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. PL

    May that's what damaged his brain?

    December 11, 2008 05:31 pm at 5:31 pm |
  2. Let the confessions begin..

    Wow, Governor Bush is trying to come clean. Admitting problems with Iraq, admitting he was part the great GOP downfall, and now he's talking about his past drinking problem.

    We have suffered for so long....just a few more weeks...just a few more weeks!!!

    December 11, 2008 05:32 pm at 5:32 pm |
  3. HSNP


    December 11, 2008 05:32 pm at 5:32 pm |
  4. Jim

    Drunk with stupidity

    December 11, 2008 05:34 pm at 5:34 pm |
  5. Taylor

    Bush did cociane when he was young. I'm just amazed we let an alcoholic in the White House. His brain cells are damaged..look at what he has done in the past 8 years while in the White house. Marijuana is not harmful. It is a natural plant that should be regulated and taxed, like alcohol. I smoked it just about everyday and I can quit cold turkey anytime just like I am doing right now.

    December 11, 2008 05:35 pm at 5:35 pm |
  6. Sawyer

    You mean you made those decisions sober?

    December 11, 2008 05:35 pm at 5:35 pm |
  7. Vic

    Wonder how many drinks he's sneaked in the White House..LOL
    We all know that Laura smokes – maybe he sneaks a drink now and then.

    December 11, 2008 05:35 pm at 5:35 pm |
  8. Scott Tucson

    Think I'd rather have a former drunk for President than a former crack head.

    December 11, 2008 05:35 pm at 5:35 pm |
  9. gtalkspolitics

    look up Bush drinking on youtube

    December 11, 2008 05:36 pm at 5:36 pm |
  10. Frank

    Thinking about the past 8 years, maybe Bush should have had a drink or something once in a while.

    December 11, 2008 05:39 pm at 5:39 pm |
  11. Obama4me

    There are pictures of President Bush drinking and drunk at the olympics. Which proves that he has no problem lying to the American people.

    December 11, 2008 05:41 pm at 5:41 pm |
  12. huh?

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

    wait? what?

    December 11, 2008 05:42 pm at 5:42 pm |
  13. laura

    8 years behind? when the press is leaking almost daily about his drunken binges that force Laura to abandon her White House suite for the mayflower hotel on a regular( and frequent) basis?She has an account there for heavens sake! But I suppose like most alcoholics, he is delusional, and does not realize the damage he causes to everyone including the nation. I think we should all be careful in the future to never vote for the "beer-drinking buddy" ever again. We cannot afford more wars, depressions and decay of our rights while he pats himself on the back and thinks he's fooling us all. What a drunken delusional idiot! Thank heavens he is on his way out.

    December 11, 2008 05:44 pm at 5:44 pm |
  14. Jim

    Now that he's finally leaving, maybe I can quit drinking too.

    Good riddance!

    December 11, 2008 05:45 pm at 5:45 pm |
  15. Leo

    Great...Now most of the country is drinking (drowning their sorrows) because of the current state we are in..

    December 11, 2008 05:45 pm at 5:45 pm |
  16. Obama4me

    The difference in Obama's case is that he admitted to experimenting with drugs as a teen. He didn't shrink or lie about it. Which is why he has so much respect from the younger generation...he admittedly believes it wasn't wise but can admit that he did try it and decided to not do it anymore.

    Versus, trying it. Having a serious problem that caused your loved ones to confront you....then fall off the wagon some 40 years later but lie to everyone that you didn't start drinking again.

    December 11, 2008 05:47 pm at 5:47 pm |
  17. John

    Unfortunately, with the failed economy under his watch, he's driven half of America to drinking.

    December 11, 2008 05:48 pm at 5:48 pm |
  18. squirrel

    dude he still drinks. who's he kidding. especially at the olympics

    December 11, 2008 05:48 pm at 5:48 pm |
  19. jbs

    Now I understand.No wonder I got laid off.

    December 11, 2008 05:51 pm at 5:51 pm |
  20. Saad from NJ

    WHAT???? he does not drink anymore? lol....

    On a different note, I have really started liking the man. I never really disliked him – though I know he made terrible decisions and brought so much damage to our beloved country but I didn't hate him because I thought he was a good man at heart. His problem was that he got two very evil people in his administration, Cheney and Rumsfeld destroyed him, his legacy or lack thereof.

    I think President Bush is a good man at heart.

    December 11, 2008 05:52 pm at 5:52 pm |
  21. Tom in Texas

    Of course he has slipped off the wagon d a few times during his 8 disasterous years as President (not mine, but THE president)
    Even a border-line sociopath such as Bush lets some stuff creep into his psyche from time to time and alcohol is an easy "fix" to numb some pain. Probably not a really bad guy at heart but the worst President who ever lived and unfortunately we had to endure many years of his arrogance and ignorance. Have a beer George it;'s almost over, bubba.

    December 11, 2008 05:53 pm at 5:53 pm |
  22. Ian

    How much money have we spent on the War on Drugs?

    December 11, 2008 05:56 pm at 5:56 pm |
  23. Chris in Va.

    I'll drink to that !!!!

    December 11, 2008 06:00 pm at 6:00 pm |
  24. agnes

    If the press were really doing their job, they would report that Bush is still drinking.

    December 11, 2008 06:01 pm at 6:01 pm |
  25. Jackie in Dallas

    Geez, guys, come on. I despise President Bush's politics and what he's done to this country, but battling alcoholism is HARD. It shouldn't be the brunt of a joke. The fact that he came out about it, and appears to trying to stay sober is at least one thing to respect about the man...if nothing else.

    December 11, 2008 06:04 pm at 6:04 pm |
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