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. Gia

    This guy is the American Hitler.

    December 11, 2008 06:55 pm at 6:55 pm |
  2. Pepou

    By the time he quit drinking at age 40 that dimwit had half of a brain. The other half was missing at birth.

    December 11, 2008 06:57 pm at 6:57 pm |
  3. Lolita

    This is crazy! i can't believe that America would vote this man to be our lead not once but twice! i think we are instore to learn a lot more of Bush's secrets in the furture...

    December 11, 2008 06:59 pm at 6:59 pm |
  4. Kerouac

    Talk about an empty suit. Here is the person most responsible for ruining the USA, and the worlds economies. I'm elated that I never voted for this IDIOT..

    December 11, 2008 07:00 pm at 7:00 pm |
  5. Lolita


    I think you should get your FACTS straight before calling anyone a crackhead!

    December 11, 2008 07:01 pm at 7:01 pm |
  6. Captain Obvious

    So glad everyone could find Jesus in their quest to battle drugs.

    Too bad they can't recognize that they are simply trading one addiction for another.

    December 11, 2008 07:06 pm at 7:06 pm |
  7. curious

    Sober up a drunken horse thief and you still have a horse thief

    December 11, 2008 07:06 pm at 7:06 pm |
  8. tennisguypitt

    I don't support his policies, but I respect the man for giving up something such as Alcoholism.

    December 11, 2008 07:10 pm at 7:10 pm |
  9. Anne E.

    Instead of alcohol, he found other ways of indulging. Just the other day we heard about the talking points being released on his "accomplishments," one of them being "maintaining honor and dignity in the White House." Nope, you didn't do that either.
    Sobriety or not, this man has no honor.

    December 11, 2008 07:12 pm at 7:12 pm |
  10. slickingdom in N.J.

    For Jerrome Duncan:

    What does a person's color of skin have to do with alcohol addiction ?
    I happen to be a person of color and although George W. wasn't the
    greatest of President's (and I'm sure many people think this across
    all color lines) he is a decent man.

    December 11, 2008 07:12 pm at 7:12 pm |
  11. steve

    Bush may have quit drinking, but his presidency has caused me to drink more. Thanks Bush! I will see you in AA!

    December 11, 2008 07:13 pm at 7:13 pm |
  12. big papa

    'Duhmerkins' like a great sob story...

    ...Bush'll NEVER be rehabilitated...

    ...until he's Saddam-ized for his crimes against humanity!

    Confederates support him because they're too unsophisticated to know better...

    December 11, 2008 07:14 pm at 7:14 pm |
  13. Cast No Stone

    Ok, that's enough of people trying to use this ridiculous notion of "Let those with out sin cast the first stone".

    Here's a new rule that I am personally introducing into pop culture: "You don't get stupid fairy tale excuses if you are the leader of a nation! You must close to perfect to be a leader..... If you aren't...then bend over and take the stoning!"

    December 11, 2008 07:18 pm at 7:18 pm |
  14. John E Lexington KY

    Look at the photo – a sad clown, with eyes divided by a conflicted mind. If he was my brother-in-law I'd pity him. He's been the most powerful man in the world for eight years and caused incredible harm. He'll be fine – look at the destruction he wrecked on everything he touched. King Midas in reverse.

    December 11, 2008 07:19 pm at 7:19 pm |
  15. Max

    Hmmm, he got sober and got us into a pointless war that got thousands of American soldiers killed...Bush, I think a lot of things would have been better if you had just stayed drunk...

    December 11, 2008 07:25 pm at 7:25 pm |
  16. Allan

    He probably would've done a better job if he was drinking during his 2 terms.

    December 11, 2008 07:25 pm at 7:25 pm |
  17. Erphan from LA

    Bush is an idiot. I'm still a proud republican, are YOU?

    December 11, 2008 07:29 pm at 7:29 pm |
  18. ChiTown

    Nice the way Bush characterizes himself as an alcoholic; I guess
    it sounds better than calling himself a common drunk.

    December 11, 2008 07:37 pm at 7:37 pm |
  19. luigi ina cal

    What a fool. How does Laura stand it- must be the oil money.

    December 11, 2008 07:41 pm at 7:41 pm |
  20. Spirit of Henny Youngman

    "When I read about the evils of drinking, I gave up reading." —Henny Youngman

    December 11, 2008 07:41 pm at 7:41 pm |
  21. 2young2vote

    Well everyone needs a drink every now and then... As long as they dont get drunk in the white house!!!

    December 11, 2008 07:43 pm at 7:43 pm |
  22. Flex

    "Sometimes the bible in the hand of a man is worse than a bottle of gin."

    "To Kill A Mocking Bird."

    I think that the world was safer when Bush was a drunk!

    December 11, 2008 07:47 pm at 7:47 pm |
  23. LF Oneto

    W, the least of your problems is alcohol. You are an imbecile with no principles, and for that there is no cure.

    December 11, 2008 07:49 pm at 7:49 pm |
  24. Dr.Mimi De La Cruz



    December 11, 2008 07:53 pm at 7:53 pm |
  25. Tabitha

    Now I guess we know what the problem is.... Alcohol Poisoning.

    December 11, 2008 07:53 pm at 7:53 pm |
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