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

Bush reflects on struggle with alcohol

[cnn-photo-caption image= caption="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. Jennifer, MA

    The only reason he stopped is because Laura threatened to leave him. This is not a man of great character.

    December 11, 2008 03:15 pm at 3:15 pm |
  2. cat

    Congrats to President Bush...Keep strong.

    December 11, 2008 03:15 pm at 3:15 pm |
  3. Ana B

    Good for Bush. Never knew that about him.

    December 11, 2008 03:17 pm at 3:17 pm |
  4. jb

    I don't believe him. He had to be on something these past 8 years.

    December 11, 2008 03:18 pm at 3:18 pm |
  5. BB

    Governments DO change people's hearts, King George. I'm very bitter and angry now because of your Administration selling this country to the lowest bidders and lining your own pockets at the cost to all of us.

    December 11, 2008 03:18 pm at 3:18 pm |
  6. Laverne

    I don't know.......... the way he has run this country I think he still sips on a little something from time to time, especially when he gets to talking that crazy talk!

    December 11, 2008 03:19 pm at 3:19 pm |
  7. Patrick

    Isn't Bush 8 years behind everybody?

    December 11, 2008 03:19 pm at 3:19 pm |
  8. Bill

    If Bush is an example of sobriety, I wish to speak up for all the drunks. Cheers.

    December 11, 2008 03:21 pm at 3:21 pm |
  9. It's addictive

    Drunk with power?

    December 11, 2008 03:23 pm at 3:23 pm |
  10. Alan

    Because of George Bush's running of this country for the past 8 years, there are now a lot more people struggling with alcohol.

    Way to go George!!!

    December 11, 2008 03:23 pm at 3:23 pm |
  11. Robert NYC

    Does he struggle with his desire to wage war and the killing of innocent people?

    December 11, 2008 03:24 pm at 3:24 pm |
  12. ken

    now if he was still drinking, that would explain a lot of things.

    December 11, 2008 03:24 pm at 3:24 pm |
  13. Senate Candidate 13

    Don't sweat it.... it's a prior it seems for all new Presidents... Obama's admited Cocain, Booze and Weed habbits didn't hurt him any either.

    December 11, 2008 03:24 pm at 3:24 pm |
  14. jobu

    great story. didn't the president recently imbibe though, on his trip to peru? thought there was a picture of him having a pisco sour with a foreign dignitary. well whatever, sobriety is a great thing one way or the other!

    December 11, 2008 03:25 pm at 3:25 pm |
  15. Cori from Colorado

    Surprised you didn't have liver failure.

    December 11, 2008 03:26 pm at 3:26 pm |
  16. Matt, Chico, CA

    Let the liberal hate spewing begin....

    December 11, 2008 03:26 pm at 3:26 pm |
  17. Mark in Arizona

    President Bush, when he claims he's "the decider" sounds like a child refusing to eat his peas at the dinner table. That's what an alcoholic sounds like. He may be sober, but I don't trust he's recovered. Another example is his "regret" about the Iraq war, saying if it just wasn't for that "bad" CIA intelligence. No acceptance of responsibility for what he did. That's an alcoholic.

    December 11, 2008 03:27 pm at 3:27 pm |

    Better to admit to alcohol, the more dehabilitating and pervasive drug, than something as benign and mentally healthy, such as cannabis. This citizenry has a long way to go before they finally understand.

    December 11, 2008 03:27 pm at 3:27 pm |
  19. Michael "C" Lorton,Virginia

    Sometimes alochol can be preceived as "bottled poetry."

    December 11, 2008 03:27 pm at 3:27 pm |
  20. DEPinVT

    Congratulations on 22 years...I have 30 going on 31 years on Valentine's Day 2009. I wish more people could experience the joy of sobriety.

    December 11, 2008 03:30 pm at 3:30 pm |
  21. Bush Legacy-prison bound!

    He was a better and safer man ...when drunk!!! ...

    What's his excuse now!!


    December 11, 2008 03:31 pm at 3:31 pm |
  22. Steve Ivins, Esq. Arlington

    The White House reporters have know for a long time that President Bush has not been a teetotaler. When will these stories come out? When they are attached to a book deal?

    December 11, 2008 03:33 pm at 3:33 pm |
  23. Shucks

    It's called wet brain syndrome. Look it up!!!

    December 11, 2008 03:33 pm at 3:33 pm |
  24. Dino

    George, drunk or not, you are a worthless human being. Go away, skunk!

    December 11, 2008 03:33 pm at 3:33 pm |
  25. Jim Schimmer

    He is a nut job!

    December 11, 2008 03:34 pm at 3:34 pm |
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