THE FUN-LOVING SIDEKICK on the Jeff & Jer Showgram (weekday mornings on Star 94.1 FM) for the past 15 years, Laura Cain, celebrates one year of sobriety this month. Her infectious laugh and celeb good looks masked a darker reality——years of severe alcohol and drug abuse.
“It got to the point where I found myself curled up in the closet saying to myself, ‘I just want to die,’ ” says Cain, 39. “My life had become out of control. I was in this vortex and couldn’t pull myself out of it.”
During what turned into several months’ absence from the show——March to late June 2007——hosts Jeff Detrow and Jerry Cesak and producer Tommy Sablan told listeners Cain was taking time off to deal with “personal problems.” Unbeknownst to friends and fans, Cain was hooked on a vicious after-show ritual of popping pills (OxyContin and Vicodin), ingesting drugs (cocaine and “a little” meth) and drinking in excess.
“We really had no idea things were that bad,” says Cesak. “She’d come to work every morning her usual self, laughing and fun to be around. She hid it well.”
Sablan, who’s been with the show for 25 years and lost two brothers to drug abuse, agrees. “I always thought I was someone who could detect problems like that because of my family history, but I didn’t see anything,” he says.
A year ago, Cain’s outwardly idyllic life as a wife and mother of two young children (son Charlie, 7, and daughter Evan, 3) was in serious jeopardy. Her 16-year marriage did not survive the ordeal.
“When I got out [of rehab], I told him, ‘Look at me, look! I’m okay now, I’m still the person you married!’” says Cain. “But it was too late. He wanted out. That’s been the biggest casualty of what I did to myself.”
When she returned to Jeff & Jer last summer, Cain read on-air a poignant letter about her experiences and the lessons she’d learned. “I said, when you think of an alcoholic, it’s not just the bum on the street corner,” she says. “And a drug addict is not only some back-alley derelict with a needle in his arm. They’re moms, dads, teachers, firefighters, lawyers, doctors——people from all walks of life. Nobody is immune, certainly not me.”
Jeff & Jer appeals largely to female listeners in their 30s and 40s who enjoy the show’s candid, conversational format. Emotionally potent topics are freely bandied about——led by dating, the hazards of being single and the vagaries of marriage and family life. Another show trademark: a reassuring sense that no matter what goes wrong in life, taking a light-hearted, good-natured and humorous approach does wonders.
“Believe me, we’ve laughed about this [on the air] . . . a lot,” says Cesak. “Laura’s always been able to laugh at herself. That’s why we love her.”
This month, especially, Cain intends to talk openly about her ordeal. “I’m not hiding from this,” she says. “I’ve learned you have to dredge up all kinds of blisters, and they all have to pop. I was filled with self-loathing, but I learned I’m not a bad person.”
And she now knows she’s not alone. “I often ask myself, ‘How many other moms are going through what I did?’ ” she says. “My story isn’t that crazy. I’m lucky I have the ability to talk about it on the radio and maybe help some people.”