restricted access Chapter 21. Agony Even in Victory
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v v CHAPTER 21 