Chris Curtis explains why he decided to talk about his alcoholism on 'Kirk & Callahan'

Alex Reimer
July 13, 2017 - 5:13 pm

When Chris Curtis left Kirk & Callahan last April, he kept the true reason for his departure to himself. The longtime producer said he intended to focus on his health, but didn’t elaborate further. 

Curtis came clean on K&C Thursday, detailing his harrowing battle with alcoholism for the first time. Rock bottom came late last April, when he woke up covered in his own blood. 

“I’m an alcoholic,” Curtis said. “Last April, it came to a head. I had an intervention with my family over last Christmas. I hid this almost entirely from people very close to me. I lied to my family about how I was dealing with it. I blamed the show, I blamed you guys. So in April, I quit the show, and thought everybody would get off my back. My drinking increased last April, and then I had alcoholic hepatitis last April 25. I cut myself shaving before going to a Celtics game. The blood didn’t stop. I patched it up for a bit, I woke up in a pool of blood, because it kept bleeding when I went to bed. I went to the ICU for two nights. From there, I went to a rehab facility through McClean in Boston for a month last May, and got out last June. Then over the next several months from June until August, when I came back, I had been just dealing with my anxiety, my depression and other things that have popped up in my life over the years. Last April 25 of this year was one year sober from alcohol. That’s my big announcement.”

I spoke with Curtis Thursday to discuss his announcement, and my regretful role in it. Last month, I alluded to a personal secret he had told me –– and threatened to talk about it unless I was allowed back on the morning show. Curtis first told me about his bout with alcoholism in February, with the intention of having me write about it when he decided to share his story. 

This is the second time I have spoken to Curtis since my despicable blackmail threat. Our most recent conversation is below:

Alex Reimer: Why did you decide to come back into the high-stress environment of Kirk & Callahan?

Chris Curtis: There are multiple reasons. No. 1, I love radio. I found myself when I was back home from rehab –– the rush I got finding a story and still sending it to Kirk. I still sort of kept in touch with Kirk –– not every day or maybe every week, but we’d sort of sporadically check in. I loved the rush of sending a story to him that they talked about the next morning. That's in my blood, I love it. I found that to be what I like to do. I also wanted to prove to myself that I would be better at it now. I wanted a chance again to have my dream job with a clear head, and I trusted that Kirk and Gerry would be a better show than before, and that I would be an addition to that program with me producing it. So that's how I decided to come back. 

I actually went back and I had lunch with (Entercom Boston vice president and market manager) Phil Zachary in June or July of that year, and he just sort of checked in –– 'How are you doing?' That type of thing. We had a 90-minute lunch at Stockyard. And he was great. I obviously didn't tell him this, but he saw that I had lost a lot of weight and I was happier and healthier. Going back into the building for that lunch was huge for me. I sat in my car for 20 minutes waiting to cross the street. I was a wreck. Clearing that hurdle was big for me. Then I had conversations with Gerry and Kirk over the summer as we got closer to August and into August. 

My family was against it –– everybody. They just said, 'You're crazy. What are you doing?' I made (WEEI) to be the boogeyman. I made the morning show out to be what drove me into this alcoholic rage, when in reality, it was myself who did that. A lot of addicts and alcoholics are experts at putting the blame on everybody but themselves. And that's what I was doing.

AR: Why did you decide to talk about your alcoholism on the show today?

CC: I had been contemplating talking with the guys –– as you know –– for a while. As I said to them today, the show has been through a lot recently with both Kirk and Gerry, and the last nine weeks, really, have been tumultuous off the air. Whenever we had been around social settings, whether it was before the Super Bowl or Spring Training, this would always pop into my mind. And had my wife not traveled with me to Spring Training, one of those first nights when Gerry's family was there and it would've been just Kirk and I –– I thought that would've been a window to talk to Kirk first, because he's obviously in recovery himself. But my wife was there, and then it was Gerry, Kirk and I, and I don’t know –– I didn't do it with just the three of us.

I didn't address it there, because I wasn't really comfortable. There was also a part of me that wanted to get through a year. That was important. Almost all of the stuff I had done in recovery, the first year I just trusted my gut and was like, 'I'm going to stick to the same plan; I'm going to see the same therapist; I'm going to do my meetings; I'm going to keep on a plan.' And if it didn't feel exactly right to do it, it's better to air on the side of caution than to speak freely before you're ready. 

Last night was another setting. We were out in a casino, and as you know, free time for alcoholics surrounded by these areas where (alcohol) is everywhere, are danger areas and danger zones. Obviously, my recovery is first and foremost in my mind. So I got down there yesterday, I got there early, I was going to nap, and then at dinner I was going to talk to them, because (Mike Mutnansky) already knew, so I already had one other person at the table, so it would've been more comfortable there. But I got there, I couldn't nap, my mind was racing, I was sort of playing through all of the different responses in my head. We got to dinner, and I was just exhausted. I didn't get to it. 

Then I woke up this morning and talked with Mut driving over to the golf course. Mut said, 'Hey, you were a big topic of conversation after dinner last night.' The guys were joking about my dinner, what I was eating, why I was losing so much weight –– something along those lines. And I said, 'I think I'm going to tell them today.’

AR: What was different about you being the topic of this dinner opposed to other times?

