LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) — Twenty years ago, Bree Walker seemed to have it all.
She was a young, beautiful, talented TV anchor. She was beloved in Los Angeles. A great career and great family.
Walker, now 61, even overcame a rare congenital disability from birth that affected her hands and feet.
Walker was also then married to her handsome co-anchor, Jim Lampley.
This past February the former anchor made headlines when she was arrested for a DUI.
What caused her world to unravel? Walker recently sat down with CBS2’s Pat Harvey and talked about the night her life hit rock bottom.
They also talked about the condition — Ectrodactyly — that would make Walker famous.
The condition — which results in missing fingers and toes — did not keep her from pursuing a career in journalism or even one on camera. When a New York TV anchor asked her on camera if she knew if she was passing on the disability would she abort her child, she said, “Well, I would consider that a very personal question. I would not,” she said.
Walker became an advocate and spokesperson for Ectrodactyly. Years later, she had two children who both inherited the condition.
Like many moms, she told Harvey she put her high-powered career on hold to stay home and raise the kids. After six years with CBS2, she walked away from the anchor desk in 1994.
Once her kids were grown and her marriage to Lampley ended (in 2000), Walker says she lost all sense of self worth.
“Retirement hasn’t been easy,” she said, “Particularly in these last few years.”
Her kids left the nest and she found herself useless.
“I had my self esteem wrapped around my kids and my career, my marriage and my home. In that order, frankly,” she shares.
“I was trying to disappear and be anonymous and by golly, I thought I had accomplished that,” Walker says.
All that changed on the night of her DUI arrest.
“It feels like my [rock] bottom,” she says, “I pray to God it’s my bottom.”
Walker was driving back from San Diego — she’s been celebrating someone else’s sobriety. She stopped off at a liquor store and got a bottle of vodka. She got back in the car.
Anaheim Police pulled her over just after midnight.
“I remember bits and pieces of it,” Walker says, “I remember several squad cars, sirens, lights flashing. I don’t remember if I actually refused a Breathalyzer or took the Breathalyzer.”
Harvey reminds her, “Reports say you refused the Breathalyzer.”
Walker says, “Yeah.”
The former anchor who reported on the news was now being reported about on the news — her mug shot for all the world to see.
“I didn’t make that phone call that you make when you’ve been arrested and thrown in jail. I didn’t make that phone call because I was so embarrassed. I was ashamed, numb, dead inside,” Walker says.
If the audience felt sadness seeing her mugshot on the news, they were not alone. Walker felt the same way.
“It was terrifying. Embarrassing. Humiliating. [I felt], ‘I deserve that. On the other hand I looked at that scared deer in the headlight expression on my face and I cried,'” she says.
The arrest, the mugshot — they may have been the wake up call she needed.
“I woke up after maybe an hour of sleep crying uncontrollably for about a half hour and I realized I had a moment of grace and that’s when I thought okay, I’m ready. I’m done. I’m done.'”
She was actually only getting started. The arrest made her realize she needed to ask for help.
“I need your help and I need your help. I need a public eye on me because I’m a public nuisance,” Walker says.
Harvey commends Walker on and for her “brutal honesty.” Harvey also reveals that Walker checked into an outpatient rehab facility on the day they conducted their interview.
“I’ve chosen one of the more humble places locally because I don’t want the spa treatment,” Walker says, “I want the hard work. I’m enough of a sneaky-cheat-liar that I will lie to myself if I’m getting the massages and spa treatment and feeling really good. If things are starting to go too well, I’ll find a way to [expletive deleted] it up. I know that about myself,” she says, revealing more brutal honesty.
With more to come.
“I have chronically relapsed and it is time to face that and understand the job now is recovery,” Walker says.
In hindsight, Walker admits it’s still hard to think about the night of the DUI.
“I certainly didn’t intend to hurt anyone else but I could have killed someone that night. I don’t think I could have lived with that Pat, I don’t know how people do.”
These days, Walker tries to accentuate the positive. She thinks back on the positive impact her reporting had on the people she covered and the many ways she touched people.
She’s hoping by sharing her story, people will not only publicly hold her accountable for her actions, but that she could help others struggling with alcoholism.
“I thought, ‘what the hell. I’ve got nothing to be secretive about anymore. If I can help somebody by coming out if someone takes a look at this ignominious moment in Bree Walker’s life and says, ‘I don’t want to have a mugshot like that on my record anywhere’ then maybe I will help.”
Harvey reports that Walker appears to be well on the road to recovery.
In Part II of their interview (airing Friday at 5 p.m. on CBS2), Walker shares what she has learned in rehab and Harvey also talks to an expert who says “Empty Nest Syndrome” can trigger alcoholism in many women.