CBS and Hallmark Present: The Life of Al-Anon Co-Founder Lois Wilson

06/21/2010 05:12 am ET | Updated Nov 17, 2011
  • Carole Bennett, MA Substance abuse counselor; activist; author, 'Reclaim Your Life: You and the Alcoholic/Addict'

Last week I had the privilege of being invited to the screening of When Love is Not Enough: The Lois Wilson Story. My invitation came from the Al-Anon World Service Organization and I was honored and grateful that as a family alcohol and drug counselor they included me.

For those of you who don't know who Lois Wilson is, she was the co-founder of the Al-Anon Family Groups. For those of you who don't know what Al-Anon is, it is an organization consisting of family members and friends of the alcoholic (addict) who gather to share their experience, strength and hope as they understand and learn how to live with the disease of their loved ones substance abuse. And, Lois was married to Bill Wilson, the co-founder of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) which began in 1935.

This month represents the 24th Annual National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence, Inc. (NCADD) Alcohol Awareness Month, and the CBS/ Hallmark presentation (Sunday, April 25, 9/8c) of When Love is Not Enough: The Lois Wilson Story is the highpoint and highlight of their nationwide endeavor.

The NCADD quotes these statistics of alcoholism (and drug addiction) impacting families and children:

18 percent of adults (one in five) have alcoholism in family
38 percent of adults have one relative with alcoholism
22.2 million adults over the age of 12 are addicted to alcohol and other drugs
76 million (four out of 10) are affected by alcoholism
10 million are married to someone with alcoholism
27 million are children of Alcoholics with 11 million under the age of 18
13-25 percent of children of Alcoholics develop alcoholism

Winona Ryder and Barry Pepper portray Lois and Bill Wilson. The movie traces the deep and passionate love affair between the well-to-do Lois and her grass roots husband Bill. Early success on Wall Street for Bill quickly turns into disaster as his addiction to alcohol consumes him to the point of destruction with his work, friends and family.

The movie is seamlessly written by William G. Borchert (who wrote the majestic and inspirational "My Name is Bill W." starring James Woods, James Garner and JoBeth absolute must see!) and Camille Thomasson, and beautifully directed by John Kent Harrison.

Founded in 1951 (years after her husband committed to sobriety in 1934), Lois graciously stumbles into gathering the first Al-Anon family group. While Bill is conducting an AA meeting inside their home, Lois ventures out to the many parked cars. Wives behind the wheel waiting for their husbands, Lois invites them in to sit around a warm, comforting and safe kitchen table to share their frustration, anger and fear about coping and understanding their husband's new found sobriety. That night, Al-Anon was born, and the program has stayed true to her vision and traditions to this day.

This movie represents more than just an interesting and respectful look at a pioneer.

Al-Anon Family Groups have been a life line for years for millions of families and friends who struggle with a loved one's use of alcohol. Not unlike Alcoholics Anonymous, the very core of what Al-Anon represents, its mission and commitment hasn't changed one iota since its inception. There are not many things we can look at that has stayed the same since its birth. Why fix it if it isn't broken? Al-Anon has never tried to better itself or improve with age, since its purpose has been the same from day one and will continue on that path forever. As long as there are loved ones in our lives with alcohol problems, Al-Anon will and should be a part of our lives; I know that it has been a fundamental part of my life for over two decades. All thanks to a special, honest and courageous lady - Lois Wilson.

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