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An alcoholic goes to the White House

Forty-five years and billions of dollars after Richard Nixon declared the nation’s War on Drugs, it’s time we admit defeat. We lost the war.

Michael Botticelli, head of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy
Michael Botticelli, head of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy

More people are dying of drug overdoses and more people are incarcerated for drug crimes than we could have imagined in 1971, when Nixon launched the war with measures such as mandatory sentencing and no-knock warrants.

Let’s stop kidding ourselves that we can arrest our way out of the horrific opioid epidemic. Let’s find a new way to wage this war and a new leader with new ideas to lead us.

Let’s give Michael Botticelli – President Obama’s choice to lead the Office of National Drug Control Policy – a chance to boldly go into the trenches – literally. If you want to see and hear what that looks like, hop on at 8 p.m. Eastern time tonight. Botticelli will be there.

You see, Botticelli belongs there – not just because he is the Drug Czar (a title he hates) – but because he is one of us. He is a recovered alcoholic. He gets it. He understand us. He wants to help us. He can help us.

The reason the 12-Steps work is because it is a “we” program. One addict and alcoholic helping another addict and alcoholic. We don’t take kindly to being told what to do, especially by those who are not addicts and alcoholics themselves.

In fact, we don’t like to be told what to do at all. Which is why 12-Step programs are programs of “suggestions” not edicts. If you start a sentence with the words “You should…” a newly recovered addict is going to shut you down. Addicts and alcoholics are especially sensitive to that phrase because it has been used to shame us for years:

  • “You should quit drinking.”
  • “You should think of the pain you are causing your mother.”
  • “You should grow up.”
  • “You should stop being so selfish.”

Don’t “should” on us. Don’t shame us. Don’t stigmatize us.

Botticelli gets this because only another addict or alcoholic knows what this feels like. We finally have a leader who is one of us. We can trust him. He can and should make suggestions to us and I suggest we take them.



An alcoholic goes to the White House

Christine Stapleton

Christine Stapleton has been a journalist for 35 years. She is now an investigative reporter for The Palm Beach Post. In 2006, began writing a blog for PsychCentral called Depression on My Mind. Her latest blog, Addiction Matters, draws on her 19 years of sobriety and her coverage of the drug treatment industry in South Florida.

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APA Reference
Stapleton, C. (2016). An alcoholic goes to the White House. Psych Central. Retrieved on March 21, 2019, from


Last updated: 6 Jun 2016
Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 6 Jun 2016
Published on All rights reserved.