December 11th, 2008
03:12 PM ET
6 years ago

Bush reflects on struggle with alcohol

Bush reflected on his own addiction to alcohol.
Bush reflected on his own addiction to alcohol.

WASHINGTON (CNN) - President Bush reflected on his own struggle with alcohol in a White House meeting today to tout gains in the war on drug abuse.

CNN was the only media outlet invited to attend the entire meeting, which other reporters joined in the final minutes for remarks from the president.

Several in the room, including Don Coyhis of Colorado Springs, Colorado who runs a program targeting Native Americans battling substance abuse, were recovered addicts or alcoholics.

Bush, who quit drinking at the age of 40, was impressed.

"Congratulations on thirty years of sobriety," the president told Coyhis. "I'm eight years behind you."

The president told the group of fourteen, all leaders in drug prevention, treatment and interdiction programs around the country, that a new study shows teen drug abuse has dropped 25 percent since he took office in 2001.

"No question there's still work to do in America, but we are making progress," said Mr. Bush.
But the study by the University of Michigan cautioned that progress could be threatened by a drop in the percentage of young people who think marijuana is harmful. And it found a high percentage of teens are abusing prescription drugs – with nearly 10 percent of seniors reporting using Vicodin over the last year, nearly 5 percent abusing Oxycontin.

Bush listened to participants' stories and shared some candid moments.

Professional baseball player Josh Hamilton, who once suffered from a debilitating drug addiction, talked about seeking help from eight different treatment centers. "They didn't work for me," he said.

It wasn't until his grandmother confronted him while he was high on drugs that something clicked.

"That moment cleared my mind, opened my heart, and that following night I committed my life to Christ," said Hamilton.

President Bush praised the effectiveness of the programs represented, most private and faith-based.

"I'm a faith-based guy," explained Mr. Bush. "Sometimes to help change a person's behavior, you have to change their heart. Government's not really good at that."

Former New Orleans District Attorney Harry Connick Sr. talked about why he was motivated to launch a student drug testing program that has now spread to 20 city high schools.

Over his nearly 30-year-career, Connick said, "I sent a lot of people to the penitentiary. But at one point I thought, this is not enough."

The father of singer Harry Connick Jr. maintained the best way to reduce demand for drugs is to test high school students.

Dr. Katie McQueen advocated more careful screening of patients for substance abuse by hospitals and doctors.

"Of the millions of people who need help, most don't get it because they don't think they need it.," explained McQueen.

When McQueen announced her Houston program was based in "the great state of Texas," President Bush interrupted with a broad smile, "I'll be home in about – but who's counting – 39 days."

Dr. Nora Volkow, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, discussed research that shows that 50 percent of a person's vulnerability to drug addiction is genetic.
President Bush asked whether the same was true of alcohol abuse.

"There's clearly a genetic component," responded Volkow. "That's why prevention is so important."

Lt. Mike Boudreaux of the Tulare County Sheriff's Department described his battle to eradicate marijuana fields on California public lands.

"It's a daunting task," said Boudreaux of their efforts that often involve confronting dangerous Mexican drug dealers intent on protecting their hidden fields.

Boudreaux added that his mother said to tell President Bush she prays for him.

"One of the most striking aspects of being president is the power of prayer in my life. I feel it," said Mr. Bush. "Some days are happy. Some days are not so happy. But every day is joyous."


Filed under: President Bush
soundoff (311 Responses)
  1. dark days

    He's be back on the sauce in a few years when he realizes what his legacy will be.

    December 11, 2008 03:35 pm at 3:35 pm |
  2. Brett

    I haven't always agreed with what Bush has said and done during his administration; however, overcoming an addiction is something that should be praised and not ridiculed. A sign of a moral and good man is one who can recognize a problem and have the will power to correct it.

    December 11, 2008 03:35 pm at 3:35 pm |
  3. dark days

    He'll be back on the sauce in a few years when he realizes what his legacy will be.

    December 11, 2008 03:36 pm at 3:36 pm |
  4. BB

    Bush also snorted cocaine, and at that time in his life, weed had to play a part also. Maybe he forgot.

    December 11, 2008 03:37 pm at 3:37 pm |
  5. cali girl

    Drinking doesn't bother me. It's when he sent our troops in harms way for no good reason, disregarded the constitution and screwed our civil liberties that offended me.

    December 11, 2008 03:37 pm at 3:37 pm |
  6. Louis Jacinto

    He may not have had any booze in several years, but he's clearly not in recovery from it; drinking O'Doul's is not being in recovery from alcohol.

    He's been white-knuckling it, and the country and world has paid the price.

    December 11, 2008 03:37 pm at 3:37 pm |
  7. Monrob

    All his talk about God and addiction; what piece of crap to be feeding us.

    December 11, 2008 03:37 pm at 3:37 pm |
  8. Robert Wooller Bradford England UK

    I didn't think he had the brains to know what alcohol is let alone be addicted to it.

    December 11, 2008 03:38 pm at 3:38 pm |
  9. Junius

    Yeah right hes sober . . . only a drunk guy would screw so many things up.

    Oh and the reason so many people are not doing drugs, is because now, thanks to Bush, no one has money!!

    December 11, 2008 03:39 pm at 3:39 pm |
  10. Joe in Austin

    Just going "cold turkey" isn't enough. The erratic and compulsive nature of alcoholism merely spills out into other aspects of life. For example, if causes one to act as if they know, when they clearly do not.

    December 11, 2008 03:40 pm at 3:40 pm |
  11. I'm Not Missing The Old Mule & Winky Half-baked Alaska

    Thanks for taking the nation on a dry drunk with you, Cowboy.

    December 11, 2008 03:41 pm at 3:41 pm |
  12. ANGIE

    Bush Spent the whole 8 years of his term Drunk and high the man is still a drunk just look at the pathetic sob!

    December 11, 2008 03:41 pm at 3:41 pm |
  13. SG

    That would be great, except for the fact that he still drinks! He may not get drunk, but he still drinks wine (at the very least) during events. A real recovering alchoholic would tell you that ANY amount of alchohol is a no-no.

    December 11, 2008 03:43 pm at 3:43 pm |
  14. obama-mama

    Being an alcoholic doesn't make you a bad person. If I were president and had to deal with the world in its current state I would definitely drink....It's a tough job.

    December 11, 2008 03:43 pm at 3:43 pm |
  15. Mike Mc

    I'll drink to that!! just kiddin'!

    December 11, 2008 03:44 pm at 3:44 pm |
  16. bill williams

    8 years?

    Just search on youtube for BUSH DRUNK WEDDING and yet, more lies......

    December 11, 2008 03:44 pm at 3:44 pm |
  17. Craig

    He's had the rest of us downing them for the past 8 years!

    December 11, 2008 03:45 pm at 3:45 pm |
  18. David

    As long as we allow 'drug' companies to market drugs to kids and adults in every commercial break on televising in an effort to 'increase' drug use, the situation will only get worse. It's the same as cigarette companies running anti smoking ads, but adding more nicotine to cigarettes to keep folks addicted. So who is fooling who?

    December 11, 2008 03:45 pm at 3:45 pm |
  19. No Hillary = No Obama

    I really wonder how truthful he is about being sober for so long. He sometimes looks lit-up.

    December 11, 2008 03:45 pm at 3:45 pm |
  20. GA Independent

    So alcohol doesn't explain his choices?

    December 11, 2008 03:45 pm at 3:45 pm |
  21. Travis In Colorado

    President Bush is a great man and a man who has done everything in his power to keep America safe, make America better, and stronger. I am sad that he will have to leave office and that we are getting a smoke and mirrors president, but we have to make do with what we have, not what we want. I believe that history as well as America will vindicate President Bush very soon. Thank you President Bush and God Bless you!

    December 11, 2008 03:45 pm at 3:45 pm |
  22. John Anthony

    Judging from the way he "ran" this country for the past 8 years and by the fact that he was on vacation in Crawford or at Camp David roughly 25% of the time, it would seem Bush only SAID he quit drinking at age 40!

    December 11, 2008 03:45 pm at 3:45 pm |
  23. JD

    I wish you well, Mr. Bush.

    December 11, 2008 03:46 pm at 3:46 pm |
  24. Virginia

    I am proud of Mr. Bush and him being so forthcoming about his addiction. This is what AA supports, and it is good for all of us to hear that even the most important people in the world struggle with some form of addiction or another. God bless and keep Mr. and Mrs. Bush!

    December 11, 2008 03:46 pm at 3:46 pm |
  25. Travis In Colorado

    President Bush is a great man and a man who has done everything in his power to keep America safe, make America better, and stronger. I am sad that he will have to leave office and that we are getting a smoke and mirrors president, but we have to make do with what we have, not what we want. I believe that history as well as America will vindicate President Bush very soon. Thank you President Bush and God Bless you!

    December 11, 2008 03:47 pm at 3:47 pm |
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