TheBlaze TV News Anchor Laurie Dhue attended the annual National Prayer Breakfast in 2010 and 2011 and will be there this morning. Here’s her personal story about the tremendous impact of this very special event.
It is not an exaggeration for me to say that the 2011 National Prayer Breakfast changed the direction of my life. Of course, going into the two-day event, I had no way of knowing that. My friend and former "Fox News" colleague, "USA Today" columnist and conservative commentator Cal Thomas, had invited me to his annual media dinner the night before the breakfast and I was delighted to attend.
Each year Cal and his lovely wife, Ray, host the dinner as a get-to-know-you and spiritual warmup to the breakfast. As Cal put it: “Some of the invitees have a strong faith, some do not. The goal of the dinner is to give guests 'permission' to seek God and His plan for their lives… nothing more.” Cal has made it a tradition to invite several speakers to share their stories of faith with the 100 or so attendees. In 2011, he asked me to speak.
I was thrilled by his surprising and gracious offer and began thinking about what I would say. Faith is such an individual thing, an enormous thing, a beautiful thing, a thing that many people keep private. And there are many kinds of faith: weak, strong, abiding, obedient. Obviously I wanted to speak from the heart in a personal, meaningful way - but not sound preachy. As I pondered my approach, it soon became very clear.
[sharequote align="center"]Faith is such an individual thing, an enormous thing, a beautiful thing.[/sharequote]
I listened to the other speakers share their stories, feeling inspired and more than a bit intimidated.
“What if they don’t like what I have to say? What if they judge me?" I asked myself, praying that God would give me the courage to share my message and accept the outcome, whatever it was.
When I arrived at the podium, I was shaking inside, knowing that I was about to share a very important part of my life. A part that had been private, with the exception of my family, friends and a few colleagues. But as I began to speak, my voice was stronger than I expected. I talked about the importance of spirituality throughout my life, how it had been strengthened in recent years, how I rarely doubted the presence of God, how grateful I was to have gotten through very dark times (divorce, death, unemployment) because of faith, love and friendship.
And then, it was time to share a deeply personal secret: my 17- year-battle with alcoholism.
Photo Credit: Google
I told the guests there was a good chance I'd be dead if I hadn't stopped drinking several years prior. That for too many years, I had lived a secret life, an existence full of pain and shame and deception. I said that the woman America watched on "Fox News" was not the same woman I saw in the mirror.
I admitted that I came to work hungover several days a week. That I sometimes felt so bad I simply curled up in the fetal position under the desk in my office, just a few hours before going on air. I had turned my will and my life over to my best friend - booze - and that journey delivered me to a very dark and dangerous place.
A place of fear, not a place of faith.
[sharequote align="center"]A place of fear, not a place of faith.[/sharequote]
Then, I talked about my moment of grace, where I knew I had to stop drinking or I would die, and how I literally got down on my knees and begged God for help. And He gave it to me.
Within days of my life-changing, life-saving decision, I joined a 12-step program that has helped millions of people and began this complicated, beautiful odyssey through recovery.
I shared what an important part God has played in my daily journey through sobriety - that I can’t do it alone, and I don't have to do it alone because I have faith in something that it much greater than I am. I told guests about the acronym for God that millions of us in recovery use: Good Orderly Direction. My sobriety was a true miracle, something I could never have accomplished alone, without putting my trust in a higher power: God.
I had been given a second chance because I had turned my will and my life over to the care of God, with the help of like-minded people who share my desire to live free.
After a short silence that felt like a full minute (but in reality lasted maybe three seconds), applause filled the room. People were smiling. Many were on their feet. A few were wiping away tears. Several embraced me after the dinner was over. Two said they were also in recovery.
I felt like a weight had been lifted, that in some way I was setting myself free. After saying my goodnights, I went upstairs to my room at the hotel with a clear mind, conscience and heart. Early the next morning, I awoke with joy and happy expectation.
As I made my way through the various levels of security, I was excited about the various speakers and the messages they would bring.
My blackberry began buzzing. At first, I ignored the near-constant vibrations but my curiosity got the best of me and I took a peek.
My heart stopped, all the blood rushed to my head, I felt like I was going to throw up. All the texts were a variation of: “Laurie! Your story is all over the internet!”
Laurie Dhue appears on the Katie Couric show in July 2013. Photo Credit: Google
Unbeknownst to me, there was a reporter in the audience at Cal’s dinner who decided to tell my story without my knowledge or permission. This, despite the event being off-the-record. This woman had broken my anonymity in the most public way possible. The story hit the "DC Fishbowl" website a few hours after the dinner and by the time the breakfast started, it was everywhere.
The next 30 minutes passed in a haze. My mind was already racing with the potential fallout. After the breakfast was over, I beat a hasty retreat and raced back upstairs to my room to check the internet. And there it was, everywhere and for anyone to see: "Former Fox News Anchor Laurie Dhue is an alcoholic!"
I sat at the desk, unable to move. My first thoughts, in rapid-fire succession: "Oh no, my life is over. The secret is out. I’ll be shunned. I’m a pariah. I’ll never get another job. I'll lose everything."
I took a deep breath, prayed for acceptance of God's will for me, amd began making phone calls.
I called my family to let them know. I told my friends what was going on. My agent and I had several conversations, the upshot being "Whatever will be, will be."
Within 24 hours, a producer from "The Today Show" called, asking if I'd be willing to share my story. After consulting with my parents, friends and mentor, I agreed to do the interview. I barely slept the night before but knew I was being offered a tremendous, rare opportunity. Meredith Vieira treated me with a great deal of respect during the interview, allowing me to share my story, give statistics about the disease of addiction, talk about how recovery works and pass along the message that "You are not alone. Help is out there, all you have to do is ask."
The last three years have been full of speaking engagements from coast-to-coast, rallies, dinners, lunches, panel discussions, TV and radio interviews. I felt like I finally had a purpose, for the first time in my life. I realized that my passion was advocating for recovery: that I wanted to bring the disease of addiction out of the shadows and into the light, to let people know that addiction isn't a moral failing. It is a disease of the mind, body and spirit and must be treated as such.
Laurie Dhue on the July 2012 Renew cover sharing her story about recovering from alcoholism. Photo Credit: Google
There are many entry points into recovery, but mine was greatly helped by a deep faith. I try to live each day in faith and gratitude, one day at a time. My primary purpose is to stay sober, offer support to others struggling and help educate others about the consequences of addiction and the joys of recovery.
I'm about to celebrate seven years of sobriety. And it's a miracle, one that I don't take for granted. Everything I have today is a direct result of being sober.
What keeps me sober? Fellowship with others in recovery, my 12-step group, and living with a partner who hasn't had a drink in 17 years. I have found truth through faith, honesty and willingness. Many of the beautiful, rewarding pieces of my life are because Cal Thomas gave me the opportunity to share my experience, strength, hope and faith with others. It has been a real blessing.
Maybe this year's National Prayer Breakfast be life changing. At the very least it’ll be inspiring. And inspiration is so often exactly what's needed.
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