Sullivan Returns to Washington, Opens Up About Alcohol Abuse

Sullivan Returns to Washington, Opens Up About Alcohol Abuse

US Representative John Sullivan is returning to Congress after a month-long stay at the Betty Ford Clinic in California for alcohol addiction. He plans to seek another term in office.

The 44-year-old Oklahoma Republican told Tulsa World that his announcement in late May to seek treatment was not triggered by a single incident. He says he experienced “one of those moments of just clarity” that people struggling with addiction often have.

“I know people were thinking some shoe was going to drop — I got a DWI, did something awful,” said Sullivan, who now admits he is an alcoholic and a “periodic binge drinker.” “I had just a lot of negative feelings, guilt, shame, remorse about it, and I just want to be a better person, better man, better husband, better father,” he added.

He told Tulsa World that his drinking—which he sometimes abstained from for years at a time—was impacting his family. “I was snappy with my kids, yelling at them, arguing with my wife in front of them,” he said. “It just got worse. My kids saw it. I was setting a horrible example.” He called his battle with alcoholism the “most challenging time of my life.”

Sullivan checked himself in to the Betty Ford Center on May 28 and said his stay there was one of the best experiences of his life and that his time there strengthened him. He said his treatment changed his perspective on alcoholism, saying he used to think “an alcoholic was a guy under a bridge cooking a squirrel on a stick.”

He said he also learned that his body processes alcohol differently than others, which played a role his sporadic binge drinking. He added that he now knows that total abstinence is his only acceptable option with alcohol.

Sullivan wrote in a statement, “My time at the Betty Ford Center gave me the opportunity to reflect on my life and afforded me a clearer perspective on what is truly important: God, family, friends, and service to others. Although this was certainly not what I had planned for my life it has turned out to be something that has strengthened me. I am already back to work. All of you have stood by me in this difficult time and I will stand stronger than ever for you in the US Congress.”
Sullivan said serving in Congress was not a factor in his drinking and that he wants to run for re-election next year.

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