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. epic fail

    "I'll be home in about – but who's counting – 39 days."

    I AM COUNTING GEORGE!! And im sure others are too.. haha

    Dont get me wrong, George seems likea cool guy. Like my uncle or something, I'd have a beer with him and watch the game. But leader of the country? cmon man you belong at the sports bar HAHA

    December 11, 2008 05:10 pm at 5:10 pm |
  2. Rudy Heroic

    I wonder how much money is wasted and how many get hurt in Tulare County "eradicating" those dastardly marijuana fields? Don't they just grow back?

    And while I have the soapbox, since when is the President (past, current, or elect) EVER called "Mr."? Methinks someone needs to go back to journalism school.

    December 11, 2008 05:11 pm at 5:11 pm |
  3. NotNowMooky

    Now he wants us to believe he has a soul? Folks, we need to ensure that our feelings of hatred for Bush are represented in his presidential library. He has refused to use email just so that he could keep them out of his library. But a hand-written letter, even a typed and printed letter, will make it into his archive for future students and biographers to read. So take a few minutes to write how this man has brought our nation to ruin and then mail it – snail mail – to Chimpie Bush, 1600 Pennsylvania Ave NW, Washington, DC 20500

    December 11, 2008 05:12 pm at 5:12 pm |
  4. JerzeyRoy

    Didn't he get sloshed at the Olympics? There were a series of boozy photos of him from his time at the Games.

    December 11, 2008 05:13 pm at 5:13 pm |
  5. American Citizen

    To me, he looked like a drunk man all his time in the white house.....

    December 11, 2008 05:14 pm at 5:14 pm |
  6. Dave

    It would have served the nation well if everyone had been familiar with the "dry drunk" theory and the behaviour patterns of those it affects

    December 11, 2008 05:15 pm at 5:15 pm |
  7. jon Leonard

    I didnt like this statement from the baseball player, "That moment cleared my mind, opened my heart, and that following night I committed my life to Christ", because he just changed to a new drug of choice, religion. He still hasnt eradicated his addictive behaviors, he has just placed them somewhere else.

    December 11, 2008 05:16 pm at 5:16 pm |
  8. J Williamson

    I'm glad the Geo. Bush is on the wagon – My alcohol consumption increased dramatically, however, during his presidency – except for some election night celebration I haven't had much since.

    December 11, 2008 05:16 pm at 5:16 pm |
  9. Wayne, Greenville TX

    I doubt that Bush has been sober for eight minutes.

    December 11, 2008 05:16 pm at 5:16 pm |
  10. ran

    Jan 20, 2009 please get here.

    December 11, 2008 05:22 pm at 5:22 pm |
  11. Stephen from Laguna Naguel

    Give the guy a break. Can't even an intimate moment such as this be shared with respect and dignity?

    December 11, 2008 05:22 pm at 5:22 pm |
  12. ken

    I have 12 years of no booze.....! Way to go Mr. President!

    December 11, 2008 05:22 pm at 5:22 pm |
  13. Sheriff John Brown

    This matter is mute at this point, but i find it ironic that this matter was never discussed during his run for the presidency. We here in Texas remember the alcohol as well as "alleged" use of cocaine. Also mis mangement of funds during the "savings & loans" scandal that rocked Texas while he was the govener. Alcohol falls shy in comparison to the use of cocaine, and I'm sure that the documents to prove he was in rehab for drinking and cocaine use have been destroyed but here in Texas we remember it being public info while he "pretended" to be governer of this fine state. But again as always on the way out theres always a "I forgot to mention........." Fear sales, truth in this admin. was not the rule of thumb but i guess thats waht u get when u allow a family of gustapos to strong arm an election. Never again!!!!!!!!!!!!

    December 11, 2008 05:22 pm at 5:22 pm |
  14. Jay

    @ It's addictive

    Stop being such an idiot

    December 11, 2008 05:23 pm at 5:23 pm |
  15. KH

    @ Senate Candidate 13 : Drug and alcohol use are very different from drug and alcohol abuse.

    December 11, 2008 05:23 pm at 5:23 pm |
  16. David

    that explains the loss of brain cells

    December 11, 2008 05:23 pm at 5:23 pm |
  17. mandcmom

    raise your hands if you care...

    December 11, 2008 05:24 pm at 5:24 pm |
  18. JL

    Congrats to the President for remaining sober for 30 years. As the wife of a recovering alcaholic, let me tell you, that is no easy feat.

    As for Senate Candidate 13, Obama was never an addict, but was corageous enough to admit to marajuana use and drinking for a very short period of time. Alcaholism and drug addiction are no laughing matter and should not be thrown around so carelessly. Please educate yourself before speaking next time. President Bush can probably help you form a better understanding.

    December 11, 2008 05:25 pm at 5:25 pm |
  19. Julian Jones

    I think it's stupid that people feel the need to reach out to Jesus Christ Personal Savior to recover from alcoholism. It's all in your mind, people. Jesus Christ isn't an alcohol counselor.

    December 11, 2008 05:25 pm at 5:25 pm |
  20. J S Ragman

    What difference does it make? This Clown's decision making abilities could not have been worse if he had continued drinking.

    December 11, 2008 05:26 pm at 5:26 pm |
  21. Proud American from New England

    Just a couple weeks ago there were images of Bush drinking "Pisco Sour"; a peruvian liquor, with Peruvian dignitaries.

    At least if he claimed to be drinking he'd have some excuse for the complete failure of his administration and all the crooked, treasonous stunts he has pulled over the last 8 years.

    He must be off the wagon and hiding his drinking ... nobody could be so incompetent otherwise.

    December 11, 2008 05:27 pm at 5:27 pm |
  22. Kate

    I don't care for Bush's policies, but I applaud his long-term sobriety. We need to acknowledge alcoholism for the devastating disease it is and make treatment, even repeated treatment, a priority. Unfortunately, decent rehabilitation programs are costly. I don't know too many people who can afford $20,000-$30,000 a month to get clean, and I don't know of any HMOs that pay for in-patient rehab. The people who need it most are often without resources. Perhaps this is the modern way of implementing "survival of the fittest," with "the fittest" being "the richest."

    December 11, 2008 05:30 pm at 5:30 pm |
  23. Cynthia; Bham

    I saw pictures of him at the Olympics and he appeared to be wasted in them.

    December 11, 2008 05:30 pm at 5:30 pm |
  24. mamaofaddict

    Sobering...but true...after 6 years of top-drawer rehabs and treatments centers and state-of-the-art medical help, our adult child is still deep in the cycle of addiction, ready to lose hope...I am not very religious, but I am spiritual and I think that the simplest truth is to humble oneself and ask God for help in battling these demons.

    December 11, 2008 05:30 pm at 5:30 pm |
  25. Mr. Reality

    I wonder if he struggles with his conscience.

    December 11, 2008 05:31 pm at 5:31 pm |
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