Harriet M: Whitney Houston’s Death Was My Wake-Up Call
I first heard from Harriet on the morning of March 13, 2012. The 50 year old Brooklyn housewife with Barbra Streisand’s accent, was at a treatment facility in Los Angeles’ San Fernando Valley. She ended up there after a botched detox at a Lake Arrowhead treatment center.
Harriet told me she had been promised a bed at Malibu Beach Recovery Center. Certainly not me, but I agreed to check her insurance benefits. She asked me to move quickly – the Valley treatment center, she said, was filled with alcoholics and addicts from the greater Los Angeles criminal justice system and she, a sheltered middle class housewife, was just plain scared to death. “You can’t imagine what just walked passed me,” she cried.
Harriet and her late husband Steve had raised three kids, one with special needs. Steve, who worked for the NY subway system, had been a good provider. He helped out at home, and was kind and adoring. One day he went to the hospital for a routine operation and never came back. The grief, coupled with lack of experience with such practical matters as paying the bills, led to excessive drinking coupled with more and more prescription drugs.
When Whitney Houston died after mixing pills and alcohol, Harriet decided to go to treatment. At that point she says, she knew she was also dying. She was filling her Polar Springs water bottle with wine and popping Xanax and “vikes” in her car while waiting for the school bus to arrive with her young son.
Through a twist of fate, she ended up at Malibu Beach Recovery Center, and there she remained for six weeks. She desperately missed her children but she was certain – most of the time – that she had to be in a different environment to recover from her substance abuse addictions.
After treatment Harriet went home, not only sober but with new tools for being a single mother.
Photo (above): Harriet with Malibu Beach Recovery Center co-founder Oleg Vidov in March 2012.
Below: Watch the interview filmed by Seth Isler at Harriet’s home in Brooklyn as she approached her second year of sobriety.