, Lois Burnham, a college-educated woman from an affluent family, met and fell in love with Bill Wilson, a young man of modest means. They married in 1918, and after his return from World War I, the two set out to build a life together. While Lois worked as a nurse, Bill struggled to find his niche. Lois believed that Bill was destined for greatness, and despite his increasing reliance on alcohol, 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 working on Wall Street and the couple was living a luxurious lifestyle. But despite Lois’s valiant efforts to control his drinking, Bill’s alcoholism spiraled out of control. Soon his job, their lifestyle and their dreams were all gone.

In 1935, after years of struggling to cover for Bill and trying desperately to manage his disease by herself, Lois finally saw him get and stay sober – not through her help, but from the support of a fellow alcoholic, Dr. Bob Smith.

As Bill and Bob attained lasting sobriety and co-founded Alcoholics Anonymous, Lois began to feel neglected. Bill got and stayed sober without her help, and she felt isolated and resentful. Lois soon discovered she was not alone in her isolation and anger, and that there was a vast number of people whose lives and relationships had been devastated because a loved one was an alcoholic or drug addict. To help herself, and others like her, she co-founded Al-Anon/Alateen in 1951.

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  • Winona Ryder as Lois Wilson
  • Barry Pepper as Bill Wilson
  • John Bourgeois as Dr. Clark Burnham
  • Frank Moore as Dr. Bob Smith
  • Rosemary Dunsmore as Matilda Burnham
  • Ellen Dubin as Dora
  • Adam Greydon Reid as Ebby Thacher
  • Rick Roberts as Frank Shaw


When Love Is Not Enough: The Lois Wilson Story is the 240th presentation by Hallmark Hall of Fame, the long-running anthology program of American television films. It was based on a novel The Lois Wilson Story: When Love Is Not Enough by William Borchert, which was published September 17, 2005. The film was set primarily in the United States but filmed in Canada.


The film was given mixed reviews by critics. It was released on DVD in Hallmark stores in the United States.

In its original American broadcast on April 25, 2010, When Love is Not Enough was seen by 7.29 million viewers, according to MediaWeek. It was out performed during the same time slot by both Brothers & Sisters and Celebrity Apprentice.

Linda Stasi in the New York Post wrote; “Everyone does a wonderful job in this movie — but, in the end, it seems more like a rehash of writer Wiliam G. Borchert’s 1989 ‘Hall of Fame’ movie, My Name Is Bill W. than a real portrait of the woman whose idea helped millions of suffering families.”

Mathew Gilbert in The Boston Globe wrote; “This new CBS Hallmark movie does its job effectively enough, bringing us through the ups and downs of Bill and Lois Wilson’s marriage as they wrestle with his addiction.”

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Awards and nominations

The film has been nominated for several awards;

Screen Actors Guild Awards

  • Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Miniseries or Television Movie – Winona Ryder

Satellite Awards

  • Satellite Award for Best Actor – Miniseries or Television Film – Barry Pepper (nomination)
  • Satellite Award for Best Actress – Miniseries or Television Film – Winona Ryder (nomination)
  • Satellite Award for Best Television Film – (nomination)

Emmy Awards

  • Emmy Award for Music Composition for a Miniseries, Movie, or Special – Lawrence Shragge (nomination)