Editorial: “I am an alcoholic”. Representative Huberty’s arrest reminds us that addiction does not discriminate

After Kingwood Republican Dan Huberty won his first House race in 2010, his legislative colleagues quickly learned what his constituents already knew: the former chairman of the Humble ISD School Board was smart, knowledgeable about school finances and fairly serious on substantive issues of the state. work with anyone, Republican or Democrat, to get things done. Calling him an overwhelming choice for “Rookie of the Year,” Texas Monthly noted that he was “self-confident, hardworking and willing and able to handle tough issues.”

He then chaired the House Education Committee and championed the historic reform of the Texas school financial system in the last session.

But last week, when Huberty addressed his colleagues in the House, it was not as president, a title he no longer wears in his sixth session. He did not talk about education or property taxes or any other legislative concerns.

“My name is Dan,” he said, “and I’m an alcoholic.”

Huberty’s painful and contrite confession came following his arrest in Montgomery County on the night of April 23, when he ran a red light and crashed his black Corvette into an SUV on his way home from Austin. Three occupants of the SUV sustained minor injuries.

Video viewed thousands of times on YouTube shows a Montgomery County District 4 officer handcuffing the gray-haired lawmaker and taking him to jail, where he was charged with impaired driving.

“What about my phone?” he asks the gendarme in a calm voice as she opens the back door of her vehicle and lets him in. The video ends with Huberty’s sleek Corvette, its scuffed and dented slanted hood, carried through the night in the tail of a tug a truck.

Huberty would no doubt agree that he should have faced his alcoholic demon a long time ago. There have been signs along the way in recent years that he is making the most of him.

“I’ve had a drinking problem my entire adult life,” he told his colleagues last week, his voice betraying a slight shudder. “Although I have been sober for 23 of the past 30 years, it has become clear to me over the past few months that I desperately need help. I was embarrassed to ask and frankly didn’t know how to get the help I needed.

He apologized to his family, his constituents, his government colleagues and the people whose SUV he hit. He is committed to be

conscientious in working within the 12-step program that is at the heart of Alcoholics Anonymous. Members of Texas House gave him a standing ovation when he finished his remarks.

Fortunately, no one had to die or suffer serious injuries before Huberty faced his illness. We also applaud his courage in using his public platform and the prosecution of a prestigious institution to witness his personal struggle, and we hope this has served both to educate Texans about the power of drug addiction and to remind those who struggle against the same demons that they are not alone and there is no shame in asking for help.

Huberty is not the first to fall victim to alcoholism – the late Gov. Ann W. Richards and former Governor and President George W. Bush come to mind. But as a public figure, Huberty has a special responsibility as a role model. His mission from now on, regardless of what he does on educational policy and other important matters, is to continue educating others about the dangers of alcoholism, to alcoholics and to society in general.

By standing up and speaking out, he can help erode the stigma that often prevents alcoholics from dealing with their illness. He can also remind fellow lawmakers and constituents that alcoholics, like those who are addicted to other drugs, need treatment, not just punishment. They need hospital beds, not just jail cells.

Of course, this is not about minimizing impaired driving, which remains, as Mothers Against Drunk Driving reminds us, the number one cause of death on our roads. A person who drives under the influence faces the legal consequences of their actions, and Huberty is no exception.

“Alcoholism is a serious illness, which is becoming a pandemic in itself,” he said last week.

As Texas Monthly noted years ago, he is a man who is “willing and able to handle difficult problems.” We wish Representative Huberty strength and perseverance as he faces what could be his toughest battle for reform.

About Rhonda Lee

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