Where alcoholics can drink themselves to death
Marion Hagerman, 54, is a chronic alcoholic who lives at a "wet house," a state-funded residence where he's allowed to drink.
May 6th, 2011
07:38 AM ET

Where alcoholics can drink themselves to death

Learn more about the controversial "wet house" concept for dealing with chronic alcoholics this Saturday and Sunday at 7:30 a.m. ET on "Sanjay Gupta, MD."

St. Paul, Minnesota (CNN) - It's been over seven years since Marion Hagerman has spoken to anyone in his family.  As he huddles behind a parked trailer on a cold early spring day, Hagerman reflects on his life, and recalls what led him to this moment.

"This is my lifestyle," says Hagerman, 54, while sneaking a swig of what he calls "wash," or mouthwash - a cheap way of getting intoxicated. "It ain't much, but this is what I have.  It sucks. "

He says he held a steady job for 20 years, before his addiction to alcohol took over his life.  Today, Hagerman lives at St. Anthony Residence in St. Paul, Minnesota, along with about 60 other late-stage alcoholics.

St. Anthony, which receives funds from the state and is operated by Catholic Charities, is known as a "wet house" because Hagerman and the others are allowed to drink on site, with some caveats - including no mouthwash.

"It's not bad. I got cable TV," Hagerman says.   "You can't drink in your room, but you can drink. You gotta do it outside."

The theory is that it's better to allow these guys to drink in a safe place than to end up on the streets and in the city's emergency rooms, jails, and detox centers.   At St. Anthony, they have access to nurses - and doctors if the situation warrants - plus on-site case managers to aid in their addiction. Ideally, St. Anthony's counselors want the residents to sober up - but they realize that there isn't a strong chance of that happening.

St. Paul isn't the only city that has a "wet house"-style residence - Seattle was one of the first cities to put this concept into practice in 2005, and Memphis is considering building one, too.

Another argument in favor of the concept is that it saves money.   Each St. Anthony's resident costs about $18,000 a year to house and feed, about $1,500 a month.  A study in the Journal of the American Medical Association indicates that if these men were out on the street, it could cost over $4,000 a month in incarceration, shelter and sobering center use, hospital-based medical services, publicly funded alcohol and drug detoxification and treatment, and emergency medical services.

But the idea of allowing alcoholics to drink is antithetic to the basic tenets of addiction counseling.

"We feel that that it's never too late, and that even if the alcoholic doesn't want help, doesn't mean that their drinking should be condoned or in any other way enabled or facilitated," says William Cope Moyers, public advocacy executive director for Hazelden addiction treatment centers in the Minneapolis-St. Paul region.

"I see the wet house model as a model that enables the addict in the alcoholic to continue those destructive patterns."

Moyers, who is the son of well-known journalist Bill Moyers, has chronicled his own struggle in his book, "Broken: My Story of Addiction and Redemption."  His opposition to the wet house concept is commonplace among addiction counselors.

St. Anthony Residence program manager Bill Hockenberger calls the wet house a "harm reduction model," instead of a treatment center.   He says by giving these men a home - men who have all gone through nearly every treatment numerous times - it gets them off the streets.

The added comfort of having a place to call home at night and the dignity that restores in the men in return, he says, leads men to drink less.

"They didn't want to be an alcoholic," he said. "A lot of them just didn't have a choice in the matter ... this provides safe secure housing for those most in need. We are in business to do the humane thing."

Hagerman, like a lot of the other St. Anthony residents, says he'd like to eventually leave and find a job. But he feels like he's stuck.

"No I don’t want to stay there, I'd like to get a goddamn  job and get the hell outta there," he says.  "Jesus Christ,  I turn 55 in September,  I'm getting old.   Who wants to hire a 55-year-old man?"

Like a lot of the residents, Hagerman's addiction to alcohol not only keeps him out of a job - it keeps him away from his family, too.

Just weeks after he learned his brother Jerry died from a heart attack, he learned that another brother, Mike, is in the hospital, dying from colon cancer.

I give him a ride to the hospital, where he visits Mike and sits down with his other brother, Ray, for the first time in seven years.

It's an awkward conversation, as Ray talks about Marion, seated next to him, as if he's not even there.

"It's like we did kind of wash our hands [of] him when our parents died," Ray says.  "We weren't going to take care of him.  I'm glad to see that he's still alive because none of us were sure if he was.  Always looked on the streets to see if I would see him somewhere."

Ray says isn't sure what a "wet house" is, but seems to be OK with the idea.

"I don’t think he's ever gonna stop drinking," Ray says.

"No, no, I'm not going to," Marion responds, as if to remind Ray he's sitting right there.  "My lifestyle keeps me alive."

"Yeah it also keeps you separated from everybody in the last years of their lives," his brother says.

The day after the visit, Mike succumbs to colon cancer.

"It's my life.  That's as far as it goes," Marion says a few days later, as he seeks to numb himself from the pain of his loss.  "I live here. Look at this?  Do you think I’m happy with this situation? No, I can't stand it. But I have nothing else to do."

Watch Sanjay Gupta MD Saturday at 4:30pm and Sunday at 7:30am ET. For the latest from Sanjay Gupta MD click here.

soundoff (2,435 Responses)
  1. Don_J

    No “going Troll” as you put it, but most of the comments are made to try to get someone else to co-sign off on their joke or lack of understanding or they just plain do not care about other peoples problems. There are comments from “recovering” alcoholics who are judging these men, and you’d think that if anyone can understand it would be them. So personally, I do not give a rat’s hairy ass if anyone likes or dislikes my comments… too bad if they don’t get it, but one day they will.

    May 6, 2011 at 11:15 | Report abuse | Reply
  2. Earnit619

    You prove the Bible when you speak.

    "The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are piritually discerned." 1 Corinthians 2:14

    If there is no God, I challenge you (With your open-mindedness) to ask this non-existent God to reveal Himself to you.

