home
RSS
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 (2,434 Responses)
  1. RV Repair Shop

    This is the perfect webpage for everyone who hopes to find out about this topic. You realize a whole lot its almost tough to argue with you (not that I really would want toÖHaHa). You definitely put a brand new spin on a topic that's been written about for many years. Great stuff, just wonderful!

    https://passport-us.bignox.com/sso/logout?service=http://configoptions.com/

    June 25, 2021 at 19:24 | Report abuse | Reply
  2. RV And Truck Repair Near Me

    This blog was... how do I say it? Relevant!! Finally I have found something that helped me. Kudos!

    https://nanostandards.ansi.org/banner_click.php?id=2&url=http://www.labortemporis.net/shop/en/blog/11_XV-century-ring.html

    June 25, 2021 at 19:38 | Report abuse | Reply
  3. RV Repair Orange County

    https://dspk.kindredplc.com/redirect.aspx?pid=3789659&bid=25820&redirectUrl=https://cesar0o9i5.onzeblog.com

    June 25, 2021 at 21:15 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. Camper Repair Shops Near Me

    Itís nearly impossible to find well-informed people about this subject, however, you sound like you know what youíre talking about! Thanks

    http://v.wcj.dns4.cn/?c=scene&a=link&id=8833621&url=https://www.dealsat.tn

    June 26, 2021 at 00:12 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. Sprinter Repair Near Me

    https://slack-redir.net/link?url=http://www.expressioncanada.ca/

    June 26, 2021 at 01:44 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. RV And Truck Repair Near Me

    Everything is very open with a really clear explanation of the issues. It was really informative. Your website is very helpful. Thank you for sharing!

    &mid=872

    June 26, 2021 at 02:32 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. Joella Vanfleet

    https://content.sixflags.com/news/director.aspx?gid=0&iid=72&cid=3714&link=https://www.postfallsvideographer.com

    June 26, 2021 at 02:33 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. Ariana Puddy

    Good day! I could have sworn Iíve visited this web site before but after browsing through many of the posts I realized itís new to me. Anyhow, Iím certainly happy I discovered it and Iíll be book-marking it and checking back frequently!

    https://abc.huomao.com/url?rewrite=https://realchrisburns.com/

    June 26, 2021 at 03:29 | Report abuse | Reply
  9. RV Repair Nearby

    https://www.ics.org/Wasabi/Common/Logout.aspx?Returnurl=http://chinaedu.in

    June 26, 2021 at 04:15 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. RV Awning Repair Near Me

    Excellent blog post. I definitely appreciate this website. Keep it up!

    https://www.wdlinux.cn/url.php?url=https://campbluehawk.org/Programs/Summer-Camp/emodule/64161/eitem/8677

    June 26, 2021 at 06:17 | Report abuse | Reply
  11. RV Repair Huntington Beach

    Very good article! We will be linking to this great post on our website. Keep up the great writing.

    https://www.e1.ru/health/pharma/go.php?type=delivery&url=https://jaredopafr.blogcudinti.com/

    June 26, 2021 at 06:20 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. RV Air Conditioner Repair Near Me

    /

    June 26, 2021 at 06:37 | Report abuse | Reply
  13. RV Repair Fountain Valley

    This web site definitely has all the information and facts I wanted concerning this subject and didnít know who to ask.

    https://www.nzgbc.org.nz/ClickThru?mk=20135.0&Redir=http://reid9h4d1.blog-ezine.com/

    June 26, 2021 at 07:51 | Report abuse | Reply
  14. RV Windshield Repair Near Me

    Excellent article! We are linking to this great article on our website. Keep up the good writing.

    https://sc.hkexnews.hk/TuniS/autoescuelafroy.com/JJruizFotografia/web/index.php?/guestbook&start=304995

