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. Pat Green (CA)

    now that does explain a lot of things....oh brother!

    December 11, 2008 04:14 pm at 4:14 pm |
  2. forgetfull

    It's funny niether Bush or CNN mentioned his habitual cocain use during the same time period he had a alcohol problem.

    December 11, 2008 04:15 pm at 4:15 pm |
  3. FriendOfBill

    That could have been a virgin pisco sour, jobu. Either way, it must have been tough for Bush to attend all those presidential and other dignitary dinners with the free-flowing alcohol. Regardless of what he did or didn't do for our country during those eight years, he was able to not take a drink.

    December 11, 2008 04:15 pm at 4:15 pm |
  4. linda

    If ever there was an explanation for the crisis we're knee deep in, it's the endless and blatant self interest of our current president.

    While the rest of the country is worried about job, home, and more President Bush is worried only about his legacy.


    December 11, 2008 04:16 pm at 4:16 pm |
  5. Gerry in Va. for Obama.

    Watching W on the news makes me wonder just how long he's been on the wagon... His face has the look of alcohol, his emotional outbursts are the actions of alcohol and his sometimes boldness and other times standoffisness is actions of alcohol. Could it be W has been drivin to drink again by the pressures of the White House? Or perhaps he never stopped.... It's all about keeping up appearances isn't it Mr Bush?

    December 11, 2008 04:16 pm at 4:16 pm |
  6. Minneapple gal

    I know he did not go there he know he lying we already knew he ws drinking
    explains a lot

    December 11, 2008 04:16 pm at 4:16 pm |
  7. Senate Candidate 2

    It's addictive – "Drunk with power?"

    You mean Cheney, right? Bush is just a "yes" man. 😛

    December 11, 2008 04:16 pm at 4:16 pm |
  8. renee

    let me guess he was drunk the whole time he was president

    December 11, 2008 04:16 pm at 4:16 pm |
  9. Liz

    Sobriety is not easy for some to acheive. Kudo's Mr. President.

    December 11, 2008 04:17 pm at 4:17 pm |
  10. Umm

    What about that whole peanut fiasco where he ended up getting a bruise on his forehead. That seemed a little suspect to me.

    December 11, 2008 04:18 pm at 4:18 pm |
  11. The Artful Dodger

    If he isn't still drinking, I've never seen a finer example of a dry drunk.

    December 11, 2008 04:18 pm at 4:18 pm |
  12. Bush Legacy-prison bound!

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

    What's his excuse now!!

    …You got it….Stupidity!!

    December 11, 2008 04:19 pm at 4:19 pm |
  13. Maggie SC

    President Bush, I am so very proud of you for all the things you have done for our country even when so many put you down. I appreciate you and First Lady Laura Bush so much. You all feel part of my family. Families help and support those they care about even if at time they do not agree but nevertheless remain true. I appreciate how you have stood up to adversity and the pressure to fall in with what the world wants insead of what you feel is best. One thing differet with me is that I doi believe the the Bible is the unfalible Word of God. He said in the beginning was the Word and the Word was God and God was with us. He spoke and the world was created, He spoke and the earth was formed, He spoke and man was created, he spoke and His Son was born. He is , He was, He is I AM. He is the Word.

    December 11, 2008 04:19 pm at 4:19 pm |
  14. robert

    Unfortunately, he's driven a lot of us to drink.

    December 11, 2008 04:19 pm at 4:19 pm |
  15. Beckydog

    I have wondered throughout W's tenure as to HOW he sobered up. I've read the accounts of how he was given the ultimatum on the morning after his 40th (by Laura). Did he ever formally receive help? As the survivor of an alcoholic, I wonder...

    December 11, 2008 04:20 pm at 4:20 pm |
  16. Jack E. Jett

    Does this man ever tell the truth?

    December 11, 2008 04:20 pm at 4:20 pm |
  17. eric

    sobriety is relative.

    December 11, 2008 04:20 pm at 4:20 pm |
  18. Six More Weeks

    Senate Candidate 13: Whatever makes you think Bush drew the line at legal intoxicants?

    December 11, 2008 04:21 pm at 4:21 pm |
  19. Mary Thompson

    While I commend people for overcoming problems with alcohol, I feel VERY stronly that someone who hasn't figured it out until the time they are forty years old does not have the mental and emotional capacity to be president of any country.

    December 11, 2008 04:22 pm at 4:22 pm |
  20. Jim watson

    you people need to take this stuff seriously.......Ef all of you a holes.

    December 11, 2008 04:23 pm at 4:23 pm |
  21. Malcom

    Now if only Obama could quit smoking. That is a really nasty habit and we don't need for our kids coming to us and saying, "Well if the president can smoke, so can I!" I dread hearing that.

    December 11, 2008 04:23 pm at 4:23 pm |
  22. Maggie SC

    It is always great to hear of an addiction brought under control. God is able and willing to help those who ask. Cocaine addiction is the hardest to stop and the easiset to gfall back into under stress. I pray Obama leans on God to help him in times of stress he definetly will come under. It is left up to us "We The People" tp pray for him and help him in times of great stress.

    December 11, 2008 04:23 pm at 4:23 pm |
  23. Ms. B

    I was almost relieved... would have accepted his excuse of being drunk while in office. I guess we just have to wait to see what his excuse is. There must be an explanation for his actions... maybe it will come out one day!

    December 11, 2008 04:23 pm at 4:23 pm |
  24. JL

    Right, why believe this most recent LIE by GW Bush? What a joke!

    December 11, 2008 04:24 pm at 4:24 pm |
  25. Tomas

    What about his struggle with reality all these years???

    The Governor of Washington D.C. needs help finding his soul and reflecting on his meaningless life.

    December 11, 2008 04:24 pm at 4:24 pm |
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