Harold Hughes described himself as a "college dropout and a drunk with a jail record". Hughes should've been killed as a combat rifleman during WWII and was court marshalled for assulting an officer. Harold drank out of control. He would go on roller coaster rides of being drunk, sober and repeated relapse. In 1946 his wife had court papers filed to have him appear before a Sanity Commission to show cause why he shouldn’t be "committed to the state insane asylum as an inebriate." He lucked out and did not get committed but his life was a mess. This went on for years.
In 1952, Hughes was desperate and was suicidal. In his book Hughes describes how he got his shotgun and climbed into his bathtub ready to get off the alcohol crazy train. Then something amazing happened... a miracle. A moment of spiritual enlightenment. This moment changed Hughes' life and became a turning point which led him to a deep spiritual commitment. He began to pray and study the Bible. Hughes embraced the program of Alcoholics Anonymous and even started an AA group in his town.
Harold Hughes went on to be a much beloved politician. As a recovering alcoholic Hughes was Governor of Iowa from 1962 - 1968. Governor Hughes position did not stop him from openly talking about his alcoholism or working with others. In a 1964 debate Hughes stated "I am an alcoholic and will be until the day I die... But with God’s help I’ll never touch a drop of alcohol again". In 1969 Hughes became an Iowa Senator and as a Senator, he was known as "Mr. Addiction," and pushed through the 1970 Hughes Act creating the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA). He might not have been the first alcoholic Senator but he was the first one that openly acknowledged that he was a recovering alcoholic. Hughes is known as "The Father of the NIAAA" and is memorialized with the NIAAA annual Harold Hughes Award. Thanks to Harold's work there are now many programs available to learn about options for alcohol addicts through the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.
Hughes talked about the need for treatment of drug addiction. He stated that "treatment is virtually nonexistent because addiction is not recognized as an illness." This was key in changing the way alcoholism/addiction was recognized and funded. Hughes stated "I had been elected to the Senate only 17 years after admitting that I was an alcoholic and reaching out for help. As my plane landed, I thought of the hundreds of thousands of men, women, and children who had never found help, many of whom lived as derelicts or had died tragically. I asked myself if one of the reasons I had been brought to Washington as a U.S. Senator was to represent those still suffering from addiction to alcohol and other drugs." Bill Wilson said "the impossible is happening" regarding the work Hughes was doing on alcoholism/addiction in the Senate. Even as Senator, Hughes often walked the streets and slums helping the alcoholics and addicts that were in the throws of their addiction. He had a place in his heart for those addicted to herion and felt he would've been a herion addict had things been a little different. Harold Hughes died in 1996 with more than 40 years sobriety.
There is so much about this inspiring man that is truly amazing. Please read his tribute and/or this great story about this amazing man. Clean and Sober Not Dead is proud to name Harold Hughes it's Recovery Hero for March 2008.