Lawmakers send well-wishes as Kirkpatrick seeks care for alcohol dependence

Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick, D-Tucson, suffered serious injury last week in a fall that she blamed on alcohol dependence, a problem for which she announced she is now seeking treatment. (Photo by Heather Cumberledge/Cronkite News)

By Christopher Scragg

WASHINGTON – Colleagues of Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick offered prayers and well wishes for the Tucson Democrat after she announced Wednesday that she is seeking treatment for alcohol dependence, which she said was to blame for a serious fall last week.

Rep. Raul Grijalva, D-Tucson, applauded Kirkpatrick in a tweet “for this courageous step, and look forward to welcoming her back to Washington.” Rep. Paul Gosar, R-Prescott, said he and his wife are praying for Kirkpatrick, a one-time election opponent of Gosar’s.

“Ann’s announcement today takes a lot of courage,” Gosar said in an emailed statement.

Kirkpatrick said the decision to seek treatment for alcohol dependence is one that she has “struggled to ask for” in the past.

“I am ready to admit that I, like countless other Americans, suffer from this disease,” she said in a statement released by her office Wednesday. “Hard work and determination – which have brought me success in life – have not been enough to win this battle.”

While she said she is focusing on her treatment, Kirkpatrick said she expects to return to work, although it’s unclear when that will be. She did note that her Washington and Arizona offices would continue to function in her absence, however.

“Other than being a wife, mother and grandmother, the most important job in the world to me is representing my fellow Arizonans,” Kirkpatrick said in her statement. “I know I must get better in order to do my best in each of these roles.”

Shauna Bookless, an admissions coordinator at the Vogue Recovery Center in Phoenix, said it’s essential for colleagues of someone seeking addiction treatment to be supportive. She said patients have better outcomes when they are accepted rather than judged by their peers.

“The most important part is when you integrate back into your work and home life that you have a support system that people are encouraging and non-judgmental,” Bookless said. “It makes it very difficult when you don’t have people in your corner.”

Rep. Debbie Lesko, R-Peoria, echoed the support of others, saying in a tweet that she was thinking of Kirkpatrick and her family.

“I commend her courage to share this and seek treatment. Ann, we will all be praying for your recovery,” Lesko said.

Kirkpatrick’s disclosure that she is seeking treatment also received praise on social media from Cindy and Meghan McCain and from Senate candidate Mark Kelly, who tweeted that he and his wife, Gabby Giffords, the former representative who once held Kirkpatrick’s Tucson seat, “have her back.”

“This was a courageous step – we’re with you for it and every step to come,” Kelly said.

Gosar added in a tweet that politics creates an environment that makes it “too easy to become addicted.”

“There are many stressors in this business and at every reception and dinner alcohol is provided,” Gosar’s tweet said. “I wish Godspeed to my colleague, my friend and my fellow Arizonan.”

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