    June 26, 2021 at 08:02 | Report abuse | Reply
  15. Jacque Jarvinen

    https://redirect.camfrog.com/redirect/?url=https://www.newwavevisual.com/

    June 26, 2021 at 08:05 | Report abuse | Reply
  16. RV Repair Shop Near Me

    https://members.practicegreenhealth.org/eweb/Logout.aspx?RedirectURL=http://computer-and-printer-repa20539.humor-blog.com

    June 26, 2021 at 08:09 | Report abuse | Reply
  17. Nearby RV Repairs

    https://nailbook.jp/account/logout?redirect=https://www.ignorance-magazine.blogspot.com

    June 26, 2021 at 09:17 | Report abuse | Reply
  18. Camper Repairs Near Me

    http://tracing.uniview.com/tracking/?u=guilhen@ecare-security.com&msg=2E812EB8.E26C.4678.8716.95660E17C842.0007.001e38656675d537.3nn6otyh@uniview.com&url=http://sabordetango.org/34zxVq8

    June 26, 2021 at 11:41 | Report abuse | Reply
  19. RV Air Conditioner Repair Near Me

    This site was... how do you say it? Relevant!! Finally I've found something which helped me. Cheers!

    https://2ip.ru/domain-list-by-ip/?domain=aog-gaming.de/index.php?mod=users&action=view&id=34246

    June 26, 2021 at 11:47 | Report abuse | Reply
  20. no deposit bonus casino

    Kèo Bóng Đá Là Gì? Giải Thích Tỷ Lệ Cá Cược Bóng Đá Chi Tiết NhấtTỷ Lệ Kèo Nhà Cái Soi Kèo Bóng Đá Hôm Nay. Nhận Định Euro 2021 Copa America đăng ký gọi điện mobiHai trận đấu của lượt cuối mỗi bảng bắt buộc phải thi đấu cùng giờ. Kết thúc vòng bảng, đội nhất, nhì các bảng và four đội xếp thứ ba có thành tích tốt nhất sẽ giành quyền vào vòng sixteen đội.

    https://www.vnd188.bet/

    June 26, 2021 at 12:25 | Report abuse | Reply
  21. RV Roof Repair Near Me

    https://vi.paltalk.com/client/webapp/client/External.wmt?url=https://yarbnas.com/video/how-to-make-high-voltage-by-using-3a-transformer-and-10-transistors-d718-pnp/comment-page-832

    June 26, 2021 at 14:25 | Report abuse | Reply
  22. Nearest RV Repair

    https://iccadata.iccaworld.com/icca/linklog/linkref.cfm?user=member&goto=simon9w4t2.activablog.com

    June 26, 2021 at 14:46 | Report abuse | Reply
  23. RV Repair Services Near Me

    Aw, this was a very good post. Taking the time and actual effort to make a great articleÖ but what can I sayÖ I put things off a whole lot and don't seem to get nearly anything done.

    /&lang=en

    June 26, 2021 at 15:06 | Report abuse | Reply
  24. RV Generator Repair Near Me

    https://www.ecommercebytes.com/R/R/chart.pl?CHTL&101107&AmazonPayments&http://ytmax.com/articles/120785/exactly-how-to-do-study-and-locate-the-most-effective-camper-parts-near-me

    June 26, 2021 at 15:49 | Report abuse | Reply
  25. infowars podcast

    I could not resist commenting. Perfectly written!

    https://passport.meta.ua/?from=sport&force=1&redirect=https://backbonehunters.com/

    June 26, 2021 at 18:01 | Report abuse | Reply
  26. Leadership Experience

    I really like it when people get together and share ideas. Great blog, keep it up!

    http://www.joomla-code.ru/go.php?gogo=http://backboneleaders.com

    June 26, 2021 at 18:07 | Report abuse | Reply
  27. ben shapiro podcast

    https://www.meetme.com/apps/redirect/?url=http://backbonehunters.com/

    June 26, 2021 at 18:35 | Report abuse | Reply
  28. Leadership Quotes By Women

    Good info. Lucky me I ran across your blog by accident (stumbleupon). I've bookmarked it for later!

    https://whois.zunmi.com/?d=backboneleaders.com/.com

    June 26, 2021 at 18:52 | Report abuse | Reply
  29. Podcast Entre Leadership Episode 190

    A motivating discussion is worth comment. I think that you should publish more on this subject, it might not be a taboo subject but generally folks don't talk about these subjects. To the next! Many thanks!!

    http://www.kanazawa-navi.com/navi/rank.cgi?mode=link&id=700&url=https://backboneleaders.com

    June 26, 2021 at 19:47 | Report abuse | Reply
  30. pharmaceptica

    sublingual tadalafil https://pharmaceptica.com/

    June 26, 2021 at 20:30 | Report abuse | Reply
  31. ket qua quan vot

    Thẳng đá Bóng Việt Nam Vs Lebanon. Xem Truc Tiep Bong Da. Futsal Việt Namkenh k+Nếu cứ chơi như cơ hội vừa đè bẹp Everton cho tới 3-1 bên trên sân khách

    https://virandoamor.com/detail/xem-htv7-online-101914.html

    June 26, 2021 at 20:55 | Report abuse | Reply
  32. dab pen

    Intrinsic Muscles Of The Handhttps://www.posts123.com/user/839690/expertdollar7All products intended for use with legal smoking/vaping mixtures only .

    https://www.posts123.com/user/794745/patchquit7

    June 26, 2021 at 21:20 | Report abuse | Reply
  33. Participative Leadership

    https://nagano.visit-town.com/functions/external_link?http://backboneleaders.com

    June 26, 2021 at 22:47 | Report abuse | Reply
  34. Teenage Leadership

    https://www.anonymz.com/?https://backboneleaders.com

    June 26, 2021 at 23:43 | Report abuse | Reply
  35. John Piper Leadership Podcast

    http://pcinhk.com/discuz/uchome/link.php?url=https://backboneleaders.com

    June 26, 2021 at 23:56 | Report abuse | Reply
  36. my favorite murders podcast

    Saved as a favorite, I love your site!

    http://oldtmt.vedomosti.ru/rss/toolbars/closeAd.php?backUrl=http://backbonehunters.com

    June 27, 2021 at 00:16 | Report abuse | Reply
  37. Joe Rogan Podcast Leadership

    This is the perfect webpage for anyone who hopes to understand this topic. You understand so much its almost hard to argue with you (not that I really will need toÖHaHa). You certainly put a brand new spin on a topic that's been discussed for a long time. Great stuff, just great!

    http://www.theretailbulletin.com/listserver/link.php?cid=25071&d=5767&e=5015&u=https://backboneleaders.com

    June 27, 2021 at 00:23 | Report abuse | Reply
  38. Characteristics Of Leadership

    I have to thank you for the efforts you have put in writing this blog. I'm hoping to see the same high-grade blog posts by you later on as well. In truth, your creative writing abilities has motivated me to get my own, personal blog now 😉

    http://m.shopinnewyork.net/redirect.aspx?url=https://backboneleaders.com

    June 27, 2021 at 00:36 | Report abuse | Reply
  39. Thought Leadership

    Hi, I do think your site could possibly be having internet browser compatibility issues. When I take a look at your website in Safari, it looks fine however, when opening in IE, it's got some overlapping issues. I just wanted to provide you with a quick heads up! Other than that, great site!

    http://emktg.cihi.ca/UrlTracking.aspx?em_key=08jafBPP2lWZoOqmzY/BzF3hFU9jQvN9pRYQwdGchCoOfLXGIWW6Y6UWEMHRnIQqHYmVVeX23ik5bqfdhCmHXL3vARe3YTEE&em_url=https://backboneleaders.com

    June 27, 2021 at 03:36 | Report abuse | Reply
  40. my favorite murders podcast

    https://client.paltalk.com/client/webapp/client/External.wmt?url=https://backbonehunters.com/

    June 27, 2021 at 07:51 | Report abuse | Reply
  41. jim cornette podcast

    http://jump.2ch.net/?backbonehunters.com

    June 27, 2021 at 08:04 | Report abuse | Reply
  42. kèo nhà cái

    Thông Tin, Sự Kiện Liên Quan Lại Đến Thẳng Soccer Phái Nữ zingplay co tuongĐội tuyển futsal nước ta đã có một trận đấu đồng ý được trước phe đối lập đầy mức độ mạnh Lebanon. Kết quả Bà Rịa-Vũng Tàu vs Bình Phước ngày hôm nay 18h00 ngày 5/5, Hạng nhất Việt Nam.

    https://sshuebner.org/

    June 27, 2021 at 08:12 | Report abuse | Reply
  43. Authoritarian Leadership Style

    I like it when folks come together and share thoughts. Great site, keep it up!

    http://emktg.cihi.ca/UrlTracking.aspx?em_key=08jafBPP2lWZoOqmzY/BzF3hFU9jQvN9pRYQwdGchCoOfLXGIWW6Y6UWEMHRnIQqHYmVVeX23ik5bqfdhCmHXL3vARe3YTEE&em_url=https://backboneleaders.com/

    June 27, 2021 at 10:31 | Report abuse | Reply
  44. Hugh O'brian Youth Leadership

    Hi, I do think this is an excellent site. I stumbledupon it 😉 I will revisit yet again since i have saved as a favorite it. Money and freedom is the greatest way to change, may you be rich and continue to guide other people.

    http://iquali11.enviodecampanhas.net/registra_clique.php?id=TH|teste|105262|1367&url=https://backboneleaders.com

    June 27, 2021 at 10:44 | Report abuse | Reply
  45. Leadership Topics

    May I simply say what a relief to discover someone that genuinely knows what they're talking about online. You certainly realize how to bring an issue to light and make it important. A lot more people have to look at this and understand this side of your story. It's surprising you aren't more popular because you surely possess the gift.

    http://balder.messe.de/werbung/www/delivery/ck.php?ct=1&oaparams=2__bannerid=1512__zoneid=697__cb=18dc65fbad__oadest=http://backboneleaders.com

    June 27, 2021 at 12:10 | Report abuse | Reply
  46. garage logic podcast

    https://store.law.com/linkredirector/default.asp?lrcat=BLOGNetwork&lrurl=https://backbonehunters.com

    June 27, 2021 at 13:05 | Report abuse | Reply
  47. Joe Rogan Podcast Leadership

    http://home.guanzhuang.org/link.php?url=http://backboneleaders.com

    June 27, 2021 at 13:46 | Report abuse | Reply
  48. Rv Body Shop

    This is the right webpage for anybody who wishes to find out about this topic. You know a whole lot its almost hard to argue with you (not that I actually will need toÖHaHa). You certainly put a fresh spin on a topic that has been written about for years. Great stuff, just excellent!

    http://designchange.org/__media__/js/netsoltrademark.php?d=fleetservicesorangecounty.com

    June 27, 2021 at 14:48 | Report abuse | Reply
  49. Sprinter Van Repair

    Can I just say what a comfort to discover somebody who genuinely understands what they are discussing on the internet. You actually realize how to bring an issue to light and make it important. More and more people should check this out and understand this side of the story. I can't believe you aren't more popular because you surely possess the gift.

    https://www.worldcruising.com/Extern.aspx?ctype=1&adid=39&pagid=0&src=https://sprintervanrepairshop.com

    June 27, 2021 at 19:12 | Report abuse | Reply
  50. RV Repair Near Me Now

    Good blog post. I absolutely appreciate this site. Thanks!

    http://d-click.alterdata.com.br/u/15028/1120/88002/2068_0/6d5c3/?url=http://ocrvmotorsports.life/

    June 27, 2021 at 19:46 | 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

Post a comment


 

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.

Advertisement
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.