George W. Bush today told recovering addicts at a Christian treatment center that "I'm just like you, I'm on a walk. It's a never-ending walk."
"It doesn't make me necessarily a better person from one to the next. But I understand, I do," he said at Teen Challenge of the Midlands.
"I used to drink too much, but I quit drinking," the Republican presidential front-runner continued. "And I think it's because Billy Graham planted a seed in my heart at one time--it wasn't Billy, he was the messenger. So I want you to know your life's walk is shared by a lot of other people, even someone who wears suits."
Bush stopped drinking in 1986 at the age of 40.
He has said he did not believe he was addicted to alcohol, and that his decision followed an earlier deepening of his spiritual life after a discussion with Graham and a family friend.
Bush was at Teen Challenge to underscore one of his main campaign themes--the idea that faith-based institutions often do a better job than government programs in rehabilitating people.
Teen Challenge is a private, church-affiliated group that takes no government money, in part because it fears regulations would preclude its religious message.
Bush spoke to the recovering addicts as he toured the chapel at the facility. Moments earlier, several young men stood at a dais with Bush and talked about how the center used proselytizing and religious conversion to change their hearts and ultimately their behavior.
Bush said that as president, he would encourage government cooperation with such programs.
"The question government should ask is, does it work?" Bush said. "If it works, a society ought to say thank you."