UPDATE 9/12/13: Laurie Dhue premieres as news anchor for TheBlaze TV.
Laurie Dhue says she is on her second chapter. She is the first woman to anchor the news on all three cable networks: CNN, MSNBC, and Fox News. But during all that time in front of the camera, reporting on all of the big stories of the day, she was leading a double life.
“No one would have ever known it. I really was living this secret life that so many of us often refer to. I just want to point out that I will always be an alcoholic…” Laurie Dhue
Laurie had an addiction to alcohol, and when she came clean in 2011, she found herself the new face for recovery. The first time I met Laurie was under very scary circumstances. I was covering the story of the Jet Blue pilot incident in 2012. Laurie was a passenger on that flight. So I was honored to have her as a guest on The Women’s Eye Radio Show recently to talk about her own personal recovery…
EYE: You’re not usually part of the story are you?
LAURIE: No, I’m usually reporting the news, but this time I was part of the news. It was just a bizarre incident, and the pilot was actually released from the treatment that he had been undergoing for several months. I’m glad that he didn’t go to jail, that he is not being punished and that he received treatment. Those of us with substance abuse and mental health issues know that sometimes these things are literally out of your control.
EYE: You were dealing with this disease for several years, but no one had any idea while watching you on television.
LAURIE: No one would have ever known it. I really was living this secret life that so many of us often refer to. I just want to point out that I will always be an alcoholic and I will always be an addict; that is not something that goes away.
I’m really glad that you pointed out that addiction is a disease. It was characterized as such by the American Medical Association 60 years ago. So it is very much a disease, the same way that diabetes and breast cancer are diseases and should be treated accordingly. Unfortunately, there is still so much stigma and shame attached to it that a lot of people are afraid to speak out.
So one of my goals in going public almost two years ago was to put a face on the disease and show people that you may look a certain way, and you may have your own show on a cable news network. You may be a mom or be the head of a large corporation. From the outside you may look like you have it all, but on the inside, you don’t have anything because you’re addicted.
“It went from being something fun that I did every once in a while to something I did every weekend. Then it started creeping into my weekday, and pretty soon, I’m a full blown addict.”
EYE: What was going on with you that triggered your addiction?
LAURIE: I didn’t wake up an alcoholic one day. It was something that had been building. It’s a very progressive disease, so it starts out as something small. I used to say, “Oh, it’s just a little drinking problem.”
But as we know, little problems turn into big problems unless we deal with them. People can say, “Oh my gosh, I drank a lot in college, that must make me an alcoholic.” That’s not necessarily the case. For me, it just went on year after year, booze and sometimes drugs. I will say that cocaine is also part of my story. But it went from being something fun that I did every once in a while to something I did every weekend. Then it started creeping into my weekday, and pretty soon, I’m a full blown addict.
By the time I hit my peak at age at 37-38, it was to the point where I knew I was going to die unless I did something. I knew for a long time that I was a quote “functioning alcoholic,” which a lot of people say. I still had my own show on Fox News Channel.
I had a beautiful apartment and lots of friends and a nice salary. But it didn’t matter because I was drinking to not deal with the way I was feeling. And that’s why a lot of people turn to food, shopping, pills, cocaine or heroin even. They want to escape their feelings, and they don’t want to deal with life on life’s terms.
And that’s something we learn in recovery–that it’s a day at a time, and you have to deal with life on life’s terms.
EYE: Did you decide on your own or was there an intervention?
LAURIE: I was picturing what my intervention would look like, and I knew exactly who was going to be there. I almost wanted someone to intervene. I knew I needed help so badly that I almost wished that someone had put a group of people together and said, “You have to go to rehab,” because I would have gone.
But the last few months, I knew something had to give or else I really was not going to make it to age 40. So I got sober just after I turned 38. Some of it had to do with the man I was dating at the time. He had seen me drunk and seen me high and didn’t like what he saw. And there were a couple of blackout phone calls that I made to this person that I didn’t remember making.
He had to remind me what we talked about the next morning. He said, “You know what? I have to put the brakes on this relationship because you have a big problem and I can’t live with this.” So that was the final moment–that was the push I needed to get sober.
“The truth of the matter is that I got sober! The poison had literally come out of my body, so I probably looked five years younger…”
EYE: Was this happening while you were at Fox News Channel?
LAURIE: I really enjoyed my job at Fox, so the social drinking was all part of it. I kept my big secret a big secret, meaning it’s not like management knew that I had a major problem. So when I got sober, I didn’t tell anybody.
But my last year at Fox News, I was sober. And within a few months of getting sober, people were saying things like “Oh my gosh, you’re just so happy, and you look so good! Have you had work done? Did you dye your hair blonder? What is different about you?”
The truth of the matter is that I got sober! The poison had literally come out of my body, so I probably looked five years younger and I felt five or ten years younger!
EYE: Obviously, you knew consciously what was going on, but were you in denial?
LAURIE: Let me tell you, denial is a big part of this disease. It’s something that I had for close to 20 years. It is something that every addict goes through before they decide–or not–to get sober. But denial is also a disease, I think. It’s where you tell yourself, “Oh, I don’t have a problem.”
There’s a really interesting acronym that people use in recovery to talk about denial, and it’s this: Denial means Don’t Even Notice It’s A Lie — D-E-N-I-A-L. And that was me for many, many years.
EYE: Describe your recovery process.
LAURIE: I was anonymous my first four years of sobriety until someone outed me. And that is why I went public almost two years ago. You know what? It ended up being the best thing that ever happened to me because now I travel around the country spreading the message of hope and help, and that this is a disease that you can control. There is no cure for it, but there is help out there.
For anyone who is reading this today, you are not alone. There are 20 to 30 million Americans who are addicted to something. And the good news is, you don’t have to do this alone, and you shouldn’t do it alone.
“It was a day at a time. but I can tell you that my commitment to staying clean and sober and in recovery is extremely strong.”
EYE: You didn’t go to rehab?
LAURIE: I hired an addiction doctor who helped me. He was a therapist, and I had been given his name by my other therapist who fired me because I wouldn’t admit that I was an alcoholic. So he said, “Look, Ms. Dhue. I can’t help you anymore, but here is the phone number of an addiction doctor who I think can help you.”
So I called the number, started seeing the guy before I got sober, and then woke up one day and said, “This is it. I’ve had my last drink.” I called a friend of mine who I knew was in Alcoholics Anonymous and that person took me to a meeting. And here we are almost six years later.
It was a day at a time, but I can tell you that my commitment to staying clean and sober and in recovery is extremely strong. My recovery is number one in my life; it comes before anything else. That’s the way it has to be.
LAURIE: I think there was initially some shock. “You’re kidding! You had this problem? I had no idea!” But then after that I went on the TODAY Show and talked about it. Meredith Vieira was very kind to me, and we did a long interview.
That was the moment that changed everything for me, and that was the day that my Facebook page exploded with messages from people saying, “I’m so happy you came forward.”
That was the catalyst of change for me. Now I’ve got a duty and an obligation to come out of the closet with this issue and get this thing out in the open just like AIDS activists did, just like breasts cancer activists did 30 years ago when those diseases were taboo.
That’s what I want to do with addiction. I want to put us on the map because it’s the biggest healthcare problem in this country. It costs us nearly half a trillion dollars a year!
“If I could snap my fingers and get a dream job, I’d love to host a radio show like you or maybe there’s some way that I can marry television and recovery.”
EYE: Do you think this is your new calling?
LAURIE: I do. It’s funny…if someone says, “Oh, you really need to get back into TV, you were so good”–which is very kind of them to say, and I do miss it–I say I feel like my calling is in talking about addiction, prevention and recovery.
If I could snap my fingers and get a dream job, I’d love to host a radio show like you or maybe there’s some way that I can marry television and recovery. So I’ve got ideas on how we can move the message forward; it’s just a matter of figuring out how to get it across to people in the most effective way.
EYE: Well, if there’s anyone who can do it, it’s you, Laurie. I thank you for sharing your courageous story.