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. CB1173

    well written but very sad article

    May 6, 2011 at 14:37 | Report abuse | Reply
  2. Thoughts

    I have mixed feelings about this. Being an addict myself, I totally understand the fight of addiction. I won’t go into my particular addiction, but I can tell you this…It’s a battle every day. I don’t roll over and just give in to it either. There are no easy answers but I have a problem with this “wet house” concept. It’s like they just give up and continue to live limited existences and are fully aware they have a problem. This man featured in this piece is totally aware of his addiction, which is the first step, but he’s not doing anything to battle it. He just continues to feed his addiction with no regard for his self, family and friends. He’s already lost just about everything, family/friends included and the only other thing left at this point is his life. I hope he realizes that even at 55 his life is not over. There is usually something at the crux of an addiction that causes a person to fall back into it and the key is to find out what that is through counseling and coaching.

    May 6, 2011 at 14:39 | Report abuse | Reply
  3. cc

    This house should be named as an assited suicide house, because thats all this is, allowing people to drink themselves to death is slow suicide. Its basicaly a "you know what we totaly give up on you – theres no way your going to recover ever so whats the point of trying???
    Why not just give them all a gun? i would prefer that than die an alcoholic death, which is slow and painful and lonely.
    And for all you below that want to be critical about a program you know NOTHING about....the recovery rate for alcoholics is very low PERIOD...most die....the only known solution or cure if you want it bad enough is working the 12 steps...and you know what its FREE!!!! most people dont want to give it a try because of their pride and ego...and you know what they WILL DIE. All these guys need to do in this death house is get over themselves, read a book , work on themselves and you know what every single one of them could fully recover! IF THEY WANTED TO!

    May 6, 2011 at 14:40 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Dog

      "And for all you below that want to be critical about a program you know NOTHING about....the recovery rate for alcoholics is very low PERIOD...most die....the only known solution or cure if you want it bad enough is working the 12 steps...and you know what its FREE!!!! most people dont want to give it a try because of their pride and ego...and you know what they WILL DIE. All these guys need to do in this death house is get over themselves, read a book , work on themselves and you know what every single one of them could fully recover! IF THEY WANTED TO!"

      It's absurd to think that everyone criticizing the program "knows NOTHING" about it. I have no problem with AA and know many people that have used it to get their life back, but to think that it works for everyone is a very narrow view of addiction. Many people cannot wrap their arms around the entire "higher power" concept...this does not mean that they "know NOTHING" about the program. Also..."IF THEY WANTED TO"?? Really? If you believe that it is always that simple, you don't know a damned thing about addiction...

      May 6, 2011 at 15:30 | Report abuse |
  4. Denizen Kate

    It's an experimental alternative. It's too early to tell what the long-term impact of this wet house program will be.

    It doesn't surprise me that William Moyer, an "executive director for Hazelden addiction treatment centers" is making statements against the concept. Hazelden is a profit-based company. Treatment isn't free. Either you or your medical insurance carrier pays them for your treatment. When reading someone's opinion on a subject, always follow the money.

    May 6, 2011 at 14:41 | Report abuse | Reply
    • TooBrokeForRehab

      Very, very, very true.

      May 6, 2011 at 15:33 | Report abuse |
  5. who cares

    Are you freakin' kidding me... this is a state funded program?
    Oh my god!@! Our tax money is paying for them to slowly drink themselves into oblivion. I am so sick of the sh** the government does with our tax money.

    May 6, 2011 at 14:42 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Denizen Kate

      Sigh . . . yet another person posting a comment without actually reading the article.

      Having these alcoholics at these live-in facilities, where medical treatment, food, shelter, etc. are available to them, costs less than half of what it costs taxpayers in emergency treatments, incarcerations, and so forth if they are left out on the street.

      Say it with me: Less than half!

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

      You obviously didn't care...enough to actually read the article. When you comment on something you haven't read, you set yourself up to look like an idiot. Try to remember that for next time.

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

      That's with the assumption that they are going to seek medical treatment or be arrested. I personally know several homeless alcoholics. 2 in particular have never been to jail, and I seriously doubt they would bother with a hospital. They hate the system trying to make them sober. At most they beg for there alcohol money, which doesn't cost the government a dime. They also draw food stamps. So do your math. $500 a month on food stamps or $1500 to let them chill with a buzz?

      May 6, 2011 at 15:40 | Report abuse |
  6. ElSwiveo

    Stop or Die. We all have to make descisions to stop certain things. Drunks like this though get an easy way out while we pay for it? Nice. I'll make sure I work a little extra this week so this dude can smuggle some mouthwash in his house. That way he can feel a little easier

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

      Love it! My thoughts exactly

      May 6, 2011 at 15:28 | Report abuse |
    • Read the article

      You're going to pay for them whether they take the "easy" way or the "hard" way. Would you rather pay twice as much for them not to take the "easy" way out? How does that make any sense again?

      May 6, 2011 at 15:42 | Report abuse |
  7. Sussay

    If an alcoholic wants to drink themselves to death, that is what they will do. I saw my cousin - my age, 48 - drink himself to death for 30 years. It probably cost his family a half million dollars for him to commit suicide. Let 'em drink, throw some dirt on 'em when they're done.

