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. ET from Omaha

    You want to fool me that that man gave up on Alcohool? You've got to be kidding.
    At least Obama was honnest to admit he has fall off the wagon of smocking sometimes.
    Bush is the most dishonnest, worst and dangerous president in the american history.

    December 11, 2008 03:48 pm at 3:48 pm |
  2. frank, las vegas

    Good man!

    December 11, 2008 03:48 pm at 3:48 pm |
  3. gains, what gains?

    Drugs are cheaper, more widely available and more widely used thanks to the war on drugs.

    December 11, 2008 03:49 pm at 3:49 pm |
  4. Peggy (Ohio)

    While the numbers of teens using drugs has dropped, ever so slightly, the numbers of teens using alcohol abusively has increased, including dangerous bouts of binge drinking. The drugs that teens are using, when they use are more deadly. The percentage of teens who die related to drug and alcohol use has increased. They didn't put those numbers in there, unfortunately. We need to work to improve access to treatment, which is effective and has improved over the years.

    December 11, 2008 03:50 pm at 3:50 pm |
  5. Liz in Seattle

    I hate the guy as much as anybody, but give him a break. 22 years sober is a great accomplishment. Kudos to him for recognizing those who help fight and prevent addiction every day.

    December 11, 2008 03:50 pm at 3:50 pm |
  6. Steve

    I'm no fan of Bush, and I can't wait for him to be gone so that we can get to work fixing this country. That being said, as a fellow recovering alcoholic, I congratulate him for his 22 years of sobriety. One thing we need to do in this country is to stop using past or even present addictions as an excuse to mock people. It really isn't a joking matter.

    December 11, 2008 03:50 pm at 3:50 pm |
  7. Last Honest Man

    People Like Ken and It's Addictive are representative the ignorant "Butts"
    (not my first choice of words) that respond to this Ticker. Cheap seat stone throwers.

    December 11, 2008 03:51 pm at 3:51 pm |
  8. Page Turner

    "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."

    Every day he's been president has NOT been joyous! I've prayed every day for the past 8 years to see this man leave the office given to him.

    December 11, 2008 03:51 pm at 3:51 pm |
  9. Maurice from Ontario

    Substance abuse is a lot more complex than what meets the eyes. It is really important to recognize efforts made by people in the throes of those kinds of struggle. At the same time, those of us who don't face those struggles need to work on how we accept those who do. Let's remember that "one day at a time" goes both ways!

    December 11, 2008 03:51 pm at 3:51 pm |
  10. ApplePie

    it was lik watching the Matrix, where Agent Smith had NINE lives and just wouldn't die

    December 11, 2008 03:52 pm at 3:52 pm |
  11. disagree with the politics agree with the story

    President or not as a human being I admire his courage and willingness to confront his drinking problem.

    I may not be able to identify with his politics but I can identify with his struggle and congratulate him on his sobriety.

    Great story.

    December 11, 2008 03:53 pm at 3:53 pm |
  12. Just the facts

    Senate Candidate 13 – Just because you type something doesn't make it true. Obama never admitted cocain use, or booze. You sound like the typical blog lurch that thinks they can create a fact out of an uninformed opinion.

    December 11, 2008 03:53 pm at 3:53 pm |
  13. Michael

    Please. He still drinks...

    December 11, 2008 03:53 pm at 3:53 pm |
  14. nc

    Thank you, CNN, for finally publishing something endearing of the President. And thank you for mentioning Christ in a positive context.

    December 11, 2008 03:54 pm at 3:54 pm |
  15. Brian G, Sugar Land, TX

    A dry drunk!

    Term generally used to describe someone who has stopped drinking, but still demonstrates the same alcoholic behaviors and attitudes.

    December 11, 2008 03:54 pm at 3:54 pm |
  16. Accountability

    Welcome to the "Poor Me Club".

    Nothing Bush says or does in the waning days of his presidency will rehabilitate what has been a dismall eight years for our country.

    December 11, 2008 03:55 pm at 3:55 pm |
  17. Ex-Republican for Obama

    I actually have to admit...Mr. Bush came off quite well in that report, his conversation didn't come off like most of his presidency has...FOOLISH.

    I Congratulate you on your successful streak of sobriety as well George!

    December 11, 2008 03:55 pm at 3:55 pm |
  18. tfc

    Bush should reflect on his last eight years in office and his struggle with reality.

    December 11, 2008 03:55 pm at 3:55 pm |
  19. An independent

    Enough of this guy. Please just let him go away so we can start to put this 8 year nightmare behind us like he put his drinking behind him.

    December 11, 2008 03:55 pm at 3:55 pm |
  20. George Arlington, TX.

    I think the booze warped his mind. Perhaps he was afraid Sadam was out to get him. Just a thought.....

    December 11, 2008 03:55 pm at 3:55 pm |
  21. the truth

    Bush did great things for AIDS.....and he is doing the same for alcohol abuse
    he is a great President and role model!
    these are the persons that make a difference...
    not Clinton with his intern abuse

    December 11, 2008 03:56 pm at 3:56 pm |
  22. Brian G, Sugar Land, TX

    BTW: W still can not tell a joke. He doesnt' understand that the "punch" goes last in the sentence.

    Here's what I mean...

    President Bush interrupted with a broad smile, "I'll be home in about – but who's counting – 39 days."

    December 11, 2008 03:56 pm at 3:56 pm |
  23. Kathy

    Yeah, and he cannot remember how much coccaine he did when he was younger. He is so stupid he wouldn't even know what sober is!!

    December 11, 2008 03:56 pm at 3:56 pm |
  24. the truth

    cocaine is illegal! big difference

    December 11, 2008 03:56 pm at 3:56 pm |
  25. Roxanne

    wwwhhhaaatt are you trying to tell me Bush hasn't been drunk for the last 8 yrs. I'd like to blame all his bad decisions on booze!!!

    December 11, 2008 03:57 pm at 3:57 pm |
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