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)

    Whatever. I like my wine and champagne.

    December 11, 2008 04:37 pm at 4:37 pm |
  2. Libby, Reston, VA

    I promise you, Bush - everyone is counting the days until you leave the White House.

    December 11, 2008 04:38 pm at 4:38 pm |
  3. T the B

    Gw makes the case for mandatory drug and alchohol testing in the oval office.

    December 11, 2008 04:38 pm at 4:38 pm |
  4. PA Law

    At least if he was still getting drunk we could explain his actions over the past eight years.

    December 11, 2008 04:38 pm at 4:38 pm |
  5. gene

    It's too bad Bush kicked his drinking habit. If he hadn't, he would never have become president and life in the U.S. might be very different (much better) today.

    December 11, 2008 04:40 pm at 4:40 pm |
  6. Regular Dude

    Ironically – That man makes me WANT to drink heavily

    December 11, 2008 04:41 pm at 4:41 pm |
  7. formally sober drunk

    I would not doubt if George Bush had a "slip" or two in the White House, but I should take him on his word, right? He's not been exactly straight-forward with the American people about more important topics, like WMD's in Iraq. This Bud's for you, Mr. President!

    "Beer is proof God loves us and wants us to be happy"
    –Benjamin Franklin

    December 11, 2008 04:41 pm at 4:41 pm |
  8. Will

    It would be an absolute disaster if we started drug testing high school kids. The moment we do that, kids will just move to much more dangerous prescription drugs and alcohol that don't show up on drug tests. If you don't believe me, look at any kid in college who failed a drug test.

    December 11, 2008 04:42 pm at 4:42 pm |
  9. Ken in Dallas

    So when Bush gave up booze and cocaine, did he stop indulging, or just substitute a new drug (power) for the old ones?

    December 11, 2008 04:43 pm at 4:43 pm |
  10. William

    Bush is a fraud. There were many whispers coming out of the White House that he was drinking again. Our country sure seems to have been run by a drunkard, so maybe the buzz is true.

    December 11, 2008 04:44 pm at 4:44 pm |
  11. Caldy

    If he was still drinking, he would be much better..

    December 11, 2008 04:44 pm at 4:44 pm |
  12. Alexa- Chicago, IL

    It's nice to hear him be so down to earth. Aside from the differences, he is human and people battle different things.

    December 11, 2008 04:44 pm at 4:44 pm |
  13. woodwoman

    At least Obama can spell "cocaine" and "habits."

    December 11, 2008 04:44 pm at 4:44 pm |
  14. Randy, San Francisco

    Bush may have conquered alcoholism but his downfall was hubris. Unfortunately this country and the world suffered a heavy price for that failure.

    December 11, 2008 04:44 pm at 4:44 pm |
  15. dblzap

    Idiot has driven us all to drink!

    1/20 will be the day to toast the end of this jerks reign!!!!

    December 11, 2008 04:45 pm at 4:45 pm |
  16. Bubba

    Not a knee-jerk reflex cheap shot at Bush, but I think he's drinking again. Look at his eyes in the picture accompanying this story, and the caption. Not that I blame him; in his place I'd jump off a bridge.

    December 11, 2008 04:45 pm at 4:45 pm |
  17. Phil

    "Some days are happy. Some days are not so happy. But every day is joyous" Indeed, sometimes Bush is stupid. Other times Bush is not stupid. But Bush is always dumb.

    December 11, 2008 04:46 pm at 4:46 pm |
  18. ST

    That explains some things.

    December 11, 2008 04:46 pm at 4:46 pm |
  19. BossRhino

    Thanks for the non-story CNN!

    December 11, 2008 04:48 pm at 4:48 pm |
  20. saw122

    Mr.Bush will end up in history as one the best Presidents this country had. People don't see it now with so much stuff going on.....but with peace and democracy around the corner in the Middle Easy...(where 98% of people here didn't think would or could happen) I say.."Great job G.W. Bush!

    December 11, 2008 04:48 pm at 4:48 pm |
  21. Sylvia

    Campbell Brown, lay off PE Obama and start asking Bush some questions! It is so apparent that you are vengeful Republican. It is pretty disgusting that you have been given a platform to attack PE Obama

    December 11, 2008 04:48 pm at 4:48 pm |
  22. adampeart

    Bush has been caught drinking on several occasions. Anyone surprised he's less than honest? He should put down the bottle and pick up the spliff. It would help neutralize his aggression.

    December 11, 2008 04:48 pm at 4:48 pm |
  23. Patricia Tharp

    This man has acted drunk for the last eight years!! What a loser.

    December 11, 2008 04:49 pm at 4:49 pm |
  24. bluestreak

    I thought Mr. Bush had way more that just 8 years of sobriety. So that means he didn't stop until he was president....if he stopped at all.

    December 11, 2008 04:50 pm at 4:50 pm |
  25. More to the man than being President

    He may not be the greatest President we've ever had but his heart in the right place. There are numerous stories of his kindness and understanding with families of soilders wounded and killed in Iraq.

    Iraq isn't a popular war but the US military does it job every single day and President Bush is a respected Commander and Chief.

    I was active duty (retired Air Force) during the Reagan, Bush, Clinton and Bush years......the worst years of my career were when Clinton was in office...........I hope Obama does more than support the military.....I hope he takes his responsiblity to the troops to heart like President Bush did for 8 years!!!

    December 11, 2008 04:50 pm at 4:50 pm |
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13