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Bush Quit Drinking 'On His Own'
GOP Candidate Never Went to Meetings

Nov. 6, 2000

Republican candidate for president George W. Bush, like most who decide to quit drinking, did so on his own without help, press reports following the revelation of his 1976 DUI arrest reveal. An estimated 70 percent of people who decide to quit drinking do so without any outside help, professional counseling, or support group meetings, and Bush is apparently among that majority.

"Well, I don't think I had an addiction," Bush told the Washington Post for a July 1999 profile. "You know it's hard for me to say. I've had friends who were, you know, very addicted. . .and they required hitting bottom [to start] going to AA. I don't think that was my case."

Speculation in the national press, which went into a media frenzy over the report that Bush was arrested 24 years ago for drunk driving, ranged from the suggestion that if he never went to A.A. he is not really recovered, to the opinion that if he quit on his own, it was not a big problem in the first place.

The truth probably lies somewhere in between. Alcohol abuse can be a very serious problem in itself, but if it progresses into alcohol dependence, the solution can become much more complicated.

Merely Decided to Quit

The highly publicized case brings to the public's attention the difference between alcohol abuse and alcohol dependence, or alcoholism. Most people who abused alcohol, even to a dangerous extent at some point in their lives, never fit the criteria as alcoholics, or alcohol dependent.

For those who abuse alcohol, but who are not chemically or psychologically dependent, quitting is usually a matter of merely deciding to quit -- many times prompted by a particularly painful or embarrassing incident.

Those who have become alcohol dependent usually find they that cannot simply decide to quit and require medical treatment, counseling and/or peer group help and support.

It appears from all reports, that candidate Bush did abuse alcohol for a long period of his life, but in 1986 decided to quit, because it began to "compete for his energy."

"I am a person who enjoys life, and for years, I enjoyed having a few drinks. But gradually, drinking began to compete with my energy," Bush wrote in his autobiography. "I'd be a step slower getting up. My daily runs seemed harder after a few too many drinks the night before."

There are many in the alcohol and drug treatment and rehabilitation profession, and within the Alcoholics Anonymous program, who would say that if Bush quit cold turkey "on his own" he probably was not an alcoholic or alcoholic dependent in the first place.

Effect on the Election?

The speculation in the press now is whether or not this last-minute fury over a 24-year-old incident will effect the results of the election. Never before has a presidential candidate had to face a more publicized "November Surprise" prior to a national election vote.

Tom Connolly, a Portland trial lawyer and former Democratic candidate for governor, tipped a Maine television reporter about Bush's 1976 DUI arrest just days before the election, leaving voters to speculate on the "dirty tricks" timing of the last-minute revelation.

Some observers called the "trust issue" into the debate, saying Bush had been less than honest with voters about his record, dodging questions as late as a month ago about his arrest record.

"Throughout this campaign, he has been very forthcoming with the American people that he made mistakes as a youth, that he did things as a youth that he is not proud of, and he has been very open about that," said Karen Hughes, communications director Bush campaign, in a Salon.com interview.

"The anger on the part of Republicans over the timing of revelation could further energize Bush’s base," wrote Newsweek Senior Editor Jonathan Alter. "If Bush gets the votes of all of the people who’ve hit the road after having a few too many, it’s a landslide."

News Coverage

Take Bush DUI In Context, MADD Says
Times and attitudes have changed greatly since George W. Bush was stopped for drinking and driving, a Texas Mothers Against Drunk Driving spokeperson says.

Is Bush a Recovered Alcoholic?
Doctors were unwilling to speculate on whether Bush's past drinking problem constituted "alcohol dependence syndrome," the medical term for alcoholism.

The Bush DUI Tipster
Man accused of smearing Bush backed legalizing pot, protecting gun rights, and freeing a convicted sex killer.

It’s a Matter of Trust
He is running, he says, "To usher in the responsibility era....to restore honor and dignity to the Oval Office."

Karen Hughes Defends Bush
Reporters spar with the Texas governor's campaign spokeswoman over the meaning of a "direct answer."

A Bumpy Ride, Right to the End
With only days until the election, it was a week of November Surprises for both candidates.

Live and Learn
We would urge Gov. Bush to state frankly and unambiguously, between now and Tuesday, that he has not had a drink since 1986.

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