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. Antonio

    Why is he drinking LISTERINE???

    May 6, 2011 at 12:55 | Report abuse | Reply
    • mac316

      check out the alcohol content on a bottle the next time you see one

      May 6, 2011 at 13:18 | Report abuse |
  2. Karen Elg

    Unbelievable, I am on social security after working from age 17 until age 60 when my job closed down and my social security and pension is LESS THAN $1500 mo, the amount paid to that organization per individual, where men can DRINK!! More tears to my eyes and another ache in my heart for me!

    May 6, 2011 at 12:55 | Report abuse | Reply
  3. Daddy's girl

    Lost my dad 10 years ago this month. After fighting the disease of alcoholism for more years than I ever knew, he was a "functioning alcoholic" and hid it well until I was old enough to understand. I joined him for his AA meetings, and told him I'd do anything I could to help. I tried to understand and wanted to take that pain from my father, though I was very young. 2 years after addmitting his addiction to me when I was 12, he took his own life. He put up one hell of a fight, and that helps me to stay sober and not turn to drinking. I know he wouldn't want anyone to suffer as he did. God bless those who fight every day. Though it doesn't always work out, don't give up...you are an inspiration still. And I'm stilll Daddy's little girl.

    May 6, 2011 at 12:58 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. dc4sense

    Maybe going forward we can treat this illness before it destroys peoples lives. Take kids to these place as part of their high school education so they can see first hand what addition can do. Keeping poeple from starting is probably all we can do. Mr Dontpretend ignores the fact that these poeple dont just destroy their own lives. They destroy the lives of children and spouses – who may then cause major problems to society later. The fact that they dont contribute to society is a huge loss of productivity value to all of us, worth a lot of money. If all these people had jobs, paid taxes, etc, everyone would benefit.

    May 6, 2011 at 12:59 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. pointless1

    My god.. real life barney from the simpsons...

    May 6, 2011 at 13:00 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. Dave

    It's not being 55, I got a good job at 60, it's being a drunk why they don't want to hire you!

    May 6, 2011 at 13:04 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. GirlinCanada

    Here in my city of 86,000 people, our city council is trying to build 2 wet houses on either side of the largest elementary school in our town! They want to house 80+ mentally ill addicts in 2 four storey buildings to be built and I am desperately trying to find studies, etc that prove that high density wet housing near schools do not work. Any assistance would be appreciated as they wet houses (mainly for drug addicts using stimulants) would be a few hundred feet on either side of this school in a neighborhood that is predominantly working class families. Our City Council is saying that this is good for our neighborhood and children and WET HOUSING in our town allows drug addicts and alcoholics to use illegal drugs and consume alcohol in their apartments, etc so they can basically have their dealers deliver to their door. PLEASE HELP as both these proposed wet houses are ALSO both located across from liquor stores/pubs!!!! Somehow the safety of my child is not as important as some adult who has chosen a life without sobriety and is so ill with their addiction that they get more rights than neighbors and children at the school!!!

    May 6, 2011 at 13:13 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. tommas

    Legalize cannabis and watch the level of alcoholics in this country drop off. Being a "pot head" is a million times better then a alcoholic regardless of what our government and tv commercials tell you.(let alone the fact that many people have quit alcohol using cannabis without becoming addicted to it). Remember this next time you are sitting next to a 6 year old watching a sports game and a captain morgan's commercial comes on.

    May 6, 2011 at 13:15 | Report abuse | Reply
    • mac316

      so you gonna offer your 6 yr old a joint? my man you can become addicted to weed oohhhh yes you can been there done that when I was young and stupid try not smoking weeed for a year just try it bet you cant because you have this stupid idea that it isnt addicting so you wont even try maybe someday you will grow up and enjoy life with out drugs in the meqan time give your kid a chance to live life on lifes terms

      May 6, 2011 at 13:25 | Report abuse |
    • tommas

      First off mac, there is a big difference between psychological and chemical addiction. Booze is not even on the same planet compared to cannabis. I constantly stop smoking for months at a time then go back to everyday, know many people who do the same for drug tests. If you are an alcoholic you could literally die by doing that. I know professors, doctors, lawyers, police officers, government agents who all enjoy cannabis. The majority of alcoholics I know are unemployed (but of course that is just my experience). You should not offer a joint to a kid, duh, just as you should not advertise booze to children (or at least take the non hypocritical / libertarian stance and allow tobacco to advertised as well). This country is brainwashed and controlled by alcohol companies while the damage caused to our society is just written off as normal. Please try and think objectively !

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

      Does the truancy officer know you are not in class?

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

      No bubba, I just got back from teaching one!

      May 6, 2011 at 13:37 | Report abuse |
  9. shroom

    Keep it classy, get that pinky up!

    May 6, 2011 at 13:16 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. Captain_OWNARSHIP

    alcoholism is nooooo jooooooke. a few of my good friends started drinking basically all the time in their early 20s. now we're all aroune 30 and the aforementioned have lost most of their friends.

    May 6, 2011 at 13:18 | Report abuse | Reply
  11. Bobsomeguy

    Bottom line, some people are not cut out to live in a society that expects anything from them and all the addiction consoling and mental health treatment in the world isn't going to give them the drive they need to make a real life for themselves.

    I'd rather they were somewhere safe where they could live the way they choose and stay off our highways and streets and out of our prisons and hospitals.