    May 6, 2011 at 14:44 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Nope.

      Millions of people in recovery, living happy and productive lives after years on the brink of disaster, would disagree with you.

      May 6, 2011 at 15:44 | Report abuse |
  8. Redhelga

    In the big blue book by Bill W founder of AA he says that there are some people who are incurable and therefore will die from this addiction. They do try and but never find real sobriety or for any amount of time. AA works for a lot of people but I personally have known several who died and tried to stay sober (eve with AA) but were unable to. This is a hideous disease and if the drinking does not stop they die. I lost a very close friend of ten years in 2010 from relapse and he had a aneurysm from drinking again after being sober for 2 years.

    May 6, 2011 at 14:46 | Report abuse | Reply
  9. general

    I have no sympathy for addicts. If you want to quit, quit. Just like millions who have came before you have done. The only "disease" is you fools believing you have a "disease","something you can not cure at your discretion. Wrong. Grow up!

    May 6, 2011 at 14:49 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Really?

      Idiot. You've obviously never been in their shoes...stick to commenting on subjects you actually know something about.

      May 6, 2011 at 15:48 | Report abuse |
    • Pandora31

      So, what is your excuse for not being able to cure this hate problem you seem to have?

      May 6, 2011 at 15:58 | Report abuse |
  10. barbra kramar

    This is a sad situation. The alcoholic is in command. They cannot be forced in anyway to stop drinking that is against their will.I know that for a fact. My ex-husband was an alcoholic. He died as an alcoholic. I learned a lot from him. I learned where all of my new bottles of mouthwash in the bathroom kept disappearing to. I joined Al -A -Non, a group dedicated to helping the non-alcoholic member of the family. My son went to Ala-teen. Again, a group helping the alcoholic's family. They suggested we learn to live with it or get away from it. We chose the latter. My husband went AA Meetings, but he was not sincere about it. Instead he continued to drink. Now he doesn't have to be concerned about it.He died about 8 years ago.

    May 6, 2011 at 14:53 | Report abuse | Reply
  11. wordnew

    Isn't that Billy Joel in the pic?

    May 6, 2011 at 14:58 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. Megan

    I'm always a little taken aback when arguments are used like "it only costs 1,500 dollars a month!". It just really doesn't seem like that's an amazing number, but hey, this is as a student living on ~600/mo.

    May 6, 2011 at 15:06 | Report abuse | Reply
  13. Carol_R

    Why should tax dollars be spent when most of these people could work? At least they could do something like pick up litter but instead they're leeching off the system. There are a lot of unemployed people who would get grateful for having $1500 spent on them every month where they don't have to work.

    May 6, 2011 at 15:14 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Guest

      Read the article again...we're going to have to pay for them one way or another. They're not going to work, whether they are in a wet house or not...so why not pay half as much (and free up police/hospital resources at the same time) to maintain them?

      May 6, 2011 at 15:54 | Report abuse |
  14. LMR

    So sad....this so-called "lifestyle" killed my father and nearly killed me too. No choice in the matter? By the grace of God, I have been sober for 25 years. My father never considered his life important enough to do likewise. May he rest in peace...

    May 6, 2011 at 15:19 | Report abuse | Reply
  15. Rayray

    Being an alcoholic isn't a problem unless you allow it to be. I am technically an alcoholic by medical terms, but SFW? I don't drink all day, or most weekdays for that matter. The AMA says if you have 3 or more drinks, 3 nights a week your a drunk. I take care of a large family. My kids have excellent grade, a great home, and supportive parents. My bills are paid, too. So why pity someone who CHOOSES to have no responsibility or participation in life? It's not a disease it's a CHOICE!! Every evening I want few beers, but I fight my addiction. If I CHOSE to drink all the time my kids would be f-ed and we wouldn't have anything. Stop inabling people to claim they "can't help it". Yes you can!!!

    May 6, 2011 at 15:23 | Report abuse | Reply
    • RealAlcoholic

      You're obviously not an alcoholic, as you seem to have a level of control alcoholics do not. The AMA guidelines are there to give a baseline level of concern. Since you are lacking the compulsive drive that leads alcoholics to destroy their lives, pat yourself on the back...you're not a drunk.

      May 6, 2011 at 15:59 | Report abuse |
  16. timd

    I drove down to San Francisco from Seattle when I heard my brother had become an heroin addict and was living on the street. I found him and took him with me back to Seattle to clean up. A few days later we was barfing, and cr@pping himself in the throws of withdrawl. He was drinking while he was withdrawing and went through every drop of alchohol in my house. His heroin withdralws stopped after about 8 days but then the alcohol withdrawls kicked in. I found him howling in terror while laying on the floor of the bathroom. I had to go buy him a pint of vodka to calm him down. I took him to the hospital and they put him on an IV after spending 20 minutes trying to find a vein that wasn't collapsed. As soon as he got out of the hospital, he scored some smack and started up again.