    May 6, 2011 at 11:16 | Report abuse | Reply
    • A troll

      Wait, so because you choose to believe something that by DEFINITION can not be proven (because God requires Faith which is belief and obedience without proof), you think that the onus is on me to be open minded and call upon this deity to reveal himself. If nothing happens, then I wasn't open minded enough. If anything happens (a non-zero statistical possibility) then you can claim proof of divinity. Do I have that right?

      Okay, then let's try that. You call upon God to reveal himself to you. If he doesn't show up in a real, measureable, and repeatable way, then you give up your ego maniacal God fantasy. K?

      May 6, 2011 at 11:46 | Report abuse |
    • rescuedog

      The existence or non-existence of a deity cannot be proven either way. Religion, agnosticism, atheism, are all belief systems and none have the benefit of objective, scientific proof. I don't care if you don't believe in a deity, but please don't act like you're somehow more intelliigent than those who do because you have a different belief system.

      May 6, 2011 at 19:14 | Report abuse |
    • Simple

      All you have to do is look in the mirror. You'll either recognize God or not. Stop arguing and go out and get some fresh air. TG (or whoever) IF!

      May 6, 2011 at 14:31 | Report abuse |
    • cc

      religon has NOTHING to do with this topic so dont bring it into it! I am recovered alcoholic, i have a higher power of my own understanding and it has NOTHING to do with religon! In fact i cant stand hate people who preach it period. If it works for you great, a lot of us cant stand it, doesnt mean you cant work a 12 step program because your not into it....the 12 steps are for anyone with an open mind.

      May 6, 2011 at 15:02 | Report abuse |
    • Paul

      Umm, what? You want me to say something to an imaginary concept? And you think this will prove something?
      I like the line in the brilliant movie "The Ruling Class." Peter O'Toole plays a British noble who thinks he is Jesus Christ. Another person asks him how he "discovered" his divinity. O'Toole replies, "Every time I prayed, I found I was talking to myself."

      May 6, 2011 at 15:04 | Report abuse |
    • STLDan

      I have MANY times and found zip! Shall I quote some stuff from the bible for you? Some very enlightening pros? Here is a good one:
      Deuteronomy 21:18-21

      21:18 If a man have a stubborn and rebellious son, which will not obey the voice of his father, or the voice of his mother, and that, when they have chastened him, will not hearken unto them:
      21:19 Then shall his father and his mother lay hold on him, and bring him out unto the elders of his city, and unto the gate of his place;
      21:20 And they shall say unto the elders of his city, This our son is stubborn and rebellious, he will not obey our voice; he is a glutton, and a drunkard.
      21:21 And all the men of his city shall stone him with stones, that he die: so shalt thou put evil away from among you; and all Israel shall hear, and fear.

      So tell me oh follower of god's word, do you kill children that are not obedient? I mean you should right? The bible tells you to!

      May 6, 2011 at 15:05 | Report abuse |
    • Cindy

      thank goodness that is the old testament!!! The New testament tells us that Jesus came and died on the cross to fulfill the law(old testament) and we are now living under a new covenant. That's a good thing for me who for years was addicted to alcohol, drugs heck I was even a daily patient at a methadone clinic for 3 1/2 years and then a funny thing happened, I was healed and set free!!!

      May 6, 2011 at 19:03 | Report abuse |
    • Todd

      agree, open your mind to the things of the unseen rather than whats around us. People can change its just the means if their strong enough to do it, and a key motivation (Christ)..

      May 6, 2011 at 16:27 | Report abuse |
    • Thomas

      I did, nothing happened.

      May 10, 2011 at 12:39 | Report abuse |
  3. Getdrungnow

    It says the cost for a person would be $4000 a month. I only make that much and feed a family of five. I think I should start rdinking and move to Minessota.

    May 6, 2011 at 11:17 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. Will

    Drunk or sober, he's already outlived 2 of his 3 brothers. That must have been a horribly infuriating thought to the two while they lay dying.

    May 6, 2011 at 11:19 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. Earnit619

    The only thing that inspires changes in alcoholic/addicts is consequences. To take away the consequences/pain of thier behavior is to deprive them of chances of recovery.

    May 6, 2011 at 11:20 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. Canadian Miss

    Actually, it says 1800 a month, rather then 4000 in hospital and treatment facility bills..

    May 6, 2011 at 11:20 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. Ralph in Orange Park, FL

    Suicide by another name.

    May 6, 2011 at 11:20 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. Burton

    Please close this place down. It sends the message that it's OK to give up.

    May 6, 2011 at 11:21 | Report abuse | Reply
  9. Big Red

    There are alcoholics out there who get the DT's when alcohol is taken from them, and it is horrible! They can spasm and shake, or like my mom, see spiders crawiling all over them and scream. My mom went through this because she was in the hospital due to cancer, and my other sisters didn't tell the nurses and docs she was an alcoholic. (And of course she wasn't going to admit it.) When I realized what was happening, I grabbed a nurse and explained to her about mom being an alcoholic. They gave mom a drink and stabilized her. If that hadn't been done, she could had a stroke or heart attack. At that point in their lives, they aren't going to quit, and it can be more harmful for them medically to make them go cold turkey. It can actually kill some alcoholics, It is better for them to have a "wet house" or live with a relative who allows them to drink in a safe enviroment. Kudos to you Abby C!

    May 6, 2011 at 11:21 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. Canadian Miss

    If the anti religion posters are sprouting fangs and pouncing on the pro religion posters, they are just gonna get smacked with a great big bible till they stop moving. True fact.

    May 6, 2011 at 11:24 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Blaqb0x

      Fact: I can't speak for the rest of the anit-religion posters but, I've been doing it for years and have yet to be hit with a bible. Keep praying...

      May 6, 2011 at 12:30 | Report abuse |
  11. This is an ad

    Folks – this is called a "trolling ad" and has nothing to do with the article. Happens all the time on un-monitored forums like this.

