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. jean-paul bonnet

    Winning the battle on drugs? As a family physician in suburban new jersey, I can tell you nothing is further fromthe truth. We are not winning any battle on drugs, we are tying up the legal system with petty marijuana arrests. Meanwhile children are getting addicted to oxycontin and walking their way to heroin. Heroin is stopped instantly if we shut off Afghanistan. Oxycontin is stopped immediately if we shut down Purdue Frederick the only company who makes it and is owned by one family. We have an epidemic brewing in our suburban towns and are pretending we don't. We are wasting dollars on a bogus police program of stopping drugs that has done nothing except make policeman wealthy. Time to play more seriously and stop the nonsense. Not to mention everyone pocketing the money from the lawyers to the jail operators. Enough is enough.

    December 11, 2008 06:08 pm at 6:08 pm |
  2. ApplePie

    Well, being addicted to alcohol or any drugs is horrible, so good for him, that he was able to stop it.

    December 11, 2008 06:08 pm at 6:08 pm |
  3. Joe the Troll

    What gains in the war on drugs? Having the largest prison population in the world per capita is not a gain.

    December 11, 2008 06:12 pm at 6:12 pm |
  4. Conservative James, Phoenix, AZ

    Gee, if only I could have been in an alcoholic haze the last 8 years . . . .

    December 11, 2008 06:13 pm at 6:13 pm |
  5. kasera


    December 11, 2008 06:14 pm at 6:14 pm |
  6. Ryan

    No one is perfect, you know.

    December 11, 2008 06:15 pm at 6:15 pm |
  7. MJM

    Seems like we should've had the inauguration on Nov. 5th–Bush isn't doing much that's Presidential these days and Obama has had to step up and lead before even taking the oath of office.

    December 11, 2008 06:16 pm at 6:16 pm |
  8. California Gold

    I know he has struggled with stupidity.

    December 11, 2008 06:16 pm at 6:16 pm |
  9. nhspanther

    The president sober? A DRY Drunk, is more like it!

    December 11, 2008 06:17 pm at 6:17 pm |
  10. Dave

    Bush has clearly beaten a personal issue. These comments on here are degrading to the authors who cannot accept the good in Bush while rejecting the bad.

    December 11, 2008 06:19 pm at 6:19 pm |
  11. HouseDiva

    Now he's drunk with oil and war...i'd rather he be drunk on beer.

    December 11, 2008 06:20 pm at 6:20 pm |
  12. CanIcallyouJoe

    I don't believe you. There are pictures of you drinking alcohol recently. Liar. Resign so Obama can fix your mistakes already.

    December 11, 2008 06:22 pm at 6:22 pm |
  13. Cindy

    Obama4 me.....were you at the Olympics and actually saw President Bush drunk? If not, I wouldn't talk too much...I'm sure your neighbors, etc. could doctor up some pics of you too. My husband is a recovering alcoholic of 19 years and I'm proud of him. I don't know if Bush drinks or not and it's NONE OF OUR BUSINESS.

    December 11, 2008 06:23 pm at 6:23 pm |
  14. Mark in Arizona

    I'm curious... Didn't like my previous post?

    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 06:24 pm at 6:24 pm |
  15. Jim in Bisbee

    He's never sought real treatment as far as anyone knows – and he would have touted it if he had.

    December 11, 2008 06:26 pm at 6:26 pm |
  16. Joe in StL

    Oh, please. Replacing an addiction to substances with an addiction to religion is probably a move in the wrong direction. Borderline insane–voices in head–telling me what to do.

    Is it over yet?

    December 11, 2008 06:26 pm at 6:26 pm |
  17. jarrudy

    exactly, Joe the Troll. The war on drugs is a HUGE failure, and the fact that Bush has pushed funding nothing but faith-based rehabilitation is very indicative of why this administration has failed so miserably. addiction is a health issue, not a religious one!

    December 11, 2008 06:34 pm at 6:34 pm |
  18. Patrick

    No one is perfect, correct. Then again, holding the highest office in the Nation should suggest some level of honesty. I'm sure either being Candid and Forward with one's past or refusing to speak about it are better alternatives to outright lying.

    December 11, 2008 06:35 pm at 6:35 pm |
  19. bertha doucet

    congratulation to president Bush for 22 years of sobriety, alcohol is a disease.The scripture said " He without Sins cast the first stones"!!!!

    December 11, 2008 06:36 pm at 6:36 pm |
  20. Peter (CA)

    Good for him to maintain his sobriety.
    If only he used the tenets of AA in order to live a better life.

    December 11, 2008 06:37 pm at 6:37 pm |
  21. drdew

    Give the guy a break! Have you never seen a "virgin" drink before? I am a recovering alcoholic and I always have a drink in my hand – it sure doesn't mean there is alcohol in it – BUT – it keeps idioits like you from asking "Why aren't you drinking?"

    December 11, 2008 06:38 pm at 6:38 pm |
  22. Sue

    Totally AMAZING!!! When will he finally admit to his total cocaine abuse for ALL of his younger years???? This man had every dirty abusive record of him DELETED from his biography. DESTROYED!!! The power of the rich, high, almighty!!!! And maybe if he had been more honest his daughters would not have been so induced into their years of debauchery. Georgie is now trying to reach out to the PEOPLE to try to absolve him from his years of total destruction of our American values. He is trying to NOW save himself from his future historic incompetence resume. TOO LATE<Georgie!!! And in the future we all know you will try to be some major competitor for $$$$$ in the money-making years of your demise.

    December 11, 2008 06:40 pm at 6:40 pm |
  23. Anonymous

    @ California Gold -Hear Hear!

    December 11, 2008 06:48 pm at 6:48 pm |
  24. peakarack

    Bush=Obama. Both were a crackhead for a very long time.

    December 11, 2008 06:49 pm at 6:49 pm |
  25. jerrome duncan

    congrats mr. president you are truely some one who white Americas lovand cheris and who Bl;ack Americans Don't.

    December 11, 2008 06:50 pm at 6:50 pm |
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