    May 6, 2011 at 13:19 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. Steve

    Chronic alcoholism, like homelessness, is a power-law problem, where the majority of the resources are directed at a small number of chronic alcoholics, many of whom are also homeless. In his essay "Million-Dollar Murray," Malcolm Gladwell argues that with a power-law problem, "we can stay true to our principles, or we can fix the problem. We cannot do both." I see these "wet houses" as an attempt to address the dual problems of chronic alcoholism and homelessness among the residents by giving them a place to live and a safe place to drink. It sure seems like enabling, but not enabling their behaviors leaves them to die in the streets and emergency rooms. Besides, maybe having a constant supply of alcohol will make some see that none of their problems were solved when they no longer had to worry about where the next drink would come from.

    May 6, 2011 at 13:21 | Report abuse | Reply
  13. Christine

    my husband died of liver disease related to many years of drinking. He had been sober for the last 10 years but previous to that, he threw up blood and had to have transfusions and suffered from fatigue and a swollen body from the liver not functioning properly. It was sad to see a good man waste away like that. He wished he never drank knowing how it was killing him slowly.

    May 6, 2011 at 13:22 | Report abuse | Reply
  14. Tim Venables

    in my family we have alcoholic tendencies (I think that's the correct term) , once we've got a drink inside ourselves we don't stop until we're totally intoxicated, like I mean a whole bottle of whisky or 14 pints of lager. My cousins and aunts all say they suffer the same thing so it must be to do with genes. Two of my greatgrandads died of drinking, one drowned in a river in Yorkshire because he was drunk and the other died of sirosis. I was a totally drunk for twenty years but it gradually stopped being fun and just became an addiciton, luckily I've got a decent job so money was never an issue about what I drank but I was hating myself and the effect I was having on my Mum and sisters. I begged and begged Jesus to free me, it was horrible, my hangovers were lasting a week, until suddenly we prayed at church for like the tenth time and click I was free, I got drunk once more just to be bloodyminded but I didn't feel obliged to do so. That was two years and a half years ago. I giggle all day, it's true what they say about recovered alcoholics being high on life. I stopped smoking almost straight away too. For me I am nothing and the Lord Jesus Christ is everything and the answer to this problem.

    May 6, 2011 at 13:23 | Report abuse | Reply
  15. WINGER27

    This is totally a copy of a story from THIS AMERICAN LIFE on NPR!!!! Nice steal CNN!

    May 6, 2011 at 13:23 | Report abuse | Reply
  16. A wife

    I am the wife of an alcoholic and have tried everything I know how to get my husband to stop drinking. He has been to 2 rehabs and starts out well been relapses after several months. He has now lost 3 jobs and because he drinks from sunup to sundown. If he doesn't drink he shakes; this is a viscious cycle. He refuses to go to rehab again and has not worked for 1 year. He sits at home and drinks while I go to work. This situation has taken its toll on our relationship and I recently kicked him out. I think this wet house might be a solution for him because I don't think he has any intention of quitting and this place would keep him off the streets and near medical help. It might actually make him think about sobering up and getting back to the important things in life (ie his family).

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

      You are absolutely right. And God bless you for not treating him like a criminal. He has a deep problem about something only he knows and only he can solve. He hurts and when he decides to face it, he will need you more tha ever. An understanding family is the only reason I am alive today – and sober. Don't give up on him

      May 6, 2011 at 13:30 | Report abuse |
    • mac316

      alanon dear wife alanon look them up and call you need help too mant wives of alkies are damaged and dont know it good luck and God bless you

      May 6, 2011 at 13:31 | Report abuse |
    • Pierce

      From a former "husband." Leave him. You are an important person too, whose life is just as meaningful. People who give up their own lives to take care of an addict are no different than someone who is a gambling addict in Vegas. At some point you just have to stop pumping quarters into a slot machine that will never pay off, cut your loses, and WALK AWAY. I threw away 11 years trying to fix the unfixable. The good news is there is happiness down the road for you if you have the strength.

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

      Be good to yourself first!! I was there 3 years ago. Don't let him back. As the drinking gets worse many things can go wrong from alcoholic demetia (memory loss to crazy episodes-mine got paronoid) to bone loss in hips, toes, fingers, eye damage plus all the liver problems. Don't use Aalon they encourage "fixing" your drunk.
      He will never stop. Stop your fear..

      May 6, 2011 at 22:24 | Report abuse |
  17. Bubba

    Sober 15 years. No one can understand an addict but another addict. All those crowing about "what should be done" don't have a clue. Forcing addicts into rehab and AA just makes it harder for the ones that are really there to quit. So get them off the street. Give them a safe place. They are Americans that have basic rights – even to participate in self-destructive behavior. They will see the light or die, which is basically AA's philosophy – though I certainly don't speak for them. If people want to help addicts, then God bless them. Love and caring will win the day...not force.

    May 6, 2011 at 13:25 | Report abuse | Reply
  18. Gerald Spencer

    Hagerman's story is heart breaking, as are the stories of millions. Too many people, in too many places, are prone to break the spirit of another human being. What fun that must be for them.
    We have an untold number of mentally ill people talking daily and screaming about abortions, yet they have no care about another already living being, whether it is a child, a teen, a man or woman. Look to the horrible speeches being given on the floor of the US House of Representatives, these people don't care about their fellow man, it is all about business.