    May 6, 2011 at 11:25 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. PulTab

    couldn't agree more spaghetti monster. don't let the bible bangers in here get to you. they are the morons.

    May 6, 2011 at 11:25 | Report abuse | Reply
  13. alberto

    i admit when i read this story my eyes filled with tears because eventhough it's someone's own doing, i myself am a child of an alcoholic and while my father was sober 13 years before he died, i remember how bad it was for him and what he did to himself, his anger, his abuse, yet my devotion to him , both my parents, remained until the end of their lives. i feel bad for the people who can't figure out how to help themselves in one way, and angry at them in another way. life is about choices and at least the people have a place to live , but to be at rock bottom like that and have shelter but still live a very darkened life only leaves me 1/2 optimistic, but still overall , saddened by the entire situation.

    May 6, 2011 at 11:28 | Report abuse | Reply
  14. wkh

    I think "enabling" is a word used by those in the addiction industry who still cling to the idea they have any control over what an addict does. It truly does not matter if you hand them the tools themselves they are going to do it or not on their own.

    May 6, 2011 at 11:30 | Report abuse | Reply
  15. tintala

    Legalize cannabis and HEMP....It's america's fault that we have binge drinkers and alcoholics, who pushes everyone to drink in America, the lobbyist of the big corps lining the pockets of congress and the prez the keep cannabis illegal but to push alcohol and make it the very social fabric of America...

    Alcohol kills
    cannabis saves.

    May 6, 2011 at 11:31 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Another Deluded POT HEAD

      Wow. How about neither? There are many of us who go through terrible tragedies and problems in life and have better coping mechanisms. Yes, not everyone does. But can they? YES. With the proper tools and help they can change. I have seen it. This is just enabling people.

      May 9, 2011 at 14:44 | Report abuse |
  16. Winston B

    Would the state and Catholic join in supporting a St. Anthony abortion clinic? What’s the difference between aiding in the termination of an unborn life and aiding in the termination of an adult’s life? Okay, you could argue that the difference is that the unborn don’t have a choice. The man is dying slowly and he wants to. Isn’t this tantamount to the state and the Catholic Church supporting euthanasia –albeit slowly. Or this assisted suicide? Aren’t there incredible contradictions here?

    Lastly, has anyone ever heard of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA)? Founded in 1935 by Bill Wilson and Dr. Bob Smith (Bill W. and Dr. Bob) in Akron, Ohio, AA has even been recommended by The American Psychiatric Association (of course in conjunction with interventions by their members.) A motto in this program is find God (or Higher Power if you prefer) or DIE. IF ST. ANTHONY’S CAN’T HELP MR. HAGERMAN FIND GOD OTHER THAN IN A BOTTLE THEN THEY OUGHT TO RETHINK THEIR BASIC TENETS AND OF COURSE NAMING! Please pardon my shouting.

    May 6, 2011 at 11:34 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Joe

      Who gives a crap about your god..if you take away abortion you take away a women right to choose..America is about choice so screw off.

      May 7, 2011 at 13:07 | Report abuse |

      And who gives the baby a choice? My mother almost aborted me but did not and now I work in a shelter helping others. What are you doing with your life?

      May 9, 2011 at 14:46 | Report abuse |
  17. finfan

    we should give alcoholics their own island, away from everyone. Let them do whatever they want. They destroy everyone's life and giving them their own land to destroy each other works for everyone

    May 6, 2011 at 11:36 | Report abuse | Reply
  18. The Truth

    Good thing I do not live in MN, I don't want my tax dollars spent helping addicts continue to abuse. I will have to check if my state funds any of this. Allowing alcoholics to drink is no different than allowing drug addicts to do drugs or child molesters to continue to molest children. This is not a way to wean people of their addiction, its a safe haven for them to continue. When someone's addiction interferes with their lives and lives of others they no longer contribute value to society. I will help fund efforts for their recovery, but THEY must make the effort to stop. If they do not want to stop they are not worth the effort in helping. They proven they can not stop on their own and now they can drink guilt, judgement and pressure free to their hearts content with medical personnel standing by to help them, ya that will help them stop.

    May 6, 2011 at 11:40 | Report abuse | Reply
  19. Bill

    I use to look at things a whole lot different as a drinker and a pot smoker. At age 50 I decided to move to Colorado to be closer to my Daughter and my grandsons and decided to live my next 50 years sober. I went cold turkey and it wasn't that bad concidering i drank a 5th of Bourbon daily. Making money and drinking was my only concern. Well I went 3 years without a check-up and I felt great. My Daughter talked me into going in to get one, I didn't want to spend the cash but I did. I got a call later that evening about mu blood level and they wanted me to go back then to make sure what they were looking at was right. More blood test and a colonoscamy and they found out I have stage 4 colon cancer. I had no idea, I felt great, I Had no symptoms, No pain. The check up I had 3 years showed nothing. So at 54 I'm fighting a new battle,and praise god I'm winning. With the chemo mix and following the Doctors directions its slowly leaving my body. I was a fuctioning alcoholic and lifes been good to me, but drinking all that booze THERE is a price to pay. Family and friends are to precious to throw away for all of lifes little problems. And the first thing I found out when I put the bottle, weed and coke behind me that those problems that seemed so overwhelmimg were small and I took care of them asap. I pray this mesage gets thru to at least one person. Life, Family and friends are great and we should enjoy them to our fullest!

    May 6, 2011 at 11:43 | Report abuse | Reply
    • George

      Good Luck Bill, wish you the best –

      May 6, 2011 at 11:58 | Report abuse |
    • Jim


      You got through to me. Thanks for expressing yourself. I'm a recovering alcoholic and have finally seen the light of day. Booze once kept me in balance and now that I have given it up, life and family keep me balance.