    May 6, 2011 at 15:27 | Report abuse | Reply
  17. George

    alcoholism killed my beautiful wife at the ripe young age of 42 – what a waste of a life. Yes alcoholism is a disease, and with that disease comes a cure – its called choice – you can choose to drink, or you can choose to recognize that it is destroying your life (and the lives of your loved-ones) and choose not to drink. No one said it was going to be easy, but a a productive life well-lived is a far better choice than a life of self-loathing and destruction.

    May 6, 2011 at 15:27 | Report abuse | Reply
    • LMR

      I am so sorry for your loss. Your post is spot on.

      May 6, 2011 at 17:38 | Report abuse |
  18. Kim

    The "war on drugs" is a failed policy. All of the money that has been wasted should have been used to help people with addiction. Money would be saved by NOT arresting addicts. Building more clinics and rehab facilities, using money that currently goes toward the "war on drugs", to provide addicts better access, affordability and more professional help is what NEEDS to happen.

    May 6, 2011 at 15:28 | Report abuse | Reply
  19. Kim

    The "war on drugs" is a failed policy. All of the money that has been wasted should have been used to help people with addiction. Money would be saved by NOT arresting addicts. Building more clinics and rehab facilities, using money that currently goes toward the "war on drugs", to provide addicts better access, affordability and more professional help is what NEEDS to happen.

    May 6, 2011 at 15:33 | Report abuse | Reply
  20. BDog

    rayray has the right idea. EVERYTHING IS A CHOICE.

    May 6, 2011 at 15:35 | Report abuse | Reply
  21. G-Money

    Yeahhhhhhhhhhhhh. It's like Hamsterdam on the The Wire. Bad ass.

    May 6, 2011 at 15:41 | Report abuse | Reply
  22. Dave

    Stop calling it a disease already! A disease isn't a choice. Go tell a person with AIDS how bad a disease alcoholism is...what a joke of a statement.

    May 6, 2011 at 15:47 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Diseased

      It's a disease of the brain...an underlying condition that changes the way alcoholics think relative to non-alcoholics. Why would alcoholics continue to drink in situations where NO RATIONAL INDIVIDUAL would continue (i.e. losing their job, family, life)? Their brains are physically different.

      You need to widen your definition of "disease".

      May 6, 2011 at 16:09 | Report abuse |
    • Paul

      What's the difference? Becoming an alcoholic is no more a "choice" than becoming infected with HIV. Both are the result of voluntarily engaging in risky activities (drinking often, or having unprotected $ex, or sharing needles).

      By the way, cancer is partly also a "choice", given your liberal definition of "choice". Tobacco increases the risk of ALL kinds of cancer, and cervical cancer are the direct result of unprotected $ex, as is peni$ cancer. HPV virus also causes mouth and throat cancer. If you never get burned in the sun, you are unlikely to get skin cancer. OK, the most common cancers – prostate and breast cancer – are not directly caused by anything obvious that can be avoided, but subjecting oneself to major carcinogens, such as tobacco smoke, whether as a smoker or as a passive smoker being in the proximity of smokers, increases the likelyhood of obtaining such cancers.

      May 6, 2011 at 18:28 | Report abuse |
  23. Alex

    No will power...no sorrow

    May 6, 2011 at 15:51 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Bea

      It's sad to see people simply give into their demons and let it control their lives. It's heartening at least these men have found a community that cares about them when their families and the rest of the world don't.

      May 6, 2011 at 16:39 | Report abuse |
    • lizzy10

      You need to want to stop, hit bottom. Some people never find that bottom, no matter what happens in their life. That does not make them worthless or mean they have no will power. That makes them sad and we shouldn't denigrate them, but pray for them.

      May 6, 2011 at 16:43 | Report abuse |
    • JoshPenn

      In another time this was called eugenics. This is really sad to see; and you know many of these people are alcoholics because their genes and life gave them a raw deal. It's the Church and State's job both to ensure citizens that their lives are worth living.

      May 6, 2011 at 16:45 | Report abuse |
    • Chris

      It's not about will power...it's about giving that will to a higher power.

      May 6, 2011 at 16:46 | Report abuse |
    • Liz

      You are completely ignorant. Alcoholism has nothing to do with willpower. Consult the AMA, the DSM, get an education and then talk.

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

      It has nothing to do with will power. Alcoholism is a disease. Clearly you are uneducated to think it is about will power. I hope that neither you, nor any of your family members ever have to suffer from the disease of addiction, because it is a horrible thing to go through. It is sad that you lack compassion for the sick.

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

      God bless this church!!! At least they recognize what "a FREE country" means! Thank U

      May 6, 2011 at 17:26 | Report abuse |
    • Mike

      It IS about willpower. I am a former alcoholic, and quit cold turkey. I was tired of feeling like crap, and felt like a loser after losing another job. I decided to quit, no programs, no God, just me. And it worked. 7 years no drinking, and I feel it is 100% willpower.