CC: I think you can understand this more than most people. When you have a secret about your personal life, you think that everybody picks up on things that are mostly fictional. So for me last night, I just felt like they were trying to pick up the pieces about certain things –– just caring about me –– and I was like, 'Let's stop the b——-. I'm not hiding anything bad. I'm hiding something good. So I hung up with Mutt, then called Kirk, and we spoke. I said, 'Hey, you know, I've got something personal I want to talk to you guys about –– whether it's on the air, or before the show, or today. 

And he said, 'Alright. Is it bad?’ I said, 'No. It's just about something personally.' And he's like, 'Save it for the show.' So I sit down, we start the show, and I'm just ready at any point –– as you know, we can go in a million different directions at any time. Kirk basically said, 'We're going to tease this,' and asked Mut the level of the story, because he knew Mut knew. He said, '8:00 a.m.,' and then from that point until 8:00, I just sat there sort of figuring out exactly how I was going to say something I had been preparing to say for about a year.

AR: I'm assuming you told Mut because of what I said on the air.

CC: Mut sent me a text that weekend saying, 'Get this sound for Monday.' I was up in Vermont going to an engagement party. I didn't hear it, and it slipped my mind until Tuesday (June 19), because Mut wasn't in Monday. And he said, 'Oh you didn't play this? You've got to play this.' So I went through your show on Tuesday morning and grabbed the clip, and that was me hearing it for the first time then. Then we played it on the air that morning at 9:00 a.m.

So that day, I was pissed off, and drove down to Connecticut (for the Travelers Championship). Whenever we're going away and I'm not in my sort of cocoon with my wife and doing my normal daily routine, early on in this process you're just taught to be on high-alert. So I'm much more in-tune with, 'What's my plan when I get there? What am I going to do be doing that night? Call my wife before bed,' that type of stuff. That eases my anxiety to have normalcy. And that day I was driving down, I just felt out of control. I was livid. 

I was waiting for a call from Kirk or Gerry, because usually they'll hear something like that. And I got down there –– Mut and I were the first people at the hotel before the Travelers in Glastonbury, Conn. We were talking, and he said, 'Hey, sorry if I pushed you on this.' So we just sat down, and I just told him what I said on the air today. I told him my story. And he was apologetic, because he was like, 'I had no idea.' He had no need to apologize. So we talked then, and we both agreed to wait until the right time when everybody was back. We even discussed to wait until the fall. As you know, July isn't exactly the time when big news events are announced on radio shows. So that's when I addressed it with Mut, and (program director) Joe (Zarbano) heard about it, and I spoke with Joey on my ride back from the Travelers and told him. 

At that point, that was the entirety of the people at the company who knew: Joey, Mut, (producer) Ken (Laird) and you.

AR: As we’ve covered before, from my vantage point, the (Kirk & Callahan) ban was maybe two weeks old, and my only mindset was, 'What can I say to keep this going? F— personal relationships, f— my personal life. What can I say that will help stir the drink for the show even more?” That's not the person who I want to be. 

What I feel the worst about is, my decision propelled you to tell people before you wanted to. 

CC: The most frustrating aspect of this is it was something I had control of. I told Ken very early on, because everybody I spoke to said you should have at least one ally where you work that knows. We went to the Christmas Party, and when I got there, we went to the bar and he wasn't bringing me beer. I got a club soda. In your first year, all of your firsts are important, so you get through your first Christmas, your first Thanksgiving. Prior to that, every year, that was booze. Tuesday was an excuse to drink, but holidays were even more so. So I told Ken early on, and he's been –– there's no way I am here working today if I didn't have Ken. Ken has been the most reliable, diligent, hard-working, smart, caring person I've worked with in radio. He's a rock. 

When I went through all of that, I had control of it. I told the one person I could trust, and he proved to be more trustworthy than I could've ever hoped. So I got through that part of the year and that's when I talked to my wife and she introduced the idea. We talked about telling my story, because you often see all of these people in recovery who are benefitted from unburdening themselves of this fact. So she encouraged me, and I talked to her about you –– young guy, works at the company, you're on the show –– the whole plan that we sort of outlined. 

AR: Why don't you seem more pissed off at me? Why don't you want me fired? Because if I were you, I'm going to be honest, I would f—— hate everything about me right now. I broke your trust.

CC: My point is, why do I want my story and who I am to be about your misery and you getting fired? How does that help me? Getting you fired, in the long run, that just creates a headache for me. I don't want to wake up tomorrow and say my unburdening of my alcoholism led to you getting fired. I am who I am today because of hard work I put in, because of my wife, and her trust –– somehow she still trusted me and gave me another shot. That's why I'm here. I don't think I'm aided in anyway by saying, 'Oh yeah, and I got that a—- fired.’ That doesn't do anything for me. I did a million things when I was drinking that would've gotten me fired in a second. It's not really my job to get someone else fired for what you did.

AR: You're a better man than I. If you weren't as forgiving towards me, I don't know if I would be having this conversation with you right now. I may be looking for work.

CC: What we do on the show is real, and it's good, because it's authentic. What makes Kirk and Gerry great is they pick up on all of the little things, they find the pressure points, and they keep hitting it.

It's not going to improve my life in any way if you lost your job. That's why I'm not interested in having you lose your job. 

K&C - Producer Chris Curtis reveals he left the show an alcoholic 7-13-17

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