      May 6, 2011 at 12:00 | Report abuse |
    • parker

      Thanx Bill. Tanx for your story. What you say does do something good, at least for me.

      May 6, 2011 at 12:05 | Report abuse |
    • parker

      didnt mean tanks, i meant thanx-sorry

      May 6, 2011 at 12:07 | Report abuse |
    • Functional

      Bill, you definitely reach one. I am currently a fuctional alcoholic and hurt daily trying to deal with that and the worries of life. You gave me the words I needed to hear today, to move towards putting a DEAMON to rest. Bless you my friend and again, THANKS!

      May 6, 2011 at 12:08 | Report abuse |
    • CM

      That's an inspiring story, and I hope you won't take offense to a question I have. What if your doctor suggested marijuana as the best treatment for cancer side effects? I don't mean to be snarky, I spent several years in AA myself and have been curious how the addiction community will handle the fact that marijuana, typically on the forbidden list in programs like AA, is increasingly being recognized for legitimate medical uses. On the one hand, relapse is always a real risk but on the other it seems like marijuana has been proven very effective for certain patients.

      May 6, 2011 at 12:20 | Report abuse |
    • Harleygirl

      Bill, thank you for sharing your story. I've been clean and sober since 7/28/08, and I really believe I've done more living since that day than I'd done in the previous 25 years of my addiction. I send you healing waves and positive thoughts to kick your health demons along with my heartfelt thanks. *hug*

      May 6, 2011 at 12:24 | Report abuse |
    • mk46

      I hear you loud and clear, Bill. Your story is very real and helpful to others. Good luck!!

      May 6, 2011 at 12:44 | Report abuse |
    • mac316

      Bill thank you for your story. I have 24 yrs clean and sober and was able to be a "Special Person" for my grand daughters school today. As I sat in my truck waiting to enter the school I had a sudden flash back at some idiotic thing I did when I was drinking. I realized how fortunate and happy I am today to be sober and to be able to share my time with my family, especially the grand kids because as you know as all grand parents do the grand kids are the best. Good luck my friend and I will ask my AA friends to say a prayer for you

      May 6, 2011 at 12:44 | Report abuse |
    • jimbo

      Thank you Bill. your message is inspiring.

      May 6, 2011 at 12:49 | Report abuse |
    • TheNumber

      Well done, Bill. We all wish you the best fighting the colon cancer.

      May 6, 2011 at 12:53 | Report abuse |
    • Michelle

      Best of luck to you Bill!

      May 6, 2011 at 13:00 | Report abuse |
    • Christine

      my husband died of liver disease related to drinking. He had bleed from his esophegos twice in 10 years and it took a toll on his life. I wathced him wither away for 10 years with fatigue, always sleeping, no energy, swollen legs and abdomin. He was only 57. He wished he never drank because of what it did to him.

      May 6, 2011 at 13:18 | Report abuse |
    • knarf55

      I drank, smoke pot, crack, PCP, took pills since i was twelve. In the process, i loss family and friends because of it. I worked to pay for court fines and tickets. i viisted many county jails and done lots of weekends cleaning roads due to the community services i was ordered to do. I quit drinking, drugs 14 years ago cold turkey. I was fed up with my abuse. It was the best thing that have ever happen to me beside the birth of my children. I'm still reparing the damage i done to my friends and family. If i could do it, anyone can if THEY WANT TO..I visited AA a few times, but all i heard was winniers blaming everyone for their mistakes...I did that but realized it was me, me who cause all this to myself...once i determined i was the cause it was easy from that point...So wake the f*%K up!

      May 6, 2011 at 13:18 | Report abuse |
    • D

      Thank you for your inspirational story– I wish you the best in your battle. You are a strong man!

      May 6, 2011 at 13:20 | Report abuse |
    • Laura

      I lost my brother 3 weeks ago due to alchohol addiction. It was very painful to lose him especially when 2 years ago he quit drinking and his health got so much better. Now I am just left wondering what more I could have done to help him stay sober. I agree with nancys44, there are deeper issues than just the addiction itself. My brother had suffered from depression since he was younger and did not get the help he needed. He drank to ease the pain and the sadness he felt. I will always miss him for he truly was a kind soul who would never hurt anyone, he was witty and had terrific sense of humor when he wasn't clouded by the depression. Like you, my brother had so much to live for, grandkids, nieces, nephews, sisters and brothers who loved him dearly. Now we are left with a painful loss and as one of my brothers put it huge hole in our hearts that nothing and no one will ever fill. I am glad that you are doing well and I wish you all the best.

      May 6, 2011 at 13:23 | Report abuse |
    • VishaNu


      Thank you for sharing your story. You are absolutely right about the health consequences that often arise afterward. My husband quit drinking five years ago, but he still deals with the toll it took on his body and mind every day. It's a constant struggle. After seeing the damage alcohol can do, I'm appalled that "wet houses" even exist.

      May 6, 2011 at 13:23 | Report abuse |
    • Angie

      I feel your pain...I lost my aunt to colon cancer a few years ago. Hang in there and STAY POSITIVE!

      May 6, 2011 at 13:23 | Report abuse |
    • ted

      I'm Glad your doing good Bill. keep up the good work. I have been a pro drummer for 35yrs and did tons of booze and drugs ( there is a lot of that in the music biz) a lot of my friends and band mates are dead way to early.

      May 6, 2011 at 13:24 | Report abuse |
    • Kristin

      Bill, thank you for sharing your story, you brought tears to my eyes. I hope more will take the time to read it and feel inspired.

      Best of luck to you, in your fight. I am glad you have your daughter and grandsons around you now, for support.

      May 6, 2011 at 13:27 | Report abuse |
    • Amunaka

      Thank you Bill I know of what you speak.... glad this was the first thread I clicked on today..I tip my hat to you sir

      May 6, 2011 at 13:27 | Report abuse |
    • WINGER27

      This is a complete copy of the story from THIS AMERICAN LIFE on NPR radio! Plagiarism CNN!!

