Larry Kudlow, White House Economic Adviser, wasn’t always qualified for the position he now holds. He shared about his past alcohol and drug addiction at a roundtable discussion in early September at the White House in honor of National Recovery Month.
Kudlow celebrated 25 years of sobriety this past June, crediting Alcoholics Anonymous for his recovery. “I was a hopeless abuser of alcohol and drugs,” said Kudlow, “I had tried several times unsuccessfully to get sober.”
Prominent figures who open up about their struggles with substance abuse bring more awareness to the addiction epidemic. It’s been a growing trend in recent years, but Kudlow has been open about his recovery for decades. One of the earliest mentions of his sobriety was in a profile published in the New York Times in 1994.
Even before getting sober, Kudlow had an incredible resume to his name. He was a top Wall Street economist and an outstanding member of President Regan’s economic team. His ideas helped elect Christine Todd Whitman the Governor of New Jersey in 1994. But few people outside his circle knew of his underlying troubles with alcohol and drugs.
Kudlow’s career in economics started in the early 1970s with a junior economist position at the New York Federal Reserve. He drank socially for the first few years. After all, meetings with clients often took place over a round of drinks. The habit of using a drink before dinner to loosen up soon settled into place, “And that’s how it starts,” he explained.
It didn’t take long until he was drinking alone regularly, both at home or on the road, in the late 1970s. The young professional continued making a name for himself as his drinking quietly progressed. As his alcohol intake increased, he soon found himself tempted by the pull of illicit drugs in the 1980s.
“Alcohol was the gate-opener to everything else,” Kudlow said. And the same is true for people with a substance use disorder. According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 2.4 million people struggle with both substance and Alcohol Use Disorder. Still, despite his growing alcohol and substance problem, Kudlow kept on for a few more years.
Things finally reached a breaking point in the mid-1990s. He held a position as a financial analyst at Bear Stearns, a since-acquired global investment bank. By outward appearances, Kudlow still seemed to be managing. But his personal life was crumbling behind closed doors.
“I went through bloody hell and suffered significant consequences,” Kudlow recently told the New York Post. He took a step back from his Bear Stearns analyst position to enter a treatment program. Through a combination of counseling, group therapy, and ongoing attendance at 12-step meetings, Kudlow found and maintained sobriety.
If the then-47-year-old could see himself today, he would be amazed. His 1994 New York Times profile questioned whether he’d eventually be able to return to politics. Now that he’s situated as the White House economic adviser, Kudlow is a prime example of the power of recovery. Past problems with addiction and alcohol abuse don’t have to define the future.
Today he continues the practices he first learned 25 years ago. He says the serenity prayer and practices meditation daily. He stays in touch with friends he made in Alcoholics Anonymous. He also continues sharing his story and encouraging others in recovery. “You can get sober, you can stay sober, you can lead a productive life.”