ST.LOUIS (KTVI) - Monday former and perhaps future, cable television news anchor and host Laurie Dhue got a tour of Harris House, an addictions recovery facility that actually occupies more than one house on South Broadway in St. Louis.
Dhue is here to promote an advocacy program Harris House is initiating.
Dhue said, "I struggled with alcohol and drug addiction for the better part of 17 or 18 years. And it's interesting, as my TV career was going up and up, my addiction was also going up. And so people look at me and say, 'You're an addict? You had your own show on the number-1 cable network in the country.'"
In fact, Dhue worked for all three cable networks - CNN, MSNBC and Fox News. She is now very public about her addiction and recovery.
"I would go on TV in front of a million or two people at a time and do perfectly well," she said.
"It was the off-camera that I struggled with. And I had trouble just..." she paused. "Living my life."
Harris House CEO Tom Wickenhauser, MSW, LCSW, said the facility serves 600 clients a year and is growing. The facility occupies eight buildings in south city, and one in west St. Louis County. Wickenhauser said their 28-day intensive in-patient program grows about 25% each year.
"Advocacy is all about letting people know others in addiction have issues," said Wickenhauser.
"It's an entire group that needs to be heard. Advocacy is all about letting people know what addiction is and de-stigmatizing who and what we are. Advocacy is a way for us to change perceptions about addiction."
"Advocacy makes a big difference when we talk about employment and insurance eligibility. It's something we think is important and makes a positive difference for our clients."
Wickenhauser acknowledges the notion of advocacy may be new for a twelve-step recovery program with a tradition of anonymity.
He said, "We've seen how advocacy makes a difference for other types of disadvantaged clients, or stigmatized clients like the GBLT population and cancer population. People who get out and express who they are and what they are... they make a difference. For people who embrace anonymity, that's great. But people who want to step out and be known, that's fine too."
And Dhue is not a bit shy about owning her experience, and broadcasting it to the world.
"I really believe if I had not given up drugs and alcohol nine years ago I'd be dead," she said.
"Instead, I'm alive, I'm in St. Louis, and I'm trying to help other people."