    May 6, 2011 at 13:26 | Report abuse | Reply
  19. KDS

    Did anyone else realize that the alcoholic isn't dying, but his brother's are a bit less fortune on that subject?

    May 6, 2011 at 13:27 | Report abuse | Reply
  20. Craig

    This guy has nothing else to do because he's never looked beyond the bottom of the bottle.

    May 6, 2011 at 13:28 | Report abuse | Reply
  21. Good Stuff

    Honestly, if it is cheaper than taking them to the hospital and keeps them out of my hair. Fine. Go drink yourself to death. One less person to drain the resources for the rest of us.

    May 6, 2011 at 13:33 | Report abuse | Reply
  22. JEN


    May 6, 2011 at 13:34 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Good Stuff

      That's no even coherent. All caps–that's so rude and straining to the eyes.

      May 6, 2011 at 13:37 | Report abuse |
  23. mac316

    these WET HOUSES should prove to be good hunting grounds for those who really want to do some 12 step work & you know who I am talking to isnt that what the program teaches?

    May 6, 2011 at 13:40 | Report abuse | Reply
    • OregonTom

      Don't drink so much, smoke a bowl.

      May 6, 2011 at 14:00 | Report abuse |
    • aatami

      Why stop at the wet house? Why not just legalize euthanasia?

      May 6, 2011 at 14:20 | Report abuse |
    • Duffey

      Good point. I agree with this..

      May 6, 2011 at 15:14 | Report abuse |
    • william Abbott

      As Joe E. Lewis once said;" My doctor told me to stop drinking if I wanted to live to a ripe old age. Funny, I know more old drunks than old doctots

      May 6, 2011 at 15:25 | Report abuse |
    • sakara

      just let all the lowlifes drink themselves to death.

      May 6, 2011 at 15:34 | Report abuse |
    • william

      A manasks his doctor; "If I guve up booze, will I live longer? The doctor's response: " Not necessarily, but it's sure gonna' seem longer.

      May 6, 2011 at 15:36 | Report abuse |
    • Kristin Haddox

      This is ridiculous!What's next? Homes where people can do as much meth,cocaine or herion as they want [or can get]?

      May 6, 2011 at 15:47 | Report abuse |
  24. ck37

    C'mon people, don't let UR ignorances show! ANYONE who thinks U can "just stop" ur addiction, well...U just need to learn more b4 U comment. If addiction was that easy to deal with, we would'nt have so manny addicts. As a FORMER addict myself, the experiences I endured at the hands of SOCIETY were FAR WORSE than what I had 2 deal with from my drug of choice.To say addicts should just get over it is just plain IGNORANT and is indicidive of societies lack of concern for their fellow man...except when it affects them. I think ANY progressive program that addresses the needs of MY people are worthy of true consideration.As I am now 10 years clean and well on my way to a BA in Psychology JUST SO I can do what I can do to make a difference in this matter. I encourage EVERYONE to learn more (if ur so uninformed as to not be able to respond intelligently)and to get involved if you don't want it to be ur mother, father, sister, or brother ending up in a "last chance" facility like this. PLEASE world, we have only each other to rely on.

    May 6, 2011 at 13:40 | Report abuse | Reply

      isn't a 12 step program just "stopping" and "getting over" your addiction in a slow gradual process? what other disease can you do that with? just because something is really hard to do does not make it a disease.

      May 6, 2011 at 14:08 | Report abuse |
    • MACT

      But every year thousands *do* quit their addictions, so clearly it is possible. The question is why do some succeed, while others fail?

      May 6, 2011 at 14:10 | Report abuse |
    • Beth

      Good for you! That's great that you are 10 years sober. I think people who don't have the experience of addiction or *whatever* can have a lot of misunderstanding and judgement about whatever that thing is. A lot of people who are thin say, "just stop eating so much" as if weight loss were simple 'Just stop drinking' is the same thing–easy to say but I'm sure must be very difficult to do. I give you a lot of credit. Best wishes.

      May 6, 2011 at 14:16 | Report abuse |
    • gurv

      Congrats on being sober for 10 years. That impressive. But I take issue with you're blaming society. Whether you were "wronged" or not by society, get over it and take some responsibility for your own life instead of leaving it to "society."

      May 6, 2011 at 14:29 | Report abuse |
    • Easy argument

      I was addicted to the 2nd most highly addictive drug in the world, nicotine. I quit cold turkey. You know how, I convinced myseld that I didn't want to die painfully from cancer or any disease like it. If someone wants something more than the drug, they will quit. That is the bottom line. It is hard to find that one thing though, for me it was simply a higher quality of life.

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

      As a FORMER addict, I can tell you that I stopped using and channeled negative energy into a positive, healthy lifestyle. It's simple: if you desire a better life, then you will not continually engage in destructive behavior that threatens to destroy it. Excuses are easy to make, but they ultimately fall on deaf ears.

      May 6, 2011 at 14:35 | Report abuse |
    • Zammie

      Did you even read what you typed? Don't preach to me about addiction. I too have been down that road. Don't go blaming society for your addiction. Your life is what you make it. By the way, might I suggest a BA in spelling and grammar?

      May 6, 2011 at 14:37 | Report abuse |
    • James

      Some people are stronger than others, and some just want to quit more than others. If you don't give a crud about yourself, you're a lot more likely to not care and just do what feels good, in this case continuing to drink.

