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LIVE FROM THE HEADLINES

Interview With Peter Jaquith

Aired August 25, 2003 - 19:43   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: We're going to introduce you to a man now named Peter Jaquith, who had it all, a brilliant career in high finance, millions of dollars in the bank, four luxury homes, memberships in the best country clubs. So how he did wind up cleaning toilets and looking at $150 in his checking account? He's in our Los Angeles bureau with a story that's probably a warning to us all.
Appreciate you joining us. Thanks for being with us. You were by all accounts a high flying investment banker, you had a lot of money. And you started smoking crack. What was the appeal?

PETER JAQUITH, FORMER MILLIONAIRE: Well, it was a process. What I didn't realize was that I was an alcoholic and had been for some many years. Alcoholism is a disease of denial. And I was in deep denial. So I had the attitude that I didn't have a problem with alcohol. So why would I have a problem with any other substance, which was just a progression of my disease.

COOPER: And I know you met someone who is the first person who introduced you to crack. I mean, the first time you did it -- I talked to heroin -- people who were heroin addicts who said, you know, the first time they tried heroin, I remember one woman, in fact, said to me, the first time I tried heroin, I thought, I want more of that now. What was the first time you smoked a crack pipe, what was that like?

JAQUITH: It was the same reaction as you just described. And, you know, what happened was, because I was already alcoholic, the use of the drug just extended my disease, and I substituted one substance for another.

COOPER: By all accounts, you turned your life around. I read this article in "The New York Times," it was just a remarkable piece. What was the moment that made you decide I've got to get help?

JAQUITH: Well, it was crawling from up under a table in the lobby of the Marriott Hotel on Lexington Avenue in Manhattan at around 48th Street on a Sunday morning and looking around and seeing all these people well dressed, and I hadn't had a haircut in months and a shave in weeks and I was wearing the same clothes I had been wearing for many, many days. And I realized it was an Easter Sunday. And suddenly I focused on what had happened to me and my life. And at that moment, I made a decision that I would seek help.

And I didn't understand the disease. I didn't know anything about it. I just knew that it was beyond my capacity alone to deal with. So I left the Marriott Hotel and walked two blocks to the subway and jumped the turnstile, because I didn't have any money to pay for it. And got on the subway train and went out to Queens, where I had been living in an apartment that had been abandoned, and I got the Yellow Pages and started flipping through them, looking for rehab, and...

COOPER: And that's where it began.

JAQUITH: ... I found one. That's where it all began, yes.

COOPER: And turning your life around, I mean, it's no easy thing. How are you doing now? What is the main thing you've learned?

JAQUITH: Well, I've learned, of course, that I have a disease and that it has been with me for many, many years. It is a progressive disease. It never lets up and it never gets any better. It's there. And I have to treat it on a daily basis, and so what I have done is I've changed my focus on life. And I say prayers every morning when I get out of my bed, thanking my higher power for the things that I have, you know, I have in my life for the day, and help him -- ask him to help me stay sober for that day.

COOPER: I know you -- in the article you said you think you're a better person now. We're out of time. We appreciate you coming in. I know it's a tough road. I wish you a lot of luck.

JAQUITH: Thank you.

COOPER: Peter Jaquith.

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