The story of ALANON's beginnings and the life of Lois Wilson, wife of Bill Wilson the co-founder of AA, is scheduled to be aired as a Hallmark Hall of Fame Presentation on the CBS Network on Sunday, April 25 at 9 P.M. EST. When Love Is Not Enough, starring Wynona Ryder, as Lois Wilson and Barry Pepper, as her husband, Bill W, is based on the book written by William G. Borchert.
Mr. Borchert, was nominated for an Emmy for his previous film on Bill WIlson's life, My Name Is Bill W. starring James Woods and James Garner.I recently spoke with William Borchert, or Bill as he goes by about his film and his relationship with Lois.
<strong>Tian: You wrote the film My Name is Bill W which helped a lot of people to gain a better understanding of the roots of the twelve step movement in America, tell us why it is so important to you to tell Lois's story.
Bill: Without Lois Wilson, there would not be more than 300 recovery groups around the world based on the Twelve Step Program. It was Bill Wilson himself, the co-founder of Alcoholics Anonymous and author of the Twelve Steps, who often said that without Lois, he would have died a drunkards death long before he started AA with Dr. Bob Smith.
<strong>Tian: Why did you want to do a film on Lois W and for that matter your previous film on Bill W?
Bill: According to the American Medical Association and government statistics, there are more than 40 million alcoholics in the United States alone. Facts say that every alcoholic effects at least five other people in their lives-- wives, husbands, children, relatives, friends, etc. That means more than two hundred million people in America are touched by this plague and few know what to do about it. That's why this movie is so important because the story of Lois Wilson offers an answer-- an answer that works.
Also, this movie is truly a great moving and dramatic love story-- the story of a deep, passionate and unquenchable love that overcame pain and humiliation to flourish again in the sunshine of recovery.
Tian: How did Al-Anon actually begin?
Bill: Lois often shared with me the problems that spouses and families have accepting how the disease of alcoholism has really affected their lives too.She said many spouses believe that once the alcoholic in the family stops drinking, everything will be fine. All the anger, confusion, bitterness and frustration will disappear and there will be peace and harmony in the home once again. She said this was just not true. In most cases the effects of alcoholism on the family linger and fester even though the person addicted continues to recover.
This is what Lois discovered once her husband, Bill, sobered up and went on to co-found AA with Dr. Bob Smith from Akron, Ohio. They had discovered that by sharing their drinking experiences and by trying to help other drunks get sober, they were able to stay sober themselves. But as Bill began to recover, which is what his wife had always hoped and prayed for, she wasn't nearly as happy as she thought she would be. In fact, she felt downright miserable. Lois was also angry with and jealous of everyone who had helped her husband...that strangers were doing for him what all her love and devotion over the years couldn't do. She felt lost and alone and unloved.
Then, as she began to meet the wives of the alcoholics who were coming to Bill's AA meetings at their home, she began to see and hear in these women the very same feelings she felt inside-- feelings of anger, frustration and resentment. She began to invite them into her kitchen and listen and share with them as they sat around her kitchen table. They soon became known as "Lois's Kitchen Meetings." She also spoke quite often with Dr. Bob's wife, Annie Smith in Akron who shared with her these very same bewildering feelings.Lois and Annie became very close friends and she often referred to Annie as "my Al-Anon sponsor."
Soon Lois came to realize how much she and these other women had been affected by the disease of alcoholism, a disease they had lived with and suffered from for so many years. She came to recognize that she and these ladies also needed some kind of a program to help them get well too. Annie Smith died suddenly so Lois turned to her good friend, Anne Bingham, who was also married to an alcoholic, to help her put together a program for their recovery.
Tian: Some people have problems, thinking Al-Anon is a religious program. Is it?
Bill: Definitely not. Al-Anon is not affiliated with any religious movement or church or religious denomination. It is a spiritual program based on the belief that alcohlism is a threefold disease-- physical, mental and spiritual-- and that a relationship with a Higher Power or a God of your own understanding can help you recover. This is a basic tenet of Al-Anon's Twelve Step Program of recovery which was adopted from the principles of Alcohlics Anonymous and revised to fit the needs of recovering families. While slow in developing, Lois Wilson and Anne Bingham officially organized the fellowship of The Al-Anon Family Groups in 1951. It is now in more than 130 countries around the world.
Tian: What was Lois like as a person?
Bill: I knew Lois Wilson for more than fifteen years before her passing in 1988. She and my wife Bernadette and I shared a close personal relationship. That is why she gave me her blessing to write the Emmy-Award winning movie, "My Named Is Bill W." about her and her husband and the founding of AA. She shared with me in many hours of taped interviews her entire intimate story of her life with her alcoholic husband and all she suffered personally from the disease of alcoholism. I learned from her much about the effects of alcoholism on families which enabled me to write her story and the forthcoming movie. As a person, Lois was quite shy and demure and took little credit for the great social and spiriitual movement she began. She always gave that credit to God and to others. She would always say, "It only takes one person to start something, but it takes many, many others to make it all happen."
Tian: Did Lois Wilson have a special dream for the world?
Bill:Most definitely yes. Both Lois and her husband Bill always dreamed that someday the whole world would come to live by the Twelve Steps of recovery and there would be true peace on earth. The famous author, Aldus Huxley, was so impressed by their dream and the great social and spiritual movements they started that he once wrote that when the history of the twentieth century is finally written, America will best be known for giving the world the twelve step programs of Alcoholics Anonymous and Al-Anon.