If you live anywhere in Southern California, there’s a likely chance you’ll catch Courtney Friel when you turn on your TV to your local news station. For years, Courtney has been invited into homes and living rooms to dish the latest news and stories. However, some may be surprised to find out this blue-eyed blonde-bombshell has had a dark past with substance abuse.
“I’m not anyone’s stereotypical image of a person with addiction. I had a fifteen year successful party career. Right from the very beginning there was no such thing as one drink. I’d get completely wasted and black out,” stated Courtney.
Born and raised in Philadelphia, Friel joined Los Angeles News Network, KTLA in 2013 after working six years at Fox News Channel, where she was a New York correspondent, and headline anchor and fill-in host for “Fox & Friends.” She’s previously reported for CBS, ABC, and Fox affiliate states as well as shows including “America’s Most Wanted,” “Extra,” and E! News.”
“We’ll go in this storage closet in the studio and meditate.”
The high-spirited news anchor is currently honing in on nine years of continuous sobriety. Courtney credits meditation to much of her long-term sobriety – and not in the most conventional of places. No matter how glamorous the chic dresses, bright lights, cameras, perfect hair and make-up can be, life still gets stressful. And for Courtney, when one door closes, she seems to find an open storage closet to meditate in.
“Whenever I’m anchoring or reporting in the studio, I try to meditate in between shows. Sometimes our weather chick will join me. She gives good zen. We’ll go into this storage closet and meditate. Meditation is probably the one thing that keeps me sane for where I’m at in life,” notes Friel.
Struck by the candor and sincerity of Courtney, I was intrigued to ask more about her meditation practice in the famous studio on Sunset Blvd in Hollywood. “It’s a little closet. We bring blankets in and turn on the music and lay down in the dark and lock the door,” she noted in a bubbly and matter-of-fact way.
More Than Pills And Partying
As much as a saving grace mediation has become for Friel, it wasn’t always something she was so easily able to tap into. While television can convey only so much, there’s some feelings that can only be felt through words, and Courtney wasn’t timid to let me in on her previous life. Moving from Tennessee to the luster of New York City to work for Fox News, Courtney developed a serious cocaine problem in addition to a prominent drinking and television career.
“I was always out and about drinking but then I would be blacking out around these high-profile people in New York. I wouldn’t even remember talking to them. I would make a fool out of myself. There were times I would be eating and have pie all over my face while speaking to someone,” Friel noted.
With nearly nine years of sobriety, recovery was no easy feat for Friel, but something deep inside her knew life held more meaning than pills and partying. And, little did she know, her life was about to take a turn.
Courtney divulged, “I got sober right around the time a bunch of celebrities were dying, like Heath Ledger. I had this feeling that I was going to get busted for buying blow from a shady-ass dealer and I was going to lose my job, or I was going to die because I had all of these things in my system, and I didn’t really care.”
“I knew that it was the best thing I could do for myself. I knew I had more to offer this world.”
Ultimately intervened on while lying in bed, there were seven people who begged her to go to treatment. She states, “It was really impromptu. They all talked me into going to a place. I really didn’t want to go but I knew that it was the best thing I could do for myself. I knew I had more to offer this world.”
After a month in a Connecticut facility, Courtney decided that she would devote one year to staying sober. “I thought, okay, I spent all this money on treatment, and my job knows, so I’m going to do the sober thing for a year. When I was 8 months sober I found out that I was pregnant with my son, and that was a total blessing.”
Today, a single Mom of two, successful reporter, and powerhouse news anchor, Courtney’s “stop-at-nothing” mentality has been exactly how her sobriety has played out. “When I first got sober, the first few years were really difficult, I thought I was never going to have fun again, but my definition of fun changed,” she noted. Recently hosting her first charity event entitled, “Sexy Sober Sunday,” there was no absence of fun. Courtney hosted a brunch at Casa Del Mar in Santa Monica, California raising money for “Shatterproof,” a non-profit organization that educates and raises awareness about addiction.
“Everything just aligned for me to do that,” she said about the event. “It was a big risk for me to go out and do that. My whole point was that you can go out and have fun and not drink. We had a DJ, a red carpet, and everyone was dancing. It was a dry event and so many non-sober people told me that I was so much fun. We raised over $10,000 for Shatterproof.”
“Nothing was as bad as the Vegas shooting. I was on the floor bawling my eyes out.”
As much as the life of a vibrant news anchor can seem glamorous, it no doubt has it’s ups and downs – even in the midst of sobriety and meditation, and even while the cameras are still rolling. As much as hearing the news on a daily basis can effect a bystander, delivering the news can create a feeling of powerlessness, and sense of raw emotional affliction, not even the bright lights or concealer can hide.
With a crack in her voice, Courtney was able to let me in on the vulnerable side of sobriety and the toll of her career. “I hate covering mass shootings. Nothing was as bad as the Vegas shooting. I was on the floor bawling my eyes out after it. When things like that happen I’m able to realize when I’m in a vulnerable spot to where I would want to drink. I always have to remember that nothing is going to get better if I take a drink at this moment, so why not let yourself just cry? I was out in San Bernardino during the mass shooting and the next day I woke up and just cried. You can’t escape it. The only thing I can do is eat a bunch of carbs and meditate and go to sleep. I never want to go back to drinking, but sometimes, I’m like oh my god this day was so stressful.”
“I’m Interested To See What The Next 9 Years Bring.”
Looking back now, it’s clear to sense the feeling of gratitude in Courtney’s voice. “I was escaping something, but I didn’t realize that now until afterwards. I would be dead or in jail if I continued on,” she acknowledged. On what motivates her? “I think being busy helps me stay sober. I work a lot, I’m a single Mom with two kids. I want to be sober for them,” she divulged. “I’m just an all or nothing person. That’s how I am with a bag of wheat-thins or skittles. I work better that way.”
When asked what advice she would give to others: “I think that some partying at a younger age is a right of passage. I don’t judge, I don’t preach, and I don’t care what anyone else does. I just know that this is working through me and if I can help someone through my example, then great. There’s more to life, and I’m interested to see what the next 9 years bring.”
On what’s next for Courtney? “I’ve been working with an editor and want to share my experience in a book form. I’m open to talking about the nitty gritty. How do you do a career sober? How do you do divorce sober? How do you do dating sober? I really wish that everyone could be as successful in sobriety as I’ve been because it does keep getting better and better.”
Today, it’s apparent that Friel’s insides match her strikingly beautiful, elegant, and vivacious persona. There’s nothing you can’t accomplish if you’re sober, and with Courtney Friel, those words couldn’t be truer.