Congressman Pulls Out Of Re-Election To Address Alcoholism

By Victoria Kim 05/30/18

US Representative Thomas Garrett of Virginia made the surprise statement earlier this week. 

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US Representative Thomas Garrett
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U.S. Representative Thomas Garrett of Virginia will not be running for re-election this November in order to focus on his recovery from alcoholism, he said Monday (May 28). 

The statement—“the hardest [one] I have ever publicly made, by far”—was a surprise, since last Thursday the Republican congressman insisted that “there is no way in heck that I’m not going to be back here in 2019 as a member of Congress.”

Garrett was also the subject of a recent Politico report claiming that he and his wife would order staff to walk their dog, carry groceries or perform other personal tasks, which is prohibited by House ethics rules.

“This is because life is about priorities and values, and for the most part, I am proud of mine,” Garrett said. “The tragedy is any person—Republican, Democrat or independent—who has known me for any period of time knows two things: I am a good man and I am an alcoholic.”

According to the House Press Gallery, Garrett is the 48th Republican that will not run for re-election this fall.

But Garrett isn’t the first to leave Congress to address a drinking or drug problem. former Rep. Patrick Kennedy of Rhode Island is by far the most well-known. He retired in 2011 to focus on recovery from bipolar disorder and problems with substance abuse.

Since he’s gotten sober, Kennedy has become a prominent recovery advocate, giving his voice to the recovery community.

“OxyContin was what I used for years, but I’m an addict so it doesn’t matter what it is,” he said in a May 2016 podcast interview. “I used benzodiazepines, alcohol, stimulants, Adderall, cocaine, you name it.”

Kennedy is part of a recovery community that exists among members of Congress. “[Members of Congress] represent the country which includes millions of addicts and members aren’t exempt,” said Kennedy.

The anonymous group supports one another through addiction and recovery. “We don’t talk about addiction in society, and we don’t talk about it in Congress. Part of the reason is because of the social stigma, but with members of Congress there is additional worry about how it will impact their political careers,” said Kennedy.

Former Rep. Jim Ramstad of Minnesota discussed his participation in the group, and described it as a unifying experience. “The vast majority of congressmen understood the issue… Some of my antagonists from the other side of the aisle… became some of my best friends. Some were even recovering alcoholics and I would have had no idea.”

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Victoria is interested in anything that has to do with how mind-altering substances impact society. Find Victoria on LinkedIn or Tumblr

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