      May 6, 2011 at 17:39 | Report abuse |
    • Ed

      Sorry everyone, I have to agree with Alex. All of us are born with our own imperfections and we all have to deal with them. Would it be the fault of my genes if I'm obese? No, I was born with a predisposition to putting on fat - body shape, metabolism, etc. It's my responsibility to exercise, eat properly, and keep my body healthy. It's a lot harder than surrendering to the temptations of rich food and being a couch potato, but it's mt responsibility. Everyone got the analogy now? I don't care what the self-serving medical profession says, alcoholism is an addiction which manifests itself because the alcoholic allows it to do so. It is not a disease. A disease has a cause, often external to the person, such as a virus or exposure to toxins. Cancer is a disease. Alcoholism is a symptom of a character defect, moral weakness, a lack of will power.

      May 6, 2011 at 17:41 | Report abuse |
    • Gbird

      To quote Bill Hicks, "Anybody can be a bum; all it takes is the right girl, the right bar and the right friends, and your buddies will see you off. They'll christen your dumpster for you."

      May 6, 2011 at 17:45 | Report abuse |
    • Carlo

      Wow, Ed. You are so wise. I want to be just like you when I grow up. I am so impressed that you know more than the vast majority of alcoholism and substance abuse professionals. You are a genius!


      May 6, 2011 at 17:51 | Report abuse |
    • Brian

      I like the idea of a "harm reduction model". It's time to start recognizing human nature and its expression in our population. There are people who don't want anyone's "help" and should be allowed to live their lives without being told how they can be made "better" if they just live more like the rest of us "good people". It's cheaper and safer to acknowledge these people and provide social services designed for them, rather than for the people we want them to be.

      May 6, 2011 at 17:52 | Report abuse |
    • Gbird

      @Ed, I understand what you're getting at, but obesity is a really bad example. For a lot of people, it is their genes fault, and no amount of dieting or exercise will change that. Actually I do think sticking with addiction itself is more on the mark. Some people are born with a predisposition to abuse substances. But a predisposition doesn't have to be a determining factor; unlike many obese people who are physically unable to change their weight.

      May 6, 2011 at 17:52 | Report abuse |
    • john

      this goes out to ED. what if a young boy, lets say 12 starts drinking. he gets addicted before he even comes to grips with what morality, willpower, or respect even means. you are so ignorant about this mess that it almost took my breath away. you are the kind of guy who tells someone with depression to cheer up, or a suicidal person to snap out of it. please for the love of God do NOT offer any more advice.. ever.

      May 6, 2011 at 17:53 | Report abuse |
    • Cindy

      til you have walked a mile in his shoes...who are you to judge????

      May 6, 2011 at 18:05 | Report abuse |
    • TURNIP

      It is sad and we should have compassion.... We dont need to check with the AMA or argue about if this is a disease or talk about willpower . These people let alcohol rule them because of bad choices . They have a way out and the way is Jesus . God said we were fearfully and wonderfully made . Knock and the door shall be open .He whom the Son sets free is indeed . These people need to be led to Jesus and not enabled to continue in that life style . Economics dont play a part in freedom from being in the kingdom . Keep allowing them to drink and they will drown in their sin . Love dont enable .............I was a drunk and dope head 40 years, AA can help you stop drinking But only Jesus can deliver you and set you free

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

      We are not allowing natural selection to take place.

      May 6, 2011 at 18:27 | Report abuse |
  24. Joanne

    The fact that the Catholic Church and the State both povide money to this wet house is shameful. The core of any Church is faith and by contributing to this Wet House rather than a detox program says that the Church has no faith that these individuals can be helped. And if you believe that anyone can not be helped then you are saying that God has limits. Those that contribute to this Wet House, clearly are simply waiting for these struggling individuals to die. Well, I guess at least the Catholic Church and the State can say they saved some money. I hope they are satisfied with that.

    May 6, 2011 at 16:05 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Schmedly

      So letting them drink random chemicals and die on the streets is better? If this is not acceptable, what is the solution? You are assuming that all of the people want to be helped. The fact is that most don't. You can't help someone who doesn't want to be helped. I'm totally fine with this solution.

      May 6, 2011 at 16:16 | Report abuse |
    • WWJD

      What whould jesus do – better yet – What would you do – Better yet – What have you done to try to help alcoholics.

      May 6, 2011 at 16:34 | Report abuse |
    • SDCyclist

      Oh, Joanne... the twisted logic you use to arrive at your conclusion is so incredibly typical of the ignorant. Yes, you're completely ignorant. "God" and mythical creatures that control the Universe ("saints", "demons", "devils", and whatever mythical fairy creatures you choose to believe in – Easter Bunny? Santa Claus?) have nothing to do with addiction. It's an ages-old genetic human disease. Consider yourself extremely lucky if you don't suffer any addiction problems. But please shut your mouth and do not judge those that struggle simply because you have NO idea what you're talking about. Thanks...

      May 6, 2011 at 17:05 | Report abuse |
    • juan miguel

      easy to criticize the difficult work done by others in seemingly hopeless situations, if you have advice on how to help alcoholics sober up you should enlighten the rest of us.

      May 6, 2011 at 17:12 | Report abuse |
    • Kay

      The fact remains that there IS help, and that instead of helping these people to get jobs, reconcile with family, and stop drinking, all that they're doing is allowing them to continue on their path of destruction. Drinking doesn't only hurt the drinker, but their parents, siblings, and children too.