      May 6, 2011 at 14:58 | Report abuse |
    • Evan

      U went out of UR way 2 show off w UR kewl type, damn str8!

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

      Thats bs the state shouldnt have to pay anything. We need to stop supporting americas bottom feeders. Everyone has a choice and if you make the wrong one they need to live with it. Stop waisting americas tax $$$ on loosers.

      May 6, 2011 at 15:10 | Report abuse |
    • Roadrunnerlegs12

      My younger sister has been in and out of drug rehab all of her adult life, since her 20's and she's now 52. Her last stint in rehab will be four years this upcoming August. My sister lives with my older sister. My older sister was in my younger sister's bedroom recently one day looking for an article of clothing and she found about 8 crack pipes in my sister's bedroom. She confronted my sister who said she only slipped once (once? 8 crack pipes?). Of course that's a lie. I've given up on her.

      May 6, 2011 at 15:31 | Report abuse |
    • Jessie

      I like your comment Ck,it seems to come from a very hard experience and it means you know exactely what those people need.When the people star to take care and help and do what ever they can to others ,maybe we're gonna have a better world,even those whom are gonna be helped as those whom are gonna help them out.Good Luck ck37!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

      May 6, 2011 at 15:32 | Report abuse |
    • Hmm

      I don't remember anyone putting anything in my hand to drink, smoke, or other. I don't remember anyone making me quit. I made the decisions that got me addicted and I made them that made me quit. There are temptations every day, but that's life and I CHOOSE whether I want to backslide or not, but not one person has forced me to do anything. The nice thing about addicts is there are plenty of people out there enabling them and telling them it's not their fault. It is. It's their fault and up to them to decide if they want to address the issue THEM. Like "Marion" said. He'll continue drinking and that's his CHOICE! He decided he's going to and not going to try to quit. I didn't read one place in that article where he said, ">>>>>>>> Told me I have to be a drunk. I'd quit in a heartbeat, but told me I can't and well.....I have to do what they say."

      May 6, 2011 at 15:51 | Report abuse |
  25. Bsuguy

    Does anyone notice that he is drinking Mouthwash? It has the ADA stamp right on the bottom left. I thought the article said Mouthwash is not allowed there.

    May 6, 2011 at 13:42 | Report abuse | Reply
    • plantar

      it says that he is "huddled behind a parked trailer".

      May 6, 2011 at 14:08 | Report abuse |
    • Kafromet

      He's allowed to drink, just not at the facility. I'm assuming that he's allowed to leave and drink elsewhere, hence the "wash" picture.

      May 6, 2011 at 14:11 | Report abuse |
    • Shoos

      He can't drink inside the facility (including mouthwash) but is allowed to outside the facility.

      May 6, 2011 at 14:11 | Report abuse |
    • JCan

      He admits in the article that he is drinking mouthwash.

      May 6, 2011 at 14:16 | Report abuse |
    • ch661213

      I think the article also says he is "Sneaking" a drink.

      May 6, 2011 at 15:51 | Report abuse |
  26. RMHV

    Though the idea may not be justied by some, I would personally be relieved to know if one of my family members were living @ a wethouse. At least the possibility of tehm dying on the streets would be less fearsome. Nice going St Paul, Minnesota.

    May 6, 2011 at 13:45 | Report abuse | Reply
  27. AnonAddict

    To those who have spoken badly of NA or AA, shame on you. How can anyone deny a 100% success rate? That is to say that any addict who works the 12 steps to the best of their ability, goes to meetings, finds a higher power, and lives right from that point onward will NOT use drugs again. NA has never seen any addict WORK the program continuously and use again. It is only when addicts stop doing what worked for them in the beginning that they begin to relapse.

    Addiction is a CHRONIC DISEASE, and is recognized as such but virtually all medical professionals today. It is incurable, lifelong, and fatal if left untreated. As such, it must be treated daily and continuously, for the rest of an addict's life. Anyone who refuses to acknowledge 12 step recovery as a path to freedom is shortchanging themselves greatly. ANYONE can benefit from the 12 steps–even those who are not addicted to drugs. It's about changing our faults and becoming a better person–where else in the world do people even consider doing this?

    May 6, 2011 at 13:46 | Report abuse | Reply
    • nicole

      AA's own published success rate is 8%, moron.

      May 6, 2011 at 13:58 | Report abuse |
    • drew

      You just described any addiction program. How does trying to get someone co-dependent on sky fairies help them? If you use M&M's to break your addiction, and try really hard and follow through you will have a 100% success rate too

      May 6, 2011 at 14:00 | Report abuse |
    • LEB

      AA statistically isn't any more effective than any other method of treatment. Glad it worked for you, but that whole "higher power" thing doesn't work for everyone. And for others, counseling and group meetings aren't enough.

      May 6, 2011 at 14:08 | Report abuse |
    • sfsocla

      100% success rate? Wow, do you live in la-la land or what? AA has a HORRIBLE "success rate" but you think if 1 person follows through you just don't count the thousands and thousands it doesn't work for? Geeze if all agencies got to count numbers like you do we would all look hunky dory, birds would be singing over rainbows and unicorns would frolick every where. Get a grip...12 step is a total failure for most, that is why addiction in this nation remains so high.