      May 6, 2011 at 13:27 | Report abuse |
    • jordan

      Bill – I have never posted before, but I have to tell you that your message was very touching to me. My father was a functioning alcoholic for many years before he was diagnosed with colon cancer. He chose to continue drinking, and nothing the doctors did could make him better while he continued to poison his body with alchohol. I told him he was killing himself, but he never even admitted he had a problem (despite getting blackout drunk every day). He eventually died at 59 of the cancer. You are a very strong man to quit drinking for your health and your family. My father's drinking made me feel as if he didn't love us and somehow our family wasnt "enough" for him. You are absolutely doing the right thing and I hope you continue to heal!

      May 6, 2011 at 13:29 | Report abuse |
    • Cindy

      Bless you for telling your story. I am going to copy it and send to my son who is an alcholic. After years of trying to get him to quit, he has finally asked for help. Best Mother's Day gift I have ever received. Keep telling you story, you never know who you will have helped!

      May 6, 2011 at 13:45 | Report abuse |
    • Christy

      I'm very proud of you Bill. That's great that you chose to fight your demons. I too quit drinking 2 years ago in April and I feel great. My wake up call happened when my stomach started acting up. Some painful heartburn, vomiting and a prilosec treatment helped get me better. I still struggle with social situations and the stigma of friends and family who don't understand.

      May 6, 2011 at 13:53 | Report abuse |
    • mdc

      @knarf55 Thank you.

      May 6, 2011 at 14:31 | Report abuse |
  20. Katrina

    I'd like to point out that there is a distinct difference between "harm reduction" and "enabling", and wet housing is not enabling, it's harm reduction.

    May 6, 2011 at 11:44 | Report abuse | Reply
    • BroNate

      Harm reduction is a hard concept for a lot of people to wrap their heads around when the aim of most of our drug policy is harm intensification, forcing people to quit by making substance abuse more expensive and dangerous than it would otherwise have to be.

      May 6, 2011 at 12:17 | Report abuse |
    • Dr.Gray***

      Actually Katrina, it's both

      May 6, 2011 at 12:19 | Report abuse |
    • mac316

      killing them softly but killing them the same

      May 6, 2011 at 12:46 | Report abuse |
    • opinion

      I agree

      May 6, 2011 at 13:18 | Report abuse |
    • Bobsomeguy

      You can't fix crazy, lazy, or stupid, some people are not cut out to live in world that expects anything from them, like earning a living or taking care of themselves day to day.

      Call it harm reduction or enabling as you like, but some people can't be fixed and giving them a safe place to slowly get out of the world they have no intention of living in is a kindness. I'd like to see this kind of program expanded to all major cities and similar places for hard drug users as well.

      May 6, 2011 at 13:27 | Report abuse |
    • George

      Harm reduction is a joke and it is enabling. It is assisted suicide plain and simple. Harm reduction concerns only the finances of the public, not the individual who is suffering. I have seen many people die in a similar type of program while the agency overseeing addicts criticises AA and rehabilitation centers for their low success rates.

      May 6, 2011 at 14:54 | Report abuse |
  21. sammonkey

    I grew up in a family where "the drink" was especially popular. It sucked! If this "wet house" allows them to keep drinking...giving them cable tv....a free place to live....food and what ever else they need, they wont have a reason to get on their feet to help themselves. Ya its a sad life, believe me I know...but at some point...these people should take responsibility for themselves. I read an earlier posting (I forget who posted)...they stated that it is because of the economy...if thats the case and money is scarce....would it behoove you to NOT spend your money on "the drink"!

    May 6, 2011 at 11:44 | Report abuse | Reply
    • KeithTexas

      From someone who was addicted I can tell you that you don't understand that logic has nothing to do with addiction. What you said only makes sense to someone who doesn't need to drink.

      May 6, 2011 at 12:57 | Report abuse |
  22. unique

    I work in a jail. We recently hired a new dentist and everyone that was an alcoholic went to dental and requested mouthwash was ordered mouthwash. They finally put a stop to that.

    May 6, 2011 at 11:50 | Report abuse | Reply
  23. parker

    I like Rae. The whole "no I dont want to be here..." stuff sounds real enough. It is a sad situation. I wonder if there are those in and amongst Rae who eventually do get out and decide that they've had enough of all that "freedom" say. How long has this house been in place? Free medical service. sounds like a madhouse. It would be interesting to take a guided tour on a day when no one new you were coming. I bet there are some good things that come out of it in the long run for some of these folks. I may invest inn this place. If a telemarketer asked me if i could donate to this place, I think i would. The way things are looking these days, im not so sure if i wouldn't like to see one of these places right here in my home town. in small towns all across America.

    May 6, 2011 at 11:51 | Report abuse | Reply
    • HouseParty

      I'm fine with this program b/c it ultimately saves money. Yet I hope that the program also offers incentives to quit drinking and following a path towards the redevelopment of self-sufficiency. I know the majority would not embark down this path towards sobriety, but I hope a push is made to save those who someday will find the courage to try.

      May 6, 2011 at 12:32 | Report abuse |
    • Nikki

      Who's Rae?

      May 6, 2011 at 12:38 | Report abuse |
    • Bobsomeguy

      Houseparty, that's something that each addict has to find within themselves. You can't give someone a reason to get up every day and go to work, but that's what society expects from us. Those that can't find that drive within themselves are doomed to what I can only describe as a living hell. Waking up on the street everyday and begging for enough money to buy a bottle to get you through one more day must suck on a level I can't even imagine.

      May 6, 2011 at 13:34 | Report abuse |
  24. bumcheek7

    Is this story meant to give people at their lowest low a destination? It's sad, but it's probably going to get worse considering the economy is worse now than the Depression. Some chronic alcoholics hit bottom with High Gravity – more bang for the buck. I'm sure the Chamber of Commerce is thrilled with this story – busloads of 'wet-drunks' arriving in their town like it's the Emerald City.

    May 6, 2011 at 11:53 | Report abuse | Reply
    • tdavid6

      The economy is not worse now than during the recession... only Republicans who listen to Rush Limbaugh believe that

      May 6, 2011 at 13:08 | Report abuse |
    • Mausfink

      Yeah, they all have Internet access. Get real.

      May 6, 2011 at 13:16 | Report abuse |
    • Moderation-the-key

      Last I checked, I haven't seen 20%+ unemployment and Hooverville's sprouting up all over America. We're nowhere even close to what happened during the Great Depression. It's still not good, but don't try to compare this recession to the worst economic crash of all-time.

      May 6, 2011 at 14:16 | Report abuse |
  25. dmorg

    put them all in bed and iv them with alcohol at a slow drip until they pass, this way they go with a buzz, just like the death penalty.

    May 6, 2011 at 11:54 | Report abuse | Reply
    • lls67

      I'm a recovering problem drinker. Sometimes I even considered myself an alcoholic but for now I'm a problem or binge drinker. I like to have fun and relax. My boyfriend for the past 2 years is an alcoholic and drug addict. I had to kick him out on Easter and I hope he finds help somewhere. I could no longer live with his daily drinking, the drugs he trys so hard to hide and all the lies. My point is that until you are really there looking that alcoholic in the eye you will never truly understand the horror of it all and the just plain sadness. I'm not an alcoholic that's for sure. It took living with my boyfriend who is so sick for me to realize it. I don't even wanna drink now after seeing what it has done to him. I think a wet house is good. At least it keeps them safe!!!

      May 6, 2011 at 13:36 | Report abuse |
    • anon

      You gonna get yours in Hell. Compassion? God forgot to give you any. 🙁

      May 7, 2011 at 13:07 | Report abuse |
  26. Michael_M

    As a recovering Alcoholic, I am living proof that anyone can change. Nothing changes unless you change it. I am thakful to have run across this article. It reminds me what not todo. Most importantly, I feel for those who won't, and I pray for who do and I applaud those who are trying, working the steps and attending mtgs. Remember, Mtg makers make it! How could this "Wet House" posssibly make a difference? The "Wet House" is all washed up. I can't believe God has provided "Good Orderly Direction" in this case, nor would this be part of the plan. To espouse this idea on those who suffer is incredibly irresponsible and eqully as "Weak" and in my very humble opinion, Decisevly, irrevocably Wrong! The Wet house should be ashamed of themselves and rethink this approach! May God bless you all.

    May 6, 2011 at 11:58 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Jennifer

      How it helps is by getting people off the street (more humane than drinking one's self to death on the sidewalk), saving $$ (which can be put to better use than sending people to ERs and jails – maybe could be spent on education? roads? publicly funded rehab for people who want it?), having these guys talk to counselors who work at the residence in hopes that some them might be persuaded to stop drinking, etc.
      No, that's not what worked for you personally, but it is usually dangerous to be only able to view things using the lens of your own experience. Great that you're sober but don't condemn these guys to the streets.

      May 6, 2011 at 12:33 | Report abuse |
    • mac316

      Michael my name sake. Spoken like a true reformed drinker. I was taught that you cannot spend too much time on a drunk that doesnt want to be sober and to move on to the someone that may want to get sober. I understand your feelings, but some are going to die from this disease and some will recover. AA is not the only way a drunk can get and stay sober fortunately for you it was as it is for me. Remember the HOW of the program and to the AA principles in all our affairs. God Bless you my friend and keep coming back we need you

      May 6, 2011 at 12:58 | Report abuse |
    • dude..

      Be careful about speaking for God and his plan...

      May 6, 2011 at 13:42 | Report abuse |
  27. parker

    Thanx Bill. You are right. and i agree.

    May 6, 2011 at 12:00 | Report abuse | Reply
  28. Booker

    This is from a woman who's ex-husband threw away 30 years of marriage, his only son, his family, etc. This is an outrage. I know that alcoholics have to ask for help before they can be helped but I don't think they should have help killing themselves.

    May 6, 2011 at 12:03 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Jennifer

      They'll die a lot faster on the streets...

      May 6, 2011 at 12:34 | Report abuse |
    • anon

      Jennifer, you have no heart. There are too many of you in this world already. To call you cold blooded is an insult to cold blooded people!
      When you need help, I hope someone says the same thing to you.

      May 7, 2011 at 13:13 | Report abuse |
  29. DPGW

    Very sad but if it contains them from hurting others (driving, etc.) it's well worth it.

    May 6, 2011 at 12:10 | Report abuse | Reply
    • VishaNu

      The end-stage alcoholics who are in a wet house aren't the ones to worry about on the road. A social drinker or functioning alcoholic is the one to worry about because they don't know or won't admit how bad off they are.

      May 6, 2011 at 13:30 | Report abuse |
  30. lp

    Is it just me, or is that dude drinking out of a listerine bottle?

    May 6, 2011 at 12:10 | Report abuse | Reply
    • AllsWell

      Did you even read the article? It says he was drinking 'mouthwash' !

      May 6, 2011 at 12:24 | Report abuse |
    • SteveG

      HA! It's either that, or a bottle of whiskey that carries the ADA seal of approval.

      May 6, 2011 at 12:27 | Report abuse |
    • mac316

      it is blew it up and it is the original flavor good eyes or is it experience???

      May 6, 2011 at 13:02 | Report abuse |
  31. Taylor Lasch

    I am honestly glad to see this concept in motion here in the US. It truly shows that we are as a people starting to learn more so, I feel that it is better to let the addict feed their addiction in a safe environment that does not effect anyone else (other than savings on our annual tax expenditures) and allows these people a chance to get the help they need (if they want it).

    You cannot just tell someone that alcohol is a "No-No" or ever drugs, take it away and expect them to instantly stop. It may work that way for you or I however, these poor people build up dependacnies wither be "Mental" or "Physical" I know someone is going to have something 1800's to say about this but I am a new wave thinker get out of the past people and stop drinking snake oil.

    LEGALIZE IT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    May 6, 2011 at 12:14 | Report abuse | Reply
    • dude..

      New Wave? like Flock of Seagulls? Also Legalize what? alcohol? it already is

      May 6, 2011 at 13:48 | Report abuse |
  32. lazer007

    now i can smoke and drink in peace.....i'm 56 hanycaped in a wheelchair and have no one...no one takes care of me or even comes to see me....you can keep all your crap to your self....what you want to live forever???...lol...not on this world.

    May 6, 2011 at 12:16 | Report abuse | Reply
    • anna

      Listen to yourself!!! Is it any wonder no one wants to have anything to do with you?

      May 6, 2011 at 13:15 | Report abuse |
  33. Jeff

    It's good these guys have somewhere safe to stay, but it's so sad that they can't kick the alcoholic addiction. I went into AA myself almost 12 years ago. About 90% of the people that come through the doors don't remain sober. Alot of people are functioning alcoholics, i.e. they can hold down jobs and maintain some cohesion within their families. However, many do end up like the guys in this article where they want to drink from the time they get up in the morning until they pass out, then do it all again.

    May 6, 2011 at 12:19 | Report abuse | Reply
  34. jacquelyn

    Obama is competant? LOL I guess we know who the troll is. Have another cup of kool aid.

    May 6, 2011 at 12:22 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Reality

      If you can't see that Obama is actually very competent and highly intelligent, you are incredibly blind.

      May 6, 2011 at 17:07 | Report abuse |
  35. Rod C. Venger

    You're delusional

    May 6, 2011 at 12:24 | Report abuse | Reply
  36. Fitzman

    because they are piritually discerned." 1 Corinthians 2:14

    "piritually" ??? Is that a new word?

    May 6, 2011 at 12:26 | Report abuse | Reply
  37. Abigail

    What if you don't have family? Everyone says to live for family- but some of us were not blessed with much of that. I wonder what the answer is for that....it's hard to care for yourself when know one else really seems to. (the 'no family' is no fault of my own, raised that way).

    May 6, 2011 at 12:27 | Report abuse | Reply
  38. Daveinla.

    Pray for all of them. What a terrible life to have. sad.

    May 6, 2011 at 12:27 | Report abuse | Reply
  39. Phyllis J Brannon

    Its a religion that enables people to kill their selves spritually and morally and physically.

    May 6, 2011 at 12:28 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Kathleen

      These people didn't become alcoholics because of religion, so keep your bigotry at home with your high horse...

      May 6, 2011 at 13:01 | Report abuse |
  40. BC

    Reminds me of the old "cheers" song, "where everybody knows you're lame......"

    May 6, 2011 at 12:28 | Report abuse | Reply
  41. Daveinla.

    Pray for all of them. What a terrible life. sad

    May 6, 2011 at 12:28 | Report abuse | Reply
  42. Joe

    Years ago I had a friend and colleague who had a serious alcohol problem. He had a PhD in Psychology and taught Abnormal Psychology on the college level. He understood that he had a problem, but he drank and drank and drank until he lost his job, and finally until he drank himself to death. No amount of treatment, no amount of supportive and encouraging friends, no amount of counseling or months spent in hospitals drying out ever made the slightest dent on his problem. I don't understand this phenomenon at all, but I have seen with my own eyes that sometimes there seems to be no solution to it. It's all very sad.

    May 6, 2011 at 12:29 | Report abuse | Reply
  43. me

    harm reduction is pretty much the better of two evils.....not ideal, but, well, what's better, him to kill himself drinking home alone, or having someone spot him before it's 2 late?
    no such thing as a functioning alcoholic........you might think you're functioning, but the truth is, everyone else notices the damage....
    bill, you were able to stop drinking cold turkey because you might have not been an addict. withdrawel for alcoholics is bad...really really bad. one of the only drugs ppl can die from it's withdrawels. an abuser, maybe, and addict, maybe not...none the less, you're ability to recognize your bad habit before it became any worse is without a doubt admirable....good luck on with your new battle. i hope you are able to beat this one the way you were able to beat your drinking problem.

    May 6, 2011 at 12:31 | Report abuse | Reply
  44. handymetalworks

    Sounds like your message hit home with a lot people. Thanks for sharing, you're awesome. Best of luck=)

    May 6, 2011 at 12:31 | Report abuse | Reply
  45. Tina

    Not sure where the proof is that this method will work. I understand the idea about protecting others from these drinkers but how will they EVER have a chance of stopping if there are NO Consequences to their behaviour. What is next Meth-houses? Helping someone Detox is one thing but not holding them accountable and allowing them to continue drinking is another. Alcoholics that do change their ways and get help usually because they hit rock bottom. This method won't allow them to hit rock bottom. So what about all the pedophiles that are untreatable – do we allow them to continue with their addiction? ADDICTION is Addiction. Hold people accountable.

    May 6, 2011 at 12:31 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Jennifer

      Tina – you really think these guys haven't been bouncing off the bottom for years, and perhaps decades? If hitting bottom was what worked for this hard-core addicted population then believe me, they'd be sober by now. This is a "when all else fails" approach. It saves $$ and keeps these guys from dying on the streets.

      May 6, 2011 at 12:43 | Report abuse |
    • mac316

      meth houses??? dear tina they have meth clinics no need for houses you go get your meth in a cup and go home. how do you hold someone accountable if they dont give a sh## anyway there are some that cannot get honest with themselves about what they are doing

      May 6, 2011 at 13:12 | Report abuse |
    • dude..

      Mac..you must know very little about drugs. that is methADONE not methamphetemine. The clinics treat heroin addicts not methheads

      May 6, 2011 at 14:08 | Report abuse |
  46. hawkeye

    Alcoholism and addiction are diseases; physical, emotional, mental diseases. To say that they are anything less is ignorant, naive and offensive to anyone who has suffered from addiction, whether personally or through a loved one. Many times addiction is fueled by, caused by or as a result of another physical, emotional or mental disease. Each and every case of addiction is unique and each and every addict responds to treatment in different ways. For one person rehab is the answer, for another AA or NA, for another religion or will power or jail or counseling. A wide array of treatment options are available and often it takes several attempts at sobriety (both willingly by the addict or not) to find a method that works. Unfortunately, not every addict finds successful treatment. Sometimes they simply don't want it. Sometimes they do and just cannot break the addiction. Sometimes they break it and relapse.

    My point is this: 1) Addiction is a disease and more often than not the addict wants to simply "stop" but that is much easier said than done. 2) There are many different treatment options and one that works for 'Addict A' may not work for 'Addict B'. "Wet houses" such as these may provide a safe haven and a warm bed for people to continue to abuse alcohol, but they also may provide a starting off point for those who are trying to kick their habit and get back on their feet when the rest of society has shunned them. 3) It's Friday everyone, enjoy the weekend, hug those who matter to you and make sure you tell them that they're important and how much they mean to you. Next time you see a homeless person on the side of the street try and remember that they once were (or still are) loved and that they probably still love and are missing someone. If we could all try and embrace a little compassion and empathy this world would be a much better place.

    May 6, 2011 at 12:45 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Koga001

      addiction is not a disease, it is a choice. if you have an addiction and you know you have an addiction then STOP. it really is that simple. just stop. people who don't are weak, not sick.

      May 6, 2011 at 12:57 | Report abuse |
    • hawkeye

      I suppose you are part of the school of thought that believes people who suffer from depression are just sad.

      May 6, 2011 at 13:10 | Report abuse |
    • mac316

      well said hawkeye koga is in denial is my guess

      May 6, 2011 at 13:17 | Report abuse |
    • kbgirl1144

      Thanks for the message. I am a recovering alcoholic and I can tell you that it's a daily deal. Each and every day I must do what I need to do to stay on this side of it. Even my worst day sober is better than my best day drunk.

      As far as Koga001: please. It must be so nice to have such a high plateau to fall from. I pray that you when you do fall, you can get back up. I did, thank God. It's not a choice- trust me.

      May 6, 2011 at 13:18 | Report abuse |
    • RonO

      Well said Hawkeye!

      May 6, 2011 at 13:32 | Report abuse |
    • Pierce

      Having grown up with an alcholic father, addicted uncles, and marrying an addict/alcholic wife, I consider myself something more than an "ignorant" person when it comes to understanding these people. Here's the deal: Run, don't walk away from these losers. Whether it's a "disease" or a "character flaw," or something genetic – who really cares? They are all self-absorbed tornadoes of destruction who will sap every ounce of happiness from the lives of those around them. Invariably, they all have some sad story that led them to drink or use...well, boo-hoo most of us do too. The difference is non-addicts suck it up and fulfill their obligations in life. The "naive" people are those that think they will be able to fix someone with love, a self-help book, or AA/NA. Life is way too short to throw it away on people in the midst of a self-imposed pity party. I'm neither jaded or cinical – I'm an educated realist that loves and enjoys his family. Let these bozos drink themselves to death away from the world. I applaud those that can clean up their act and get back into the flow of life, but make no mistake it is wholly up to them.

      May 6, 2011 at 14:04 | Report abuse |
  47. MichaelSC

    Yes, Obama is competent. He made sure that Osama was caught. Bush was full of empty promises. Bush is/was incompetent

    May 6, 2011 at 12:46 | Report abuse | Reply
  48. nancys44

    My beloved brother lost his battle with stage 4 colon cancer 2 yrs ago, he lasted 4 yrs after his diagnosis. During that 4 yrs he drank despite chemo. At first I was not only focused on his war but his drinking, until it occurred to me...his body is already depleted, worn out from the cancer if he decides to quit drinking now it will only escalate the inevitable. SO...I decided to focus on the time I had with my big brother, encourage him, listen to him AND ACCEPT HIM as he was loving him until his battle was lost.
    I'm grateful I did so...you see I knew why he drank all those years...severe abuse by my father through his adulthood. These memories of violence and estrangement were the demons plaguing my brother until his death. Far too often people, counselors included, focus only on the sobering of a person and ignoring the reasons why drinking happened in the first place. Once you focus on the "why" you began drinking, challenge yourself to face those reasons (all to often continuing to drink), learn how to cope with issues of your past (yes, while you can still be drinking)...all to often the person begins the road to sobriety. AA is great for getting you sober but rarely does the program deal with the emotional issues that began the alcoholic process to begin with...

    May 6, 2011 at 12:50 | Report abuse | Reply
  49. GAIL


    May 6, 2011 at 12:51 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Linda

      Yes, you took care of him and that is the responsible – family thing to do, not the governmen'ts thing to do. The government has people believing they will bail everyone out – instead of teaching responsibility.

      May 9, 2011 at 21:22 | Report abuse |
  50. chacha

    it seems this place is a walking grave. just allowing people to die at a slow pace. it looks as if they are saying its cheaper to let a person die doing what he or she wants to do than to try and spend extra money to save a life. i get the fact that people are going to do what they want to anyway but i don't believe enabling is the way.

    May 6, 2011 at 12:54 | Report abuse | Reply
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39

Leave a Reply to realtor coeur d alene idaho


CNN welcomes a lively and courteous discussion as long as you follow the Rules of Conduct set forth in our Terms of Service. Comments are not pre-screened before they post. You agree that anything you post may be used, along with your name and profile picture, in accordance with our Privacy Policy and the license you have granted pursuant to our Terms of Service.

About this blog

Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.