      May 6, 2011 at 17:19 | Report abuse |
    • Tune A Fish

      Well, it seems that these are folks who people have tried (and tried and tried) to help already, to no avail, so it is not like they are just giving up on them. As far as the church giving money for this, I see nothing wrong with that. Church may be about faith, but it is also about caring and compassion, giving, and alleviating suffering wherever possible.

      May 6, 2011 at 18:34 | Report abuse |
  25. BigDaddy

    Though a Safer choice cannabis is still illegal.Its a better choice and a healthier choice.Keep it illegal and you'll more and more of this....sadder than sad

    May 6, 2011 at 16:10 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Ruderalis

      YES, you are right! Cannabis is medicine, and the PHARMA is scared of us growing our own chit...

      May 6, 2011 at 16:37 | Report abuse |
    • alphonse

      I watched my 52 year old cousin die from cancer, caused by smoking the cannibis. Not an alternative.

      May 6, 2011 at 16:38 | Report abuse |
    • AndyAtlanta

      There is a program for cannabis too you know..

      May 6, 2011 at 16:46 | Report abuse |
    • topdown

      cancer from smoking bud? do you have evidence for this assertion? you sound pathetic

      May 6, 2011 at 16:53 | Report abuse |
    • Brian

      There is no evidence at all that cannabis smoke is carcinogenic.

      May 6, 2011 at 17:54 | Report abuse |
    • Erin

      Hey Alphonse You should really get your story out because your cousin would be the FIRST person in HISTORY to die of cancer from marijuana!!!! Never has there been one case EVER! Marijuana could be an option... some might respond to it and then some might not

      May 6, 2011 at 17:56 | Report abuse |
    • Bensky

      Bull S...t. Weed is not an option for those who prefer their own different poison. Sounds like you are more interested in protecting your own turf, instead of really caring about the other poor souls whose outlook on life is so bleak, they choose to end it poorly.

      May 6, 2011 at 17:59 | Report abuse |
    • Jonathan

      I've lost two family member's to cancer from cannabis. They did NOT smoke cigarettes, only the cannabis, for most their short lives. I also know of people who drink and do not LIKE cannabis at all, whether sober or not, and vice versa. It's not an "alternative". This is always going to be a controversial topic because no two people have the "same lives". Everyone's upbringing, beliefs & general surroundings can influence & affect just about anything. I wish everyone luck with whatever problem they have. No one needs to suffer needlessly.

      May 6, 2011 at 18:07 | Report abuse |
  26. jj

    Where do people drink themselves to death? Home, the police force, the officer's club, bars...
    Some can't stop, some don't want to. I know I could live a bit longer if I lost the 30 extra pounds, but i'm 60 and seem to enjoy eating. Do I want the work and denial for the extra months or years? Guess not. We all have ways of killing ourselves. Some are less destructive than drinking.

    May 6, 2011 at 16:11 | Report abuse | Reply
  27. DonJuan1943

    I used to be wet. Somewhere along the line somebody taught me that if I got the alcohol out of the way, other things would start to happen. I had to ask for help. The place I got help taught me that if I wanted to have a bad day, I could spend it thinking about myself. There are 12 steps. They taught me to start with #1.

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

      Awesome! Whatever works! Glad you were able to achieve this incredible success one day at a time... 🙂

      May 6, 2011 at 17:07 | Report abuse |
  28. God changes

    The God that I serve can fix all problems in the article above it says that they don't give them much hope on sobbering up. If they would preach the true gospel of Jesus Christ and Him Crucified they might get saved and turn their life around. To me this is the craziest thing i have ever read. I do feel sorry for those people with the problems. But Jesus is the problem fixer. In Psalms 147:2-3. These people are just covering up with getting drunk what God can give them in a minute. May God bless and i hope something i said will help someone.

    May 6, 2011 at 16:13 | Report abuse | Reply
    • charlietango

      Save your magic book for those that are interested in kiddie stories.

      May 6, 2011 at 16:18 | Report abuse |
    • AllenM

      is there a difference between someone addicted to religion and someone addicted to alcohol ? Both are crutches used to get them thru the day.

      May 6, 2011 at 16:29 | Report abuse |
    • AndyAtlanta

      In order for an alcoholic to be able to recover there has to be a fundamental psychological change in the way we see and react to life. By enabling alcoholics to keep drinking in this wet houses, they are not allowing these individuals to reach their spiritual bottom and therefore look for that change in perspective, with the help of a Higher Power. Its really simple once you are entirely willing to do EVERYTHING it takes. Being ENTIRELY willing is the difficult part for an alcoholic or addict and to enable an alcoholic is to kill him slowly. That at least has been my experience and now I am clean and sober by my the efforts I made but ultimately by the grace of my Higher Power, at first called the Spirit of the Universe, today my forever loving GOD.

      May 6, 2011 at 16:54 | Report abuse |
    • AndyAtlanta

      That Jesus Christ crucified stuff makes it all more complicated.. That was my experience too..

