Moyers to speak on Aspen, addiction and ‘A Way Out’ |

Moyers to speak on Aspen, addiction and ‘A Way Out’

Scott Condon
The Aspen Times
William Cope Moyers will share his story of addiction and recovery at a presentation at the Hotel Jerome on Thursday. He traces the roots of his addiction to Aspen.
Courtesy photo |


What: William Moyers’ presentation

Where: Hotel Jerome

When: Thursday at 5 p.m.

Cost: Free but RSVP to

William Cope Moyers’ long, harrowing descent into drug and alcohol addiction started in 1975 while he was a 16-year-old worker in Aspen, but when he returns to “ground zero” Thursday, he will bring a message of hope rather than despair.

Moyers was working in the buildings and grounds department at the Aspen Institute in summer 1975. His parents, renowned television journalists Bill and Judith Moyers, were moderators at Institute seminars that summer and helped William land a job. An older maintenance man at the Institute rolled a joint during a break one day and offered Moyers and his coworkers a hit.

“I was offered the chance to get high that day. I loved it. I loved it,” he said.

In hindsight, he said, it was the “flashpoint” for several years of alcohol and drug abuse that evolved as he got older.

“There was no doubt from that moment on that I wanted to be under the influence,” Moyers said. He hit bottom 14 years later when he was in a Harlem, New York, crack house. Drugs “hijacked my brain and stole my soul,” he said.

Moyers will recount his journey into addiction and through recovery in a special presentation at 5 p.m. Thursday at the Hotel Jerome. The event is free and open to the public, though a donation is requested. The presentation is a fundraiser for A Way Out, an Aspen nonprofit that helps Roaring Fork Valley addicts find treatment and provides grants to help pay their way. It focuses on helping adolescents, young adults and their families.

A Way Out is asking people who want to attend to RSVP to

Moyers is now vice president of public affairs and community relations with the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation, a leading, nonprofit recovery center. He is a renowned advocate for treatment and recovery as well as a sought-after speaker and news source.

In a telephone interview from his Minnesota office, Moyers laid out his story in a candid, compelling way, just as he said he will do at the Aspen presentation. Alcohol and crack cocaine were his substances of choice, he said. He went into treatment in 1989 and again in 1991. He had a major relapse in 1994. The professional journalist and family man landed in a crack house again, this time in Atlanta, after a four-day coke binge. The incident forced him to decide if he wanted to live or die.

“Relapse is not a dirty word,” Moyers said. Though he’s been in recovery since Oct. 12, 1994, Moyers doesn’t label it a success story. It’s a story about how treatment can work, he said.

That will be the thrust of his message in Aspen. While more people than ever are seeking treatment for addictions, there are still three or four who don’t seek help for each person that does, Moyers said.

Long-term studies show about 1 in 10 Americans become addicted to some drugs or alcohol. “Why” is less important than what to do about it, Moyers said. He works to break down the stigma attached to addiction and presents a barrier to seeking help.

There is a galaxy of nonprofit treatment centers available to help people battle their addictions. There is strength in numbers and power in partnering, so he is speaking for free to help raise awareness for A Way Out.

While the roots of Moyers’ addiction go back to Aspen, he has no problem returning. He spoke at the Aspen Brain Lab seminar earlier this summer.

“Aspen is a place of very fond memories for me. Those memories include my first time of getting high,” Moyers said.

He looks forward to adding to the memories Thursday — sharing his story and urging people to seek help and share their own stories.