Larry Kudlow, the White House's top economic advisor, is celebrating 25 year of sobriety. He discussed this at a White House event sponsored by the Office of National Drug Control Policy on September 3 as part of National Recovery Month.
"I was a hopeless abuser of alcohol and drugs," Kudlow admitted during a 10-minute statement (watch below). "It would have been unthinkable that I could occupy such a job 25 years ago."
For those not familiar with Kudlow's background, this might come as a surprise. But in the '90s, while he worked on Wall Street, Kudlow regularly binged on liquor and cocaine. It took four rehab attempts and a religious conversion to straighten him out.
When Kudlow Was a Dem
Born in Englewood, New Jersey in 1947 to Jewish parents, Kudlow attended the University of Rochester where he was a member of the radical-left organization Students for a Democratic Society, known as SDS. After graduating, Kudlow went to Princeton for his Master's which he never completed.
In 1970, he worked for Joseph Duffy's Senate campaign in Connecticut on behalf of Americans for Democratic Action. Duffy lost. In a 1995 article in New York magazine, political consultant Michael Segal recalled, "Nobody was doing cocaine, but everyone was smoking. The whole campaign was lit up."
A former girlfriend added: "He always had a lot of dope around."
Kudlow's cocaine addiction began in the '70s and continued for the next two decades.
Part of the Reagan Revolution
After stints at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, Paine Webber and Bear Stearns, Kudlow crossed over to the Republican Party and took a job in the Reagan adminstration at the Office of Management and Budget in 1981. He was one of the authors of Ronald Reagan's trickle-down economic theory. Following the first term, Kudlow returned to Bear Stearns where his drug use and drinking ramped up again. In 1991, he took a job with the conservative publication National Review, but was fired because of his personal issues. Kudlow consistently blew off important meetings wherever he worked. That was usually the tip-off that he was hungover from a bender the night before.
Treating His Disorder
In 1992, Kudlow made the first of several attempts to deal with his problem when he entered Regent, a rehab clinic in New York. Kudlow dove into Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous' 12-step philosophy, reading Alcoholics Anonymous: The Big Book and consulting with a priest.
In 1993, he made his second stab at rehab, entering Father Martin's Ashley in Maryland. After a relapse, Kudlow returned to the facility for another stay.
His next stop was Hazelden in Minnesota in 1995. The fourth time in rehab was the charm for Kudlow, who'd also converted to Catholicism. Kudlow claims he's been sober ever since.
At the White House recovery session, a somber Kudlow explained:
"I tried a number of times unsuccessfully to get sober. Like a lot of my peers and friends I went though bloody hell and sufferered significant consequences. I was unemployable. By the grace of God I stayed married; my wife Judy is a saint. We've been married 34 years. It's a miracle. But it was difficult. The whole story was difficult.
"It is because of my stubbornness and willfulness and the difficulties and consequences and the fact that I had to learn how to change my behavior and follow a few simple steps or guidelines, I believe sincerely today that it probably was the best thing that ever happened to me because it forced me to change and seek a new path and return to faith...
"I will say to you: You can get sober. For those who are still sick and suffering, you can. It's not easy, but you can get sober and you can stay sober and you can lead a productive life."
Then Kudlow praised his boss, Donald Trump:
"The president has been remarkable. I've known him many years. He brought me into this position. I didn't ask for it. I've served him to the best of my ability. He's been remarkable to me, accessible. We have great discussions, sometimes even debates. He's a remarkable man."
What Kudlow Didn't Say
Kudlow's white privilege prevented him from being arrested and going to jail like so many others who use and possess illegal drugs, especially people of color. While Kudlow may have been absolved for his sins, hundreds of thousands of Americans continue to get busted. The worst that would happen to Wall Street drug abusers generally were losses of jobs and wealth when and if they were fired. Meanwhile, illegal drug users still clog the legal system. So good for Kudlow and others who've managed to overcome their addictions. But AA and NA are not the only solutions. Prohibition laws must change. Kudlow didn't say that.