Jeb Bush touched on one of the most painful issues in his life – his daughter Noelle’s struggles with drug addiction.
In an interview with the Huffington Post conducted on his campaign bus, Bush recalled the agony that his daughter and the whole family suffered while she got lost to drugs. An especially low point came when he was governor, and his brother George W. Bush was president, and Noelle was arrested in 2002 on charges of trying to fill a false prescription for Xanax.
“I visited her in jail,” Bush said. “I never expected to see my beautiful daughter in jail.”
“It’s very debilitating when you have a loved one who’s struggling and you can’t control it. You got to love them, but you also have to make it clear … you can’t enable the behavior that gets them in trouble.”
Noelle was sent to jail a second time after she was found to have crack cocaine on her during her stay at a drug rehabilitation center.
“She went through hell,” Bush told the Huffington Post, noting that the painful experience played out in the glare of the public spotlight. “And so did her mom and so did her dad. And it was in a private setting, but then it became very public when I was governor. And it wasn’t easy.”
Bush said that his daughter’s addiction began when she was a teenager.
He said that she is “doing fine now,” though the vestiges of addiction remain with her and the family.
“One of the things I found was, when I would travel and do my regular job, I could just look in someone’s eyes and I could just tell that they were going through something similar. You could just see it,” he added. “I have so many friends, so many people I’ve known that have gone through this. It crosses all barriers, all lines, all races, all income. It’s not easy.”
His sons, Jeb Jr. and George P., have maintained high profiles in the world of politics. Jeb Jr. has been active on Bush’s campaign trail, much of it reaching out to millennial voters.
George also has campaigned, though less so, given his job as Texas land commissioner.
Jeb Bush’s wife, Columba, long has devoted herself to raising awareness of drug addiction and pushing for better programs to address it.
“It’s very debilitating when you have a loved one who’s struggling, and you can’t control it,” Bush said. “I don’t know what it’s like to lose a daughter. But I almost did.”
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