      May 6, 2011 at 14:13 | Report abuse |

      Addiction is not fatal. Put any addict on an island away from drugs and alcohol and they will not die of addiction (withdrawls aside). Feeding addiction is fatal. (not a disease. the medical associations are pandering to drug and insurance companies when they classify it as a disease. its about money.)

      May 6, 2011 at 14:16 | Report abuse |
    • Soooo Drunk

      So there is a 100% success rate for those that succeed?

      May 6, 2011 at 14:18 | Report abuse |
    • addicttoo

      I'm an addict, too. It's funny how you call yourself a former addict. 12 steps teach you that there is no such thing. But anyway, not to get too caught up in details, 12-steps only work if you are religious. They don't call themselves a religious group, but they do tell you to find yourself a higher power and give yourself to it. And then everything after that is based on a higher power. I've gone to NA and AA, and because I do not believe in a higher power that gets involved in the lives of humans, it doesn't work. Also...the success rate of quitting by yourself is around 5%...and so is the success rate of AA's programs. I would love to see more alternative treatment programs that have nothing to do with 12-stepping. It works well for those already from a religious background...but not so much for people like me.

      May 6, 2011 at 14:44 | Report abuse |
    • Atheist for Jesus :P

      Doesn't one of the steps perscribe that the individule give up the idea of control? That the addict isn't in control of their addicition? That you should give up trying to control it? Or something along those lines...? That's why it HAS to be a disease, right? Because if it was something you could control the individual would have a lot to answer for.

      I think this whole AA thing is a scam to slip in the underpinnings of religion. Once you give up control of your life you are no longer morally responsible. You could say anything made you drink, stress, the devil, your disease. It's very sly and 100% ethically wrong to strip an individual of their right to choose.

      I was an addict for 6 years and I sobered up one year. After a few months my brain chemestry reset and I was then able to drink socially without over doing it but I still dried up for that year. Now I can drink responsibly and not waste money or get messed up or even drunk. I have total control of my old problem. It's a matter of taking control.. not giving it up!!!!

      Addicition boils down to personality. A disease isn't something you can ever walk away from. I know... I've had MS for the last 10 years. My personality is a winner. I don't let things take me down. I've beaten alcoholism with no help from AA. Prayer is passive, action gets results.

      Want to truely dry out an addict. Transport them to the native colonies in Northern Canada. All dry towns. No alcohol for 100's of miles of snow fields and ice flows. Good luck... it's dry out or die.

      AA is crap.

      May 6, 2011 at 14:45 | Report abuse |
    • addicttoo

      and sorry about the former addict comment. that was a different post. But everything else I said still applies. lol.

      May 6, 2011 at 14:48 | Report abuse |
    • Tim Limbert

      I like the way you define "success" to count only those who succeed. Let me try it:

      "My school has a 100% graduation rate. That is to say that any student who doesn't drop out, and gets a diploma, will NOT fail to graduate!"

      Hey, that works! Cool!

      May 6, 2011 at 15:21 | Report abuse |
    • A Friend

      "AA (and members of) have no opinions on outside issues, hence the AA name ought never be drawn into public controversy." Please go back and read the long form of Tradition 10 and try not to comment even when you so badly want to.

      May 6, 2011 at 15:38 | Report abuse |
    • M . F .

      Oh, c'mon now. I'm a member so, of course, I understand the rhetoric. And, as a member, I completely agree with you. "Normal" (for lack of a better word) people don't get this kind of reasoning. Yes... No one will use again if they work the program. Well, guess what! I'm an imperfect addict relying on an HP I can't see to get me through my days clean. Some days... my faith falls short. Don't try to explain any sort of 100% success rate to people who aren't steppin. Hell... Even those steppin' don't believe you.

      May 6, 2011 at 15:55 | Report abuse |
    • Jennifer

      You must have rainbows, ice cream, puppies and lollipops in the place where you live. Your statistics are only made for Utopia...

      May 6, 2011 at 15:58 | Report abuse |
    • peace

      Wow, people with some PMS on here or what? Whatever you want to call it, disease or willpower, it is society's problem. I think there are a couple of main issues, either an untreated mental illness (which includes depression), and/or lack of self-esteem and support systems. Sorry to say America, but we are turning into "every man for himself" society. It's evident in some callous responses on here, the daily news, and the garbage masquerading as entertainment on the boob tube. Why do so many people who are not physically alone feel lonely?

      May 6, 2011 at 16:00 | Report abuse |
    • Claire

      The notion that AA has a 100% success rate is absurd, and it is not only unhelpful, but damaging to say that it does. I have been sober for 12 years and was in AA for quite some time, and the reality is that most people who come to AA do NOT get sober, even those who "work the steps to the best of their ability".

      Please, stop spreading this lie.

      May 7, 2011 at 15:30 | Report abuse |
    • STupid

      This guy never said AA had a 100% success rate. Idiots.

      What he said is that anyone who works the 12 steps and follows the guidelines has had a 100% success rate. Its that simple. The replies to this comment are ignorant. Nobody ever said that anyone who is successful has 100% success. That is the dumbest thing I've ever read. It says anyone who works the program has success. It is those who do not work the program that do not succeed. Nobody has ever worked a 12 step program on a daily basis and failed. That is a guarantee.

      AA's success rate has nothing to do with this–it takes into account those who stop working the program.

      But why try to convince idiots? It is people like those who have replied that make this issue so taboo.

      May 13, 2011 at 14:05 | Report abuse |
  28. Get'er Dun

    I think it's time for a beer...thanks for reminding me!!!

    May 6, 2011 at 13:48 | Report abuse | Reply
    • ft3

      LOL.......me too

      May 6, 2011 at 13:57 | Report abuse |
  29. Shirley

    I thought assisted suicide was against the law. Since the residents don't have jobs, are they provided all the free alcohol they can drink too? A place like this is just wrong in so many ways. My son is an alcoholic. It's a very sad disease and he's battled it for a long time, but I wouldn't tell him it's ok to drink as long as you do it at home. It's never OK for an alcoholic to drink. Drinking just feeds the disease. I must be missing something here. It doesn't make any sense.

    May 6, 2011 at 13:48 | Report abuse | Reply
    • LEB

      Eating fast food frequently is slow suicide. Are you going to take away people's Big Macs, too?

      The wet houses provide shelter and meals, plus a few other services. They don't provide the alcohol. These folks are going to drink themselves to death anyway, so why stop them? Some DO bounce back after landing in a wet house, because they see guys worse off than they are and realize that they're looking at their own futures if they don't clean up. But some people will never change, and you can't force them to. If they're not harming anyone else, then let them nurse their cheap whiskey in peace.

      May 6, 2011 at 14:12 | Report abuse |
    • J

      What else is there to do for a person who is in a 'last chance' position and all but admitted they will not stop? Letting them to the street will only cost more and increase the chance of the person getting involved with crime, it's cheaper and by all means more humane to simply house them. When a cancer patient is in their final stages, powerful painkillers are often administered to help the person finish their life with ease, this is done with the full knowledge that the medicines will not help cure the disease, how is having a 'last chance' wet house any different. Not everyone can be saved.

      May 6, 2011 at 14:20 | Report abuse |
    • sfsocla

      It is about harm reduction to the user and COST reduction to society. It is facing hard facts that you will not change anyone who doesn't want to change. It is something the US has a very hard time with and is so far behind the rest of the world it is pitiful...and many are proud of it. It isn't condoning or enabling, they will do it with or without your help. Throwing them in jail costs even more...this is a very logical and intelligent move.

      May 6, 2011 at 14:42 | Report abuse |
    • peace

      Shirley, these people are chronic inebriates. When I first heard about these houses, I felt the same way. But there are those that will NOT ever quit, and those that need to be off of the streets, where they could be a danger to others (DWI. etc) and themselves. The houses that I know of encourage people and help them to quit if they truly want to. It is sad to see what alcoholics do to themselves. Your family will be in my prayers.

      May 6, 2011 at 16:11 | Report abuse |
    • Zela

      I don't think the facility provides alcohol - it just allows those who drink to stay there. For people who don't want to fight their addiction, it's safer for all.

      May 6, 2011 at 17:40 | Report abuse |
  30. keith

    if someone wants to drink themselves to death, then let them....no one else should say anything about it. I do plenty of things in my life that I'm sure others would not like, as do others in their own lives. I'm so tired of everyone these days trying to tell people what they should and shouldn't do. If you don't like what others do, then go somewhere else. That's a benefit of living in this country is being able to do as I pleaase when I please....instead of in a country where the Taliban run things and dictate what you can or cannot do, and what you can think

    May 6, 2011 at 13:51 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Pandora31

      I agree, Keith! There are all too many people out there that would sooner take the time to lambast everyone that is not living like them, rather than perhaps focusing on how they can help make things better. Even just learning to develop things like compassion and tolerance is a great start. I'm sure none of these "fault-finders" have no idea what hitting bottom really is like, and their lack of compassion is truly sad. Wow... it must be really nice to be so perfect that they have the ability to pass judgement so freely on the world. Get a constructive hobby, people... and stop trying to push everything you don't like into some dark corner so you don't have to deal with it. It doesn't make the problem go away.

      May 6, 2011 at 15:44 | Report abuse |

    and they sat smoking is bad not ads bad as drinking

    May 6, 2011 at 13:54 | Report abuse | Reply
  32. RRMON

    Good luck Bill and thank you for your sincerity. I will be celebrating 19 years in recovery this July. God's speed.

    May 6, 2011 at 13:56 | Report abuse | Reply
  33. Tim Allen on Coke

    when youre as bad an alcoholic as this guy ( drinking mouth wash to get intoxicated ) theres simply no turning around. hes at the point where he cannot function without it. ive seen people like this before and its really messed up. theres simply no help for people like that i dont care what kind of program you throw them in. at least hes in a place with others like him suffering from the same disease with medical staff on hand and cable tv.

    May 6, 2011 at 13:56 | Report abuse | Reply
    • john

      bull.. theres always hop and help. ive known many people this bad who have stopped and turned their lives around..

      May 6, 2011 at 14:37 | Report abuse |
    • Denizen Kate

      @john, great, then that makes this a good program. It's costing us taxpayers less, and if only one person is able to turn their life around, isn't that worth a try?

      May 6, 2011 at 14:53 | Report abuse |
    • Hmm

      The question I have is who's paying for all of it? To some extent society is driving the problem. Take away all the freebies and when people see they aren't enabled, they'll think twice. I'm not trying to be cold and insensitive, but where are the families and people who should be there supporting them? At what point are they responsible? "We don't want to deal with him. Let everyone else pay their way, but don't expect his own flesh and blood to help." Step one should be the forfeiture of all social security and any other source of income period. I'm so tired of no one wanting to be responsible for their own lives. Everyone looks for someone else to blame for their miserable decisions. These should all be charitable organizations, not financed from any sort of taxes. I'm all for charity for those who need it, but not for those who create their own situations.

      May 6, 2011 at 15:45 | Report abuse |
  34. Christy

    This is actually a great idea. It keeps the addict safe and enforces a structure that they may have been missing in their lives. It's not prison, and its not rehab. Part of getting over an addiction is hitting rock bottom, then admitting you have a problem and then accepting help. This gives someone a choice to keep killing them selves or just slowly ween themselves off of alcohol.

    May 6, 2011 at 13:59 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Hmm

      You say part of it is hitting rock bottom, but yet think creating a comfortable environment is a great idea? Basically you want to prolong the time it takes for them to hit rock bottom? I don't have a problem with the program, but why do I have to pay for it? Says the state provides funds. I highly doubt the majority has asked to be taxed so they can pay for crap like this.

      May 6, 2011 at 16:16 | Report abuse |
  35. Wheezer

    "It sucks." He said, but it's what he didn't say that's important: "But real life sucks more or I'd quit." We should have a place, like in "Escape from NY" where people can live out a short alcoholic life the way they want to, without interfering with society. It's cruel and stupid of us to demand that everyone be a model citizen judged by a set of arbitrary religious agendas that we fashion into laws. That will never happen. If people want to drink their life away we should have a safe place for them to do that. Safe for the rest of us I mean.... I'm not an alcoholic, but I married one once. I nearly killed myself trying to make it work, and it was all just a huge waste of my time. Society's wasting it's time trying to "fix" people.

    May 6, 2011 at 14:00 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Tsilby

      HERE! HERE! You said it. "It sucks..." But how 'badly' does it suck when he's given the option to quit and get a better life? He can't, and won't...and that's why these places aren't a bad idea. Are they sad? Absolutely. It is indeed a shame and pity that many people go this route in life, but again, why waste our time trying to fix someone who ultimately either doesn't want to be fixed, or can't be? For that 10% who can, guess what they are for the rest of their lives, a recovering alcoholic, constantly having to live a life fearing a relapse, and educating everyone else about the dangers of alcoholism. It's good of course that they recover, but my honest belief is that most of them would have recovered with our without help anyway because they WANTED to...

      May 6, 2011 at 14:18 | Report abuse |
    • Hmm

      LIve and let live. If they want to live this life, then I have no problem with it. I agree they should be allowed to, but at the same time, they need to do it on their dime, not mine. Take away the state funding. Take away the money grab states use in the form of taxing alcohol, cigarettes, and other 'sin taxes', but take away funding for crap like this. Quit forcing people who are fundamentally opposed to this lifestyle to pay for them. Talk about society not giving people a choice!!!!!

      May 6, 2011 at 16:20 | Report abuse |
  36. TXt

    Sad, sad, sad...this article and most of these posts!!

    May 6, 2011 at 14:01 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Shoos

      This is reality and as long as there has been alcohol there has probably been someone addicted to it. The world has been like this a long time. I think it shows compassion that this program is set up. It's enabling, yes. But these people are about as low as you can get. Be happy you aren't in this place yourself, count your blessings.

      May 6, 2011 at 14:19 | Report abuse |
  37. liz

    umm...this is sad! simply sad. what is the world coming too?

    May 6, 2011 at 14:05 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Atheist for Jesus :P

      Well, glad you can finally join the party. Had a look around did you? I don't know what bubble you popped out of but the world was like this before you and I were born. It's a wierd mutation but somehow humans evolved a very high sense of altruism. So jump in and help out or crawl back into the la-la -everything-is -beautiful bubble... your choice.

      May 6, 2011 at 14:56 | Report abuse |
  38. kathy

    I live in the twin cities and I'm not sure I understand why they allow drinking at the wet house, but can not drink in the wet house, so they are still drinking out in the cold correct where they could pass out or fall or get mugged or hurt ect? I'm for a facility that asks the folks to restrain from drinking and attend meetings and get sober and learn day to day how to stay sober.

    May 6, 2011 at 14:11 | Report abuse | Reply
    • John

      They can drink in the house, they are not allowed to drink alone in their rooms is what the article says.

      May 6, 2011 at 15:09 | Report abuse |
  39. Lanfear


    May 6, 2011 at 14:17 | Report abuse | Reply
  40. James

    Well that was my depressing read for the day. Addiction sucks that is for sure.

    May 6, 2011 at 14:17 | Report abuse | Reply
  41. concerned_reader88

    Society shouldn't enable chronic alcoholics. As usual, taxpayers wind up paying for their lifestyles. Let them drink themselves to death on the streets!

    May 6, 2011 at 14:18 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Denizen Kate

      You obviously didn't read the article. Allowing these alcoholics to "drink themselves to death" in these facilities is costing taxpayers less than half of what it costs if they are left out on the streets. Read first, then post comments.

      May 6, 2011 at 14:56 | Report abuse |
    • Pandora31

      Wow, concerned_reader88... these kind of opinions about people suffering, whether it be self-inflicted or not, is truly sad. I hope that in your time of need in this world that someone does not treat you the same way. I hope you're not a Christian, b/c your statement made you into a HUGE hypocrite if you are.

      May 6, 2011 at 15:50 | Report abuse |
    • Rayray

      Most of you making statements about it costing less than have are not using your own head. Just because it's stated in an article doesn't make it true. I live in Pinellas County, Fl. We have the highest homeless rate in Florida. Most the homeless I talk to have a wad of cash in their sock from begging, and would never enter a hospital or jail for fear of having to be sober for a few hours. I get stopped on a daily bases by them and am asked for money. My question is always, "What are you going to do with it?" If the tell me they are going to buy food I know they're full of bs..."sorry I don't have anything". If they tell me, " I need a beer" .... I give them $5. Go buy a 6 pack on me. At least you were honest. Does this cost the government $1500 a month. NO. At the most they draw foodstamps, which is far less than shelter, food, electricity, ect combined.

      May 6, 2011 at 16:00 | Report abuse |
  42. Beth

    I don't know what I think about this. It's very sad to read - this man has given up on himself. I don't know if this is the best way to help these people. Even the term, 'late stage alcoholic' means on the way to being dead soon. I don't know enough about alcoholism but I would like to think that with the right help everyone who was ready for the help could get better and be sober and well. I always thought that probably wasn't the case with very hard drugs except for a rare few but didn't think it was the case with alcohol. My heart goes out to the man featured in the story and his family and friends. I hope he does somehow get sober and a job that he would like and feel about about having.

    May 6, 2011 at 14:20 | Report abuse | Reply
  43. SB

    If these "wet houses" do indeed cost the public less than incarceration then I'm all for it, but not with with support from church charities and absolutely NOT without counseling. Remove the religion and add a layer of rehabilitation and this is a concept that I can get behind.

    May 6, 2011 at 14:20 | Report abuse | Reply
  44. Beth

    Also, I know this–I know I'm very lucky that I don't have alcoholism and am not addicted to drugs. That could happen to anyone who is predisposed to it. Thankfully I'm not. I could leave alcohol the rest of my life and not care and rarely have a thing to drink ever. Those who judge this are just LUCKY it isn't YOU who is the addicted person. It is as though people think it is a moral issue. It is addiction which is very, very powerful and which takes down so many people.

    May 6, 2011 at 14:22 | Report abuse | Reply
    • samuel summers

      Beth knows what she is talking about,,,and she is surprisingly wise for a younger-type person.

      May 6, 2011 at 15:53 | Report abuse |
  45. mdc

    Your Gov't dollars at work.
    Total BS! Suicide is quicker.

    May 6, 2011 at 14:23 | Report abuse | Reply
  46. AlbertaNurse

    I work as a nurse in a southern Alberta city, and around here we have a HUGE problem with addicts. It has gotten so bad that, in an effort to reduce the issue, we no longer give mouthwash to our patients; it has been removed and is no longer supplied to us. In some units, such as portions of our psychatric wing, we have had to remove the hand sanitizers! To my understanding, those will be replaced with a non-alchol sterilizer within the next year or two. Addiction is a terrible disease, and some people will do just about anything to get that fix, even if it means consuming a substance that is potentially lethal.

    May 6, 2011 at 14:23 | Report abuse | Reply
    • luis

      Alcoholism is a psychological desease. I know, I was one for over 22 years. I went to one AA meeting and decided to quit. NO withdrawls. Just had to learn how to live sober, something that I didn't know how to. Now, cigarrets, that is a physical addiction, first week on Chantix, I even had diarrea. But it worked. The reason I make this comment is because having spent part of my teenage life, and almost all of my adult life drunk, and can assure there is no physical addiction like in smoking. What these people need is a wake up call before the alcohol keep on damaging their brains.

      May 6, 2011 at 14:43 | Report abuse |
    • TJJ

      Luis...you are very lucky that you didn't suffer any withdrawal symptoms, but to say that there is no physical component to alcohol addiction is patently false. Ask someone who is in the throes of delirium tremens and shaking uncontrollably whether their plight is simply a mental condition. Many high-level alcoholics, when quitting the sauce cold-turkey, are given a benzodiazepine to stop them from having seizures – potentially fatal seizures. Once again, you were lucky...but your experience is the exception, not the rule.

      May 6, 2011 at 15:17 | Report abuse |

    Where alcoholics can drink themselves to death.......... They can do that anywhere and they do.

    May 6, 2011 at 14:26 | Report abuse | Reply
  48. jockey

    Addiction is a very serious thing. To the outsider it may seem that the addict acts for selfish satisfaction, but in reality, he/she is compelled to do it, at the peril of terrible pain which follows. AA's primary mantra is belief in God. If you don't have that strong, you may not derive much benefit from it. In my experience, the alcoholic should wipe off the guilty feeling, do some serious introspection, engage with friends and family, confront the problem head on, resolve never to touch a drop even at the peril of death and treat alcohol just as a chemical which clicks the brain, not a conscious beastly 'thing'.

    May 6, 2011 at 14:26 | Report abuse | Reply
  49. G

    This is story is horrifiying–"wet houses" = suicide complicity

    May 6, 2011 at 14:28 | Report abuse | Reply
  50. Average Joe

    I've seen AA do more hard than good in many cases. It's a cult that works for a few people. But it doesn't work for many others. It's time to get real and start at least exploring other options.

    May 6, 2011 at 14:36 | Report abuse | Reply
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