Editor’s Note: Veteran Atlanta television news anchor Amanda Davis died Wednesday after suffering a massive stroke.
Read and sign the online guestbook for Amanda Davis
This article was originally published in 2016:
Amanda Davis handed her Yorkie Harper to her daughter, stepped out of the car and into her own personal midnight.
Here she was in her late 50s and her little girl had dropped her off at the Canyon in Santa Monica, Calif., an hour’s drive from her daughter’s home in Los Angeles. She still couldn’t believe she might be an alcoholic.
God, is this really happening? she asked herself. Am I really here?
She was greeted at the door by two staff members who led her first to a nurse’s station, where she emptied her bags of all sharp objects, turned in her medications for high blood pressure and depression.
“I kept having this vision of ‘One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest,’” she said.
Davis’ life had indeed gotten a little crazy, but besides depression, her biggest problem wasn’t of a psychotic nature. It was alcohol and had been for a pretty good while.
Her arrest that morning followed another drunken driving charge in November 2012, when Davis was accused of driving the wrong way down Piedmont Avenue in Midtown. She was ultimately found not guilty and ordered to perform 20 hours of community service.
For years, Davis had explained her addiction away. Alcoholics drank every day. They woke up every morning reaching for a drink. They passed out drunk at night.
“That wasn’t me,” she said. “I was a social drinker.”
The blue light flickering in her rear-view mirror that summer night, though, indicated otherwise. It clicked in Davis’ head she had a problem, she had to do something. She had to get help.
Longtime friend Monica Pearson reached out. Pack your bag. You’re coming to my house, Pearson told her. They agreed she should check into a treatment facility. Pearson called a friend who sent a psychiatrist to her home to do alcohol assessment with Davis.
He confirmed Davis was alcoholic and helped her find the Canyon.
On June 27, she and her Yorkie boarded a plane to Los Angeles to spend the weekend with her daughter, who two days later drove Davis to the treatment facility.
“Even then I questioned it,” she said. “I wanted to believe that there was still a way they could help me control it.”
That thinking would soon change at the Canyon.
About halfway through the 30-day treatment and 12-step meetings, Davis learned how alcohol actually changed her brain and increased her craving for drinks. Once the on-switch in the pleasure center of an alcoholic brain goes on, there’s no way to turn it off.
All her life, people told her she was strong. Now they were asking why don’t you just stop, if you’re going to drink, why not just have one and come home. She always felt so guilty, so ashamed.
“My family couldn’t understand. I didn’t understand,” she said. “It was such a relief to know that it wasn’t my fault.
“It’s totally wrong to drink and get behind the wheel. I have no excuse, but when you are impaired, you are not making good decisions. Bad things happen and they happened to me. Yes, I could’ve called a cab, an Uber driver or a friend, but I didn’t want anyone to know. That was one of my troubles and secrets. I didn’t want anyone to know I was alone. I just wanted to get home where no one knew me and I wasn’t thinking about anybody else.”
Up until then, alcohol just seemed like the norm for Davis, especially in her journalistic circles.
But it increased in 2004, when she met the man of her dreams and she became more social.
They entertained a lot and he mixed drinks during the day, something Davis had never done. He introduced her to wine, and whereas champagne was once a treat, it became a regular thing.
“I’m not blaming him,” she said. “I just tried to keep up.”
Even Sundays changed. Instead of attending church as she had growing up, Davis and her friend enjoyed Sundays at home. The drinking started with mimosas at brunch. Margaritas with football and wine with dinner.
“I thought he was my knight in shining armor,” she said. “He was older than me. He was successful, so I thought it was going to be a mature relationship. We would travel, enhance one another’s lives and have wonderful time.”
Two years later, he proposed only to call it off months later.
“I was devastated. It took me six more years to figure out he didn’t want the same things I did.”
By then, Davis had already lost sight of who she was, and their relationship had become a substitute for God and church, the place where she got nourishment and positive reinforcement, where she unknowingly had laid the groundwork for her future in broadcasting.
Davis had enjoyed a star-kissed career. Right out of college, she landed a reporting job in Charlotte, N.C. Then it was on to satellite news channels in Washington, D.C., and Stamford, Conn., before heading back to Atlanta in 1984, for a two-year stint with WSB-TV.
In 1986, her long ride with WAGA began. She left Fox 5 after the 2012 arrest and was scheduled to make her debut last June on a CBS46 commentary program called “Just A Minute.” The DUI arrest in June put that on hold.
Davis successfully completed the treatment program at the Canyon in July, when she returned home to Smyrna.
“It felt good,” she said. “I had learned a lot and gotten to the underlying issue for the drinking and my depression, which was the loss of that relationship. I was wallowing in that grief and drinking to feel better.
“I always thought of myself as a social drinker,” Davis said.
One of her biggest breakthroughs, perhaps, came after Davis’ therapist handed her a copy of the “Grief Recovery Handbook” and she sat down to write her guy a “goodbye” letter.
When she read it out loud during a group session, Davis cried tears wet with all the pain and feelings of rejection.
“By the end, I was still crying but I was strong and there was power behind my words and I felt liberated and I felt like I had let it go, finally,” she said, her voice cracking. “It was truly amazing how that helped.”
And so now Davis is going public, this time by choice, this time because she wants to help others who may be in a similar struggle with alcohol.
As a television celebrity, her natural instinct had been to fight, and early on she won an acquittal for the DUI charges.
But by the third arrest, she said, it was crystal clear she was wrong.
“I pled guilty,” she said. “I was given a year probation. I did community service. I still report every week to my probation officer. I go to AA meetings two to three times a week. I still see my psychiatrist. I’m back in church.”
Davis said the message that God uses people to help others is sinking in finally. For her, that means staying sober so she can help others stay sober, too.