This was a wonderful interview, and Katie mentions Rebound Brooklyn!
This was a wonderful interview, and Katie mentions Rebound Brooklyn!
Veteran news anchor, Laurie Due, became one of the most recognizable faces in the business as the only anchor to host shows on all three major cable news networks: CNN, Fox News and MSNBC. But what her fans couldn’t see was a dark secret that could cost her everything, she was an alcoholic. For 15 years, Laurie hid her struggle with alcohol from friends, family and colleagues. Now, Laurie Due is coming clean and sharing how she took her life back into her own hands.
I’ve long been a fan of Katie Couric. As a recent college graduate working in news, I watched her swift rise from Pentagon reporter to morning news star with great admiration. We had a couple of things in common: we both went to big Southern universities (Katie, UVA; me, UNC) and had both gotten our starts at CNN. Katie went on to become KATIE, star of NBC, CBS and now ABC. I ended up anchoring on CNN, MSNBC (where I was a substitute anchor at the “Weekend Today Show” occasionally) and Fox News. We’d met a few times throughout the years (I ran into her on the Upper East Side one Halloween-she was rushing out to buy one of her daughters ruby slippers) but I’d never gotten the chance to sit down with her.
So when my publicist Annie emailed with the news that the Katie producers wanted to include me in part of a show on women and drinking, I was really excited. Not only because I’d get the chance to be interviewed by one of the best in the business, but also because it meant an opportunity to share my story of alcoholism and long-term recovery. I have spent the last two-and-a-half years traveling around the country trying to chip away at the stigma of this incurable but treatable disease that affects tens of millions of people.
I was a little nervous upon arrival at the famous ABC Studios on W. 66th but once I got settled, I relaxed and took it all in. Rock star producers Marianne and Ilana did a great job preparing me and making me feel comfortable. The makeup and hair team worked an absolute miracle. It should be noted that my dressing room was GIANT, larger than my living room. No joke. That kind of thing is a big deal in NYC!
I walked out on the beautiful set and took a seat next to Katie (yes, my heart was pounding), who warmly welcomed me. Once the segment started, she treated the sensitive subject matter with a great deal of respect. I’m so grateful she’s interested in this important health issue and is helping to spread the word about women and drinking. During the interview, we talked about how I managed to keep my double life a secret while holding down demanding anchor jobs, how unmanageable and painful my situation had become, why I decided to quit and what my ongoing journey through recovery has been like. We also discussed the difficulties women have in early recovery, which is such a vulnerable time. Katie asked about the things that keep me sober and I told her that my two precious nephews, Robert (age 6) and Thomas (age 3), are a huge inspiration.
Katie also introduced my boyfriend Joe Schrank, who’s been in recovery for more than 16 years. Joe is a well-known interventionist with a Masters in Social Work. He is the Co-Founder of Rebound Brooklyn, an intensive outpatient program in NYC.
Katie also introduced a very special young man sitting next to Joe. Last fall, Joe and I heard about a teenage boy in Kenya who, with the help of a charity called Harambee USA, had gotten a full scholarship to a Catholic boys’ school in Manhattan and needed a family to host him for four years. Joe asked if I’d be “up for it” and, after my initial concerns, agreed that we should go meet him in Nairobi. We both took to him immediately and couldn’t wait to get him to NYC. It took some time and a great deal of effort, but in early January, he arrived at JFK and began his new life. Andrew is thriving: he has a close circle of friends, he got all A’s and B’s his first semester, he excelled in track and just finished a summer soccer camp at UCLA. He’s into skinny jeans, sneakers, video games and his iPhone.
Andrew is such a joy, such a gift. He is only in our lives because we are sober. One of my messages during the interview with Katie is that people in recovery are much more likely to make good decisions, decisions that can have a positive ripple effect in the community at large. Our lives have meaning and purpose. We are less selfish. We want to be of help, we want to be of service. Joe and I see this tremendous opportunity to provide Andrew with a stable home as a win-win for everyone. We feel very fortunate to have this chance to help another human being.
The bottom line is, every single thing I have in my life today is because I gave up alcohol and got into recovery. My life is an adventure… happy, healthy, full of laughter. I’ve found a loving partnership with Joe and we’ve created quite an interesting, fun life together. I’m back in news full-time as an anchor on TheBlaze TV and host of “Over the Hump” on Veria Living.
By Joe Schrank
The night that Whitney Houston died, I received a frantic request from a stretched thin TV production intern asking if I could come on the air to comment. As an addiction specialist, I was eager throw my two cents into the pundit ring, so I put on a jacket and headed out the door. Not so fast, Joe! When I arrived on set, I was sternly warned by the producer not to suggest that she had died from drug use as, there was no coroner’s report at that point—and thus only speculation regarding the circumstances of her death.
“Why call me,” I thought, “if we weren’t going to be talking about the end game of addiction?” The point I would have made would have made reference to cancer. In my view, Houston had been in “stage IV” addiction for a long time and her death, while jarring, was not a surprise. But the producer was adamant that I not go there—and I was adamant that it was the only thing I had to say—and they never put me on the air. That Whitney Houston died of addictive disease was no less tragic than if she had died of any other disease, but the media insisted on dancing around the issue (at least in those early days), not wanting to speak ill of the dead. In my world, calling someone an addict is no more an insult than calling someone a diabetic. But in the broader culture, shame and judgment still hover over addiction. Have you ever read an obituary that stated the cause of death as acute alcoholism? Neither have I.
When the news hit that James Gandolfini had died last week, I was once again jarred but not surprised. There have been stage-whispered rumors about his abuse of alcohol and other drugs for years. And then there was The Gaslight, a meatpacking haunt where Gandolfini was known to hold court, often noticeably impaired and rumored to be doing coke in the bar’s downstairs VIP lounge.
The official autopsy report is that Gandolfini died of a heart attack. And the world mourns the loss of a beloved character, Tony Soprano. But little seems to be known about the inner demons that plagued the man who breathed life into the American icon. Addiction is often described as “four garbage cans and three lids.” Simply by looking at Gandolfini, we can see that he struggled with food, something that pesters many of us in recovery. And should the rumors regarding Gandolfini’s use of alcohol and other drugs be true, we can surmise that he had a very serious addiction problem, the Holy Trinity of the death by “heart attack”: cocaine for the razor focus when acting or staying out late partying, alcohol to relax and sleep, and food for a host of emotions beyond just meals. So why is it that we’re calling this a “heart attack?” It’s akin to saying it wasn’t the fall that killed him, but the sudden stop when he hit the ground.
If we continue to be dishonest about addiction in our culture, things are never going to really change. There was a time not long ago when families cited “cancer” for a death by AIDS. But that changed, the community and families demanded more, and the crisis got a whole lot better. It could be the same with addiction. “Beloved actor dies of heart failure after long battle with addictive disease.” Does it make his cultural contribution any less if he were an addict? Would you have enjoyed the Sopranos any less? Is this less of a painful legacy for his young son?
Five psych experts offer their diagnoses and treatment plans. Though Don would surely have none of it.
Traditional therapy alone does not give us all of the tools required to help us succeed and thrive in our modern world. We have so much information, so many options for transforming ourselves, and so much intelligence yet it seems harder than ever to create a life of center, connection and meaning. First we must understand who and where we are in our lives and maybe something about how we got where we are today. That is what therapy usually focuses on. Next we need to decide where we want to go, what would make things better for us, what would have us thriving. Then, we need lots of practice and support for doing our lives differently, learning new perspectives, practices and tools that help us. Approximately 10% of this journey is about insight. Continuing on is about unwinding habits and beliefs that we may not know we have that keep us from being whole and happy with who we are. Equine therapy uses the very nature of the horse to help us identify and work through deeply held patterns on an energetic level.
Animals have much to teach us about authenticity, communication and leadership.Horses are particularly suited to helping us. As animals preyed upon in the wild, horses are sensitive and responsive to subtle shifts in their surroundings. As social creatures, they seek out connection and partnerships with other beings. Interactions with horses provide a non-judgmental mirror that reflects our blind spots so that we become conscious of behavior that once protected us but no longer serve us. This knowledge gives us the opportunity to rework these survival patterns , creating new and more effective and authentic ways of being. This experience often reveals hidden strengths and inner resources and lays down new neural pathways to powerful change. If we allow them, these magnificent creatures touch forgotten places in our hearts and reawaken our connection to a larger life force.
— Elizabeth S. Fagan, LCSW