      May 6, 2011 at 17:04 | Report abuse |
    • SDCyclist

      Blah, blah... god... jesus... saves... blah, blah... Boo.

      May 6, 2011 at 17:08 | Report abuse |
    • Anti Catholic

      You are absolutely right! The Catholic Church and the government has nothing more to offer these folks than a "wet house"! The gospel of Jesus Christ is the only answer to the problems of all mankind! Millions of drunks have been delivered by the power of God! God's power hasn't changed and he is no respector of persons! Hallelujah!

      May 6, 2011 at 17:17 | Report abuse |
    • Kay

      Call it dumb all you want, but the fact is that faith often works wonders, even after other people have failed.

      May 6, 2011 at 17:21 | Report abuse |
    • Anti Catholic

      Life without Jesus Christ and the Word of God is totally....blah blah blah! I was delivered and it only took one step! I took the first step to an alter of repentance and the Lord set me free! That was 23 years ago, and I'm still free today!

      May 6, 2011 at 17:24 | Report abuse |
    • Traveler

      Maybe if they were raised Muslim this terrible disease would not have taken over their lives and they would not be at a wet house? Being that alcohol is forbidden in that religion.

      May 6, 2011 at 17:58 | Report abuse |
    • God changes

      I used to think it was fairy tales too until i was a cocaine addict for 6 years after using other drugs from the age of 10. I like the other person never took 12 steps. I took one then he carried me the rest of the way to the alter where with that one step i have been drug free for 13 years without any withdraws. What the rehabs and the court systems couldn't do Jesus could do.

      May 6, 2011 at 18:05 | Report abuse |
    • Cindy

      My question to you is what have you as a Christian done to reach out and help people like this??? Have you ever gone and offered your friendship??? Or maybe offered to take them to church. Trust me a person that has reached this point in their lives needs someone to come along and mentor them in some way. A year ago I meet someone living at the St Anthony, I started driving him and one of his friends to different Christian recovery groups, church etc. Well the friend stayed sober for about 3 months and moved out of their and my friend is now in a Christian recovery program and doing great!!! It's easy to judge others and talk the talk and really all that does is make Christians look bad...just saying

      May 6, 2011 at 18:40 | Report abuse |
    • Reality Check

      Jesus hates amputees. Arms and legs never miraculously grow back.

      May 6, 2011 at 18:48 | Report abuse |
  29. SizzleChest

    I'M ALL WET!

    May 6, 2011 at 16:14 | Report abuse | Reply
  30. DL

    This is sad and pathetic. And disturbing that our tax dollars are being used this way. By allowing the drinking, you are condoning it and in turn, allowing the destructive behavior to continue. WHOSE STUPID IDEA WAS THIS ANYWAY?? Can you imagine group homes where they allow herion abuse. You know, they can't help themselves and its safer for them, right? Gimme a break!

    I'm not saying that giving up any addiction is easy. You have to WANT to stop, that's the first step. This man they interviewed, Marion, is beyond sad. He doesn't want to be where he is? Then make steps towards quitting the booze! Instead he makes excuses for himself and surrounds himself with those who make the same excuses. How can you expect anyone in this situation to get better?

    May 6, 2011 at 16:28 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Mickey Myrus

      Do not judge. The man held a job for 20 years, so if anything, his social security would pay. Most addiction are due to emotional, spiritual, mental or even physical trauma, unless these issues can be addressed no progress can be made. It matters not how many people tell you of doing right-the man has to realize it within himself..accoring to his own time.

      May 6, 2011 at 17:08 | Report abuse |
    • publicitymic

      If your issue is the allocation of tax dollars, the article clearly states that the program is saving the state money. It is time to accept reality that some people have made the decision, sometimes through inaction and sometimes not, to drink themselves to death. There is no amount of your distaste for this decision that is going to make them change their minds.

      May 6, 2011 at 17:18 | Report abuse |
  31. Dave

    It's a very progressive treatment, actually. Most alcoholics do not change and die of their alcoholism related diseases. This program understands this and is merely being sympathetic to this truth. They do save the lives of some at the demise of others, but that is how all programs really work; In all other programs, the recovered counselor is saved by his sense of purpose at counseling the lost and hopeless alcoholic. In this program, the lost and hopeless alcoholic is actually treated as such and has immediate access to the next rung up if he gets the inclination, which can only be reached through sheer will. It's more of a person leading the way out for others, than a person acting as a guard and pushing the alcoholic in a direction they think he/she should go. Jesus would probably run it this way.

    May 6, 2011 at 16:28 | Report abuse | Reply
    • SDCyclist

      Wow! I agree completely! Well put!!

      May 6, 2011 at 17:10 | Report abuse |
  32. Dan Smith

    What a joke! Losers. Tax dollars hard at work!

    May 6, 2011 at 16:29 | Report abuse | Reply
  33. John Smith

    Well at least his breath will be fresh.

    May 6, 2011 at 16:35 | Report abuse | Reply
  34. Josh

    Scripturally, they're *partially* right..
    "Give strong drink to him who is perishing,
    And wine to those who are bitter of heart.
    Let him drink and forget his poverty,
    And remember his misery no more." (Proverbs 31:6-7)
    I doubt they even know it.

    May 6, 2011 at 16:35 | Report abuse | Reply
  35. Al K. Holic

    This is a great idea!

    May 6, 2011 at 16:40 | Report abuse | Reply
  36. Frank Mondana

    Those opposing this don't get addiction and/or are afraid that it might indicate 12-step and other addiction programs aren't as valuable as they might think. So they are threatened just like anyone would be if they are told their jobs are worthless.
    Yes, it's maddening to see these guys just throw their hands up and say "f%^& it, I'm a drunk, oh well" but not every addict can kick it no matter what program, or programs, they try.
    These wet houses are cheaper than arresting, jailing and ER visits. Simple as that.

    May 6, 2011 at 16:43 | Report abuse | Reply
    • SDCyclist

      Yep! I agree. If they don't get it they don't understand addiction. I think this program is a great idea for a lot of reasons. It probably helps more people than any 12 step program ever did.

      May 6, 2011 at 17:12 | Report abuse |
  37. Al K. Holic

    Hoestly, though, I'd rather go out like this than living out life going to AA meetings. If I were stuck in AA I would welcome death.

    Those who have escaped the grip of the AA cult know what I'm talking about!

    May 6, 2011 at 16:43 | Report abuse | Reply
    • AndyAtlanta

      Well, then keep on drinking until you die.. is that a better option? How many hours do you spend in a bar. I go three times a week now that I've been over three years sober. The best investment I've made in me.

      May 6, 2011 at 17:01 | Report abuse |
    • TheLizard

      Amen. I've been battling my alcoholism for the last couple of years, and I gave AA a try. It's OK if you're a rock-bottom, in & out of jail, homeless drunk that runs people over in their car. But if you have a life & simply drink too much & would like to stop, the AA brainwashing cult is not the way to go. They totally try to break you down & change who you are. They basically say "lose your wife & join us". What a crock. (I'm doing great on my own, BTW. 187 days since my last drink).

      May 6, 2011 at 17:02 | Report abuse |
    • Liz

      BAHAHAHA Oh yea, meetings are SO horrible *sarcasm*. What meetings did you go to? Maybe you should come out to CT and give us a try, we are always good times. Much better times then when I was a drunk sleezeball liar.

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

      You're not alone, man. There are many of us former AA cult members out there. I agree with you completely. I'm sure AA works for some people but it's not the universal fix-all that their members would believe it is. But if you don't completely buy into the program they ostracize you. If you ask questions that refer to WHY something is done a certain way they tell you "it's your disease talking... be careful... you sound like you're about to replapse..." and BS like that. They believe you have to be stripped down and destroyed to be built again and that's just a load of crap. There was a time back in the day when if you were taking any sort of behavioral health medications they accused you of relapsing. There was no room for diversity. I went to meetings for a few years before I had an awakening and realized what was really going on. I'm not ashamed to say I "bought the AA ticket"... I wish I hadn't. Sure, I learned a lot but at what expense? I drank more when I was going to AA than I ever did in my life. Again – I'm sure it's great for some people but it's important to recognize it's not good for everyone. But tell that to someone in AA and they'll reply with some snarky comment like, "Yeah... it's not good for some people: It's not good for people who don't want to get sober and stay sober..." or some lame response like that...

      May 6, 2011 at 17:19 | Report abuse |
    • SDCyclist

      Liz's snarky and juvenile reply above is proof of the argument I make in my comment above. Thanks, Liz!

      May 6, 2011 at 17:21 | Report abuse |
    • Kay

      And most people who quit also have a strong support system, not a family that ignores and talks past them when they go to visit...

      May 6, 2011 at 17:24 | Report abuse |
  38. Sagebrush Shorty.

    Too bad that Minnesota and other states can't extend the same level of assistance to Veterans.

    May 6, 2011 at 16:44 | Report abuse | Reply
  39. tinkerbell 123

    i am so sad to see that so many ppl dont understand that mental health in america dosnt really exist if u dont have a good job that has insurance and healthcare. Now if u r not insured from b4 u were born u have a pre- existing condition and cant get any kind of insurance anyway. Untreated mental health issues r a huge reason 4 ppl to b addicted. All those that feel addiction is a matter of choice have never experianced life in a way that is so overwhelming that the only way 2 make sense of it all is to medicate with whatever they can find. The man is drinking mouthwash and he knows its deadly why would anyone believe he can start to funtion with out mental healthcare? Please America think about it, we spend more on one bomb than on a whole citys budget for healthcare for underemployed and unemployed American citizens 4 a whole year. When will we care 4 those among us who r not as strong and do not have the advantages of strong mental health? Stop the judgements get educated then get involved with changeing how our healthcare really works.

    May 6, 2011 at 16:45 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Kay

      Spell checker and the ability to speak solid English really helps people read what you post.

      May 6, 2011 at 17:25 | Report abuse |
  40. William

    Nice piece of propaganda. Looks like they are after his "right to live".

    May 6, 2011 at 16:47 | Report abuse | Reply
  41. Showtime70

    The Church and the State are not doing these people any favors. The man in the article stated that he "would like to get a job and move but feels stuck." He is stuck in his addiction because he is ALLOWED to continue it without consequence. We all have choices to make in life and these people have chosen alcohol over being productive citizens, husbands, son's, and fathers to their children. Flip this situation into a DRY HOUSE and then you will have my support.

    May 6, 2011 at 16:49 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Matt

      "Flip this situation into a DRY HOUSE and then you will have my support."

      And you'll have Mr. Hagerman back out on the street... Did you READ the article, or did the invisible sky god just tell you to keep parroting the same words as all of his other cultists who've posted here?

      May 6, 2011 at 17:12 | Report abuse |
  42. JT

    did u check out the picture of the dude? He's drinking the 'wash' classfully with the pinky peaking up.

    May 6, 2011 at 16:50 | Report abuse | Reply
  43. Brian

    It's interesting how some of you people think alcoholism is a choice

    May 6, 2011 at 16:53 | Report abuse | Reply
  44. AndyAtlanta

    In order for an alcoholic to be able to recover there has to be a fundamental psychological change in the way we see and react to life. By enabling alcoholics to keep drinking in this wet houses, they are not allowing these individuals to reach their spiritual bottom and therefore look for that change in perspective, with the help of a Higher Power. Its really simple once you are entirely willing to do EVERYTHING it takes. Being ENTIRELY willing is the difficult part for an alcoholic or addict and to enable an alcoholic is to kill him slowly. That at least has been my experience and now I am clean and sober by my the efforts I made but ultimately by the grace of my Higher Power, at first called the Spirit of the Universe, today my forever loving GOD.

    May 6, 2011 at 16:55 | Report abuse | Reply
  45. Mike

    If the people are not ready to quit, @ least they have a safer and cheaper alternative...

    May 6, 2011 at 16:57 | Report abuse | Reply
  46. MLA

    "They didn't want to be an alcoholic," he said. "A lot of them just didn't have a choice in the matter ... Are you serious? They had a choice to take that first drink! I've never heard of someone becoming an alchoholic because someone forced it down their throat.

    May 6, 2011 at 16:58 | Report abuse | Reply
    • ELizabeth

      Thank you MLA, I feel exactly the same way! I have family members that are making the choice to drink all the time! We don't force them to drink. It's their own CHOICE!!!

      May 6, 2011 at 17:54 | Report abuse |
  47. MAX

    actually the statics show these places help people greatly. just like in amsterdam where they have houses where you can smoke cannabis. For certian people, They have to hit rock bottom to phycologically see what they are doinng to them selves

    May 6, 2011 at 17:00 | Report abuse | Reply
  48. Maya

    In fact, both programs like this and 12-step programs share the same fundamental flaw: they preach the gospel of helplessness. They tell addicts that addiction is an incurable disease and therefore that they are not responsible for their behavior. That is why people in 12-step programs almost invariably relapse.

    While it is true that people don't choose to become addicts, drug use is ultimately a choice. I've known many addicts, and one thing that they all have in common is that they are narcissistic. They are incapable of admitting that their behavior effects others, completely unable to tolerate criticism, and resent that they should be expected to do anything but live by their whims. Addicts only change when they take total responsibility for their behavior, become willing to look at themselves realistically, and understand that no person has the right to harm others in order to satisfy their personal desires.

    May 6, 2011 at 17:09 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Patrick in MN

      I don't agree that 12 step programs preach a sense of hopelessness. The key tenent in any 12 step program is to stop being self centered and to be a service to others. I have been on the wagon for 13 months and not once have I been told that I was a hopeless cause and that I needed to go to AA. AA was just a suggestion and if you read the Big Book, the founders of AA don't say it is the only way, but that it worked for them.

      I do agree that drug and alcohol use is a choice. I didn't ask to be an alcoholic, and I do believe it is a disease, as most people in the medical profession believe. (It's amazing how so many medical "experts" post comments on CNN.com claiming that it is not a disease and we should just be able to wish it away...) An alcoholic/addict may not be responsible for the disease, but they are 100% repsonsible for managing their recovery.

      May 6, 2011 at 18:28 | Report abuse |
  49. Mr. Butters

    Vancouver has a similar project called Insite. It's a safe injection site for drug users. They make sure they use clean needles, and use the needlesproperly. Medical staff and consulers are also there. The government has given very little to run the place. Aside from decreasing the number of dirty sneedles in public spaces, users of insite are more likely to go through detoc programs. It has saved roughly 18 million from unneed use of medical facilities related to aids treatment and overdoses.

    This program is different, but if insite can cause that sort of change, these wethouses might do the same. The sad fact is these people are going to do it regardless. If you give them a place to feel safe it can be their first steps to recovery.

    May 6, 2011 at 17:10 | Report abuse | Reply
  50. PD

    This is an adequate, practical solution to a very difficult reality. Some folks will never stop drinking. They will drink themselves to death. Hopefully, at all such "wet" houses counseling is offered because there is always a ray of hope. However, there are many, many who will never stop drinking and this solution is preferable to them living and dying on the streets.

    May 6, 2011 at 17:12 | Report abuse | Reply
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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.