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BALTIMORE - President Bush is talking more openly about his old drinking habits, and on Tuesday he offered perhaps his most pointed assessment yet by saying plainly that the term "addiction" had applied to him.
"Addiction is hard to overcome. As you might remember, I drank too much at one time in my life," Bush said during a visit to the Jericho Program, a project of Episcopal Community Services of Maryland that helps former prisoners deal with issues such as drug addiction, finding jobs and reintegrating productively into society.
Bush spoke to reporters after meeting privately with two men who have graduated from Jericho's program and dealt with drug problems. In that session, which the White House allowed one reporter to attend, Bush spoke frankly about himself.
"I understand addiction, and I understand how a changed heart can help you deal with addiction," he told the two men.
He asked Adolphus Mosely and Tom Boyd how they stopped using drugs - and then answered his own question.
"First is to recognize that there is a higher power," Bush said. "It helped me in my life. It helped me quit drinking."
"That's right, there is a higher power," Mosely said.
"Step one, right?" Bush said, referring to the Alcoholics Anonymous 12-steps program. Actually, the first step is acceptance.
Bush has said he decided to quit drinking the day after a boozy 40th-birthday celebration - July 6, 1986. He has credited his Christian faith and vigorous exercise with giving him the discipline he needed to stick to that decision, with nonalcoholic beers the only indulgence he says he allows. The 61-year-old president has never said publicly whether he has ever considered himself an alcoholic.
The visit to the Jericho Program was designed to emphasize a point in his State of the Union address Monday night - that he wants Congress to allow the federal government to give grants to religious charities to perform social services without requiring them to make fundamental changes in hiring and other practices.
[Last modified January 30, 2008, 02:00:00]