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. Cody Shumaker

    People who respond to these need to leave the politicking at home. You don't have to like him, but you have to respect the office of the President. President Bush changed his life for the better and I am so glad that he did, along with countless others. His reversal is encouragement to others. Thank you, Mr. President.

    December 11, 2008 04:51 pm at 4:51 pm |
  2. D in Phoenix

    If this guy would have governed with the humility that he showed in this meeting, the country would have been a much better place to live in.

    December 11, 2008 04:53 pm at 4:53 pm |
  3. Felicia

    He looks drunk in that picture. I don't believe he quit. This would explain so much that has happened during his administration.

    December 11, 2008 04:54 pm at 4:54 pm |
  4. sikemajor

    This is actually the one area I think people should not judge him. Many people in our society abuse different substances. I and only ONE of my friends have never smoked weed and we are late twenties. Many people, especially men abuse alcohol at some point in their lives. To the person saying it seems prior for Presidents, many people use substances and you should do your homework on that. Let's hold people to high standards but not the standards of God for goodness sakes. Also, let's make sure we LIVE by the same standards that we want others to live by.

    December 11, 2008 04:54 pm at 4:54 pm |
  5. Uncle S.A.M.-Virginia

    Since you're leaving the White House, drink up all you can while you can because alcohol is not permitted in PRISON.

    December 11, 2008 04:55 pm at 4:55 pm |
  6. Rose in Virginia

    Who cares.. He's human

    December 11, 2008 04:55 pm at 4:55 pm |
  7. Karee

    Did he forget to mention the cocaine or did he think we forgot?

    December 11, 2008 04:56 pm at 4:56 pm |
  8. Pat F

    Democratic mockery of a recovery success story starts in 3..2..1..

    December 11, 2008 04:56 pm at 4:56 pm |
  9. Vic

    This proves that CNN is the best and most fair news show on television.
    Kudos to CNN!
    I bet Fox News is crying and whining and scratching their heads in wonderment that they were not invited – after all, they have been his own personal news station for 8 years. 😉
    Again, congrats to CNN. I never miss The Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer and Jack Cafferty...they are the best of the best. They are also the most fair with our incoming president, Barack Obama, and I hope they continue to treat him fairly (no other channel does).

    December 11, 2008 04:57 pm at 4:57 pm |
  10. Mac in Denver

    No doubt all the Bush haters will come out of the woodwork (see "It's addictive" earlier post) and find something to criticize even in this innocuous story. Wonder what these clowns will do for entertainment next year? Can't pick on the Untouchable One.

    December 11, 2008 04:58 pm at 4:58 pm |
  11. Independent Leah

    He obviously burned up all of his brain cells a long time ago.

    December 11, 2008 04:58 pm at 4:58 pm |
  12. Don't get it

    So our president is an admitted alcoholic or did I misinterpret his statement?

    December 11, 2008 05:00 pm at 5:00 pm |
  13. Ed, Santa Fe, NM

    once a lush, always a lush.... what a loser

    December 11, 2008 05:00 pm at 5:00 pm |
  14. Bill

    He deserves a drink!

    December 11, 2008 05:01 pm at 5:01 pm |
  15. bill, alabama

    From his actions and statements, one would think that he still has a bottle stashed in a desk drawer of the oval office and one hidden under the bed in his bedroom.

    December 11, 2008 05:01 pm at 5:01 pm |
  16. Randy

    Can we do a story on Obama's drug use please?

    December 11, 2008 05:01 pm at 5:01 pm |
  17. Proud to be American

    I can not believe Bush made all those terrible decsions sober..... say it ain't so Joe.... <== Wrong repug right? Well any hoot I still think he was drunk when he said "Mission Accomplish" ...

    December 11, 2008 05:01 pm at 5:01 pm |
  18. ChrisP

    Now the rest of us need a drink!

    December 11, 2008 05:03 pm at 5:03 pm |
  19. mike b

    Maybe a smaller percentage of youth think that marijuana is harmful because the truth is getting out. Marijuana is less harmful than alcohol in every regard.

    If the government were smart they would federally legalize the stuff and tax the hell out of it as a way to help pay for all these bailouts / stimulus programs.

    December 11, 2008 05:04 pm at 5:04 pm |
  20. kcbob

    never trust a junkie

    December 11, 2008 05:05 pm at 5:05 pm |
  21. Felonious Monk

    I thought the "Bush" could do no wrong. As a matter of fact, I thought the "Bush" would never admit to any wrong.
    "There's two sides to every schwartz"

    December 11, 2008 05:08 pm at 5:08 pm |
  22. Carl from MI

    Once a drunk... always a drunk.

    It just goes to show you... even the keg-man in your fraternity can become President of the United States. Dubya is a shining example of what keg-men all over the country can aspire to.

    It's too bad our nation and our soldiers had to pay the price for his aspirations....

    December 11, 2008 05:10 pm at 5:10 pm |
  23. Geoff

    Is that the same "War On Drugs" that has cost trillions of dollars and has made no difference other than to fill our prisons with crack users? Just checking.

    December 11, 2008 05:10 pm at 5:10 pm |
  24. commenter

    I am not sure about drug abuse dropping. Most of the people I know have experimented with drugs, despite the education that we have teaching us that they are harmful. I have not and never have been tempted.

    I like this idea of testing high school students. It's so sad that people get involved in these things when they have their whole lives ahead of them.

    It would be nice if Hollywood and mainstream entertainment would not glamorize drug abuse, or portray it as humorous.

    December 11, 2008 05:10 pm at 5:10 pm |
  25. DX in TX

    I smell a Saturday Night Live skit brewing as we speak...LOL!

    Thanks GW, comedy will not be the same without you...


    December 11, 2008 05:10 pm at 5:10 pm |
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