December 11th, 2008
03:12 PM ET
5 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. unknown

    Senate Candidate 13, you are in error. President-elect Obama used drugs and alochol in high school and part of college, by his own admission. That's a far cry from Bush giving up alcohol after years of alcohol abuse, culminating on the morning after he turned 40, when he finally gave it up.

    December 11, 2008 04:25 pm at 4:25 pm |
  2. J.Crobuzon

    Seriously? Look at the crossed eyes in his picture. Read the caption. He's drinking again, folks.

    December 11, 2008 04:25 pm at 4:25 pm |
  3. Ken in Dallas

    So now is Bush going to bust out with "The Devil made me start that war!"?

    December 11, 2008 04:25 pm at 4:25 pm |
  4. Simpiticus

    Given the level of veracity of this administration, isn't it a stretch to believe him in this little thing of imbibing?

    December 11, 2008 04:25 pm at 4:25 pm |
  5. John

    This is a insult to alcoholics!!!!

    He took a nation down to a 3rd world country with nukes, while being sober? C'mon....

    December 11, 2008 04:26 pm at 4:26 pm |
  6. Ryan

    How harmful is marijuana really? Drinking does more harm. Maybe he should let people know that

    December 11, 2008 04:26 pm at 4:26 pm |
  7. Bonnie in Hershey

    Glad he can stay sober; he almost drove all the rest of us to drink!

    December 11, 2008 04:26 pm at 4:26 pm |
  8. watchdog

    Finally – something we can admire about Mr. Bush: admitting the problem, and praising sobriety. Thank you.

    December 11, 2008 04:28 pm at 4:28 pm |
  9. James at 45

    Bring on the hate, lefties.

    December 11, 2008 04:29 pm at 4:29 pm |
  10. no incumbents 2010

    Can the Liberals please stop bashing the outgoing president. He is leaving be happy and shut up! This is a good story and the snide comments are getting old.

    December 11, 2008 04:30 pm at 4:30 pm |
  11. Joe Anoka, Minn.

    Four comments, two by idiots. Anyone who chooses sobriety and is successful should be congratulated. It is not always an easy road and
    many people don't stick with it because there is not instant gratification. My hat is off to him. Been there.

    December 11, 2008 04:30 pm at 4:30 pm |
  12. Observer in SC

    Looking for a little sympathy there?

    December 11, 2008 04:31 pm at 4:31 pm |
  13. Pat Omaha, NE

    Too bad he wasn't more honest and forthright sooner...people may have been able to better understand his learning disability and pompous behavior...both of which often go along with the alcoholic persona!

    December 11, 2008 04:31 pm at 4:31 pm |
  14. Anonymous

    I, sure would not want my President to be drinking on the job, though it necessarily does not matter for him since he was a delegator. Perhaps, its his oversite skills that could have been sharper. Let's see what he does with the next phase of his life, drink his problems away or rewrite history.

    December 11, 2008 04:32 pm at 4:32 pm |
  15. Kevin Regalado

    I, sure would not want my President to be drinking on the job, though it necessarily does not matter for him since he was a delegator. Perhaps, its his oversite skills that could have been sharper. Let's see what he does with the next phase of his life, drink his problems away or rewrite history.

    December 11, 2008 04:32 pm at 4:32 pm |
  16. John E Lexington KY

    I wish the media had discussed thoroughly his medical and mental condition and his history of alcohol abuse before the 2000 election. Peter Jennings was the only journalist who did to my memory, in his documentary on the two candidates. We might have avoided living the nightmare of a drug addicts' erratic and blinkered and disastrous decisions. I should add I didn't hear any 'reflection', other then he simply made a very mild quip. Like most addicts, reformed or otherwise, he was very adept at getting what he wanted – however destructive what he wanted would prove to be. By February I have great hopes that his name will not appear in print again unless it's as the defendant in legal actions brought by those harmed so badly by his actions in office.

    December 11, 2008 04:32 pm at 4:32 pm |
  17. pam Eugene OR

    I saw the pictures of Bush at the Olympics. Please do not try and insult us with the thought he might have been sober. You can look the pictures up on internet on You Tube. There is one of him with a beer in his hand checking out the behind of our volleyball player, one of him falling down and several SS agents picking him up and the best of all, holding the US flag backwards. Please Bush...you can't be honest about anything.
    Check it out and see for yourself! I just searched Bush at the Olympics.

    December 11, 2008 04:33 pm at 4:33 pm |
  18. Observer in SC

    Is he looking for sympathy? Or giving an excuse for these past 8 yrs?

    December 11, 2008 04:33 pm at 4:33 pm |
  19. Nothing to laugh at

    I commend the president on his sobriety even if I don't agree with his decisions on running the nation.

    But I'm sure there will be alot of idiots posting here that will make fun of alcoholism just to attack Bush.

    December 11, 2008 04:33 pm at 4:33 pm |
  20. Jonesing after the election

    I hate to nitpick a story with many positives, but is reducing demand really best done by simply testing students to see if they're using drugs? That technique alone is at best a way to measure the problem; it's hardly a solution.

    We aren't told how these tests are administered and what the follow up is for positive results, but I would bet that the HS testing program simply instills fear. Driving drug use further underground isn't going to bring the problem to light where it can be most effectively solved. Where is the counseling for troubled teens? How about school-sponsored activities to appeal to diverse interests? Why not foster a nurturing environment, rather than ostracize children at risk by administering a simple test?

    December 11, 2008 04:33 pm at 4:33 pm |
  21. Emit R Detsaw

    "Bush reflects on struggle with alcohol"

    His struggle is chosing between Red or White wine.........

    And he gave up golf since the troops were deployed – NOT!

    Dude – just go away.....

    December 11, 2008 04:33 pm at 4:33 pm |
  22. Lorna, NY

    I think he is still an alcoholic. He should join AA.

    December 11, 2008 04:34 pm at 4:34 pm |
  23. Ed Word

    Why is his face covered with gin blossoms?

    Still sneakin' the old jug into the Oval Office, eh Georgie?

    Heh heh..........

    December 11, 2008 04:35 pm at 4:35 pm |
  24. angel

    we all struggle with a lof of things.........no one is perfect. Iraq was a bad idea though.

    December 11, 2008 04:37 pm at 4:37 pm |
  25. Nick - West Hills (L.A.), CA

    Is it January 20 2009 yet?

    December 11, 2008 04:37 pm at 4:37 pm |
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