AMA with Laurie Dhue: Addiction, Recovery, and Renewal
Laurie Dhue is an American journalist who, at the height of her career, was nothing less than a bona fide cable-news star. She worked at MSNBC, The Fox News Channel, and CNN, making her the only female journalist to have anchored three major networks. Laurie grew up in Atlanta, GA, and is well-known for her public admittance to a long battle with alcoholism. Today, Laurie works to break the stigma attached to the disease and embraces her role as a champion of recovery.
In this episode of TechCONNECT, we are getting raw and real with Laurie Dhue. Here are a few highlights from our conversation.
Talk about your background and lengthy tv news career.
I was an anchor on CNN, MSNBC, and Fox News Channel. I also anchored for a couple of years for Glenn Beck at TheBlaze. I have served several different masters and worked for some very different bosses at extremely different networks. People always ask, What was your favorite place? or Who was your favorite boss? and honestly, they all had their positives and negatives. I got a lot of really interesting opportunities at all of those networks, so I’m really fortunate to have had the kind of tv career that I did.
You were in television when television was everything. Now, it’s so fragmented with so many places to consume content. You were part of it before that transition—what was that like?
It was an extraordinary transition. When I got into the news when I graduated from college in 1990, it was really all about the studio. There was no other way to get content. Everything had to be done in a studio or the field in a very traditional way. That’s all gone now. The way we create news, the way we digest news, the way we receive news—everything is so incredibly different now.
Part of me longs for the old days when things were much more central, and it was just about the facts as opposed to a lot of extraneous noise that we hear now in reporting. But there is something kind of great about being able to wake up, turn this thing on, scroll through Twitter, and get everything in about five minutes.
Tell us about your time with Turner Broadcasting.
I was on the cable side for about three years and really enjoyed it, but then Ted Turner bought MGM. We bought the movie production company, and it came with 5,000 motion pictures like Gone With the Wind, The Wizard of Oz, Citizen Kane, Casablanca, you name it. I decided I wanted to be in the entertainment business instead of cable, so they put me in charge of the distribution of those moves around the world; at that time in VHS and later in DVD. I rose through the ranks and became the Executive Vice President of the company.
Did you always know that you were a communicator?
Yes. If you ask my parents, they will tell you that by age two, I was staring at myself in the mirror, talking to myself very animatedly. From an early age, it was apparent I was going to be a performer of some kind on tv, in the movies, or doing plays. I did all that stuff and ended up focusing more on news. When I was 19, I had my first internship with CNN. After that internship, it was cemented for me that this is exactly what I wanted to do.
What have been some of your low points? And then let’s talk about the redemption.
There’s a lot of stress in the industry, as you know. Alcoholism and journalism have always gone hand and hand. If you go way back, even to WW1 and WW2, and look at Hemingway and some of these other writers, they drank heavily while they were in war zones to stay sane.
I think TV news has always been an industry where the motto is ‘Work hard, play hard.’ We work hard, we drink a lot, and we might use drugs on the side—that’s just how it is. We have to cope with the stress somehow. I got caught in that world.
While my career was going up, my reliance on alcohol and drugs (which started as something recreational) became something much more serious than that. I know for sure that the stress I was under at these networks contributed to my alcoholism and drug addiction. The stress of TV news exacerbated my problems.
One of the reasons why we’re here today is to shine a light on addiction. So, please, take the stage.
Addiction is, I would argue, the biggest healthcare issue in this country right now. It costs the American people $600 billion a year from lost wages, lost productivity, hospitalization, institutionalization, incarceration, not to mention the health problems that are associated with addiction. We’re dealing with something that affects every single American family. I don’t know any family that isn’t affected by addiction in some way.
How do we fix it? What can we actually do?
Our secrets keep us sick. I kept a secret for a long time that literally made me sick. Once I unearthed it and did the hard work to bring it out, I realized that only then could I recover. I think the one thing is making sure that people are aware of just how big of a crisis we are in … We also have to work on changing people’s attitudes and not stigmatizing people who have addiction issues ... I also think it is important to educate yourself and educate your children about this disease.
Fifty million Americans struggle with addiction every day. If you are one of them, know that there is hope. To hear more from Laurie, learn more about addiction, and get some support, connect with her on social media and listen to the full interview below.
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