An Interview with Writer William Borchert
A story of Lois W.’s life and the roots of ALANON, When Love Is Not Enough is scheduled to air as a Hallmark Hall of Fame Presentation on the CBS Network on Sunday, April 25 at 9 p.m. EST.
More than three years in the making, the movie is based on the book, The Lois Wilson Story: When Love Is Not Enough, written by William G. Borchert, who was a close personal friend of Lois Wilson for more than 15 years before her passing in 1988. Mr. Borchert was nominated for an Emmy for writing the highly acclaimed Hallmark film, My Name Is Bill W., starring James Woods and James Garner, which was based on the lives of Bill Wilson and Dr. Robert Smith and focused on the founding of Alcoholics Anonymous.
When Love Is Not Enough will star Wynona Ryder as Lois Wilson and Barry Pepper as her husband, Bill Wilson, the co-founder of Alcoholics Anonymous.
I recently spoke with William Borchert — or Bill, as he goes by — about his film.
Tian: You wrote the film My Name is Bill W., which helped a lot of people to gain a better understanding about 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 drunkard’s death long before he started AA with Dr. Bob Smith.
My wife, Bernadette, and I had the privilege of being very close and personal friends of Lois for more than 15 years before she passed away. I came to know her very well and respected all she had done to help families of alcoholics by co-founding Al-Anon Family Groups. She grew to have great trust and confidence in me. This is why she gave me her permission and blessing to write the movie based on her and her husband and the founding of AA called My Name Is Bill W. But there was no time in that movie to tell the story of Al-Anon’s founding, which I also wanted to do.
Lois and I spent much time together with a tape recorder, which then gave me the intimate knowledge I needed to write her story both as a book, The Lois Wilson Story: When Love Is Not Enough and then co-write the screenplay for the Hallmark Hall of Fame movie, When Love Is Not Enough with Camille Thomasson.
Tian: Would Lois approve of this film?
Bill: Lois was actually quite shy and demure and a genuine lady who didn’t enjoy flattery, fawning or the kind of adulation she received by so many. However, she was also the greatest advocate for carrying the message of recovery to both alcoholics and, particularly, their families — their spouses and their children. So, yes, I believe she would have enjoyed this movie because it carries her great message of hope and recovery, even though she might feel a bit uncomfortable about being in the limelight.
Lois would have enjoyed this film for one other important reason. When writing about AA or Al-Anon, Lois always made me promise to “tell the truth of the story.” I believe I did in both Bill W. and now in When Love Is Not Enough.
Tian: In a nutshell, what would you say Lois’s message is?
Bill: It was simply that alcoholics and their families suffer from a spiritual malady, and there is hope and recovery in Al-Anon by working the Twelve-Step program. And there is one other message — a dream that Lois and Bill always shared — that one day the whole world would live by the Twelve Steps and there would be true peace upon the Earth.
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 affects at least five other people in their lives — wives, husbands, children, relatives, friends. That means more than 200 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.
The gifts that Lois and Bill Wilson have left us continue to save millions of lives and restore families all over the world. As Aldus Huxley once said: “When the history of the 20th century is finally written, America will best be known for giving the world the Twelve-Step programs of Alcoholics Anonymous and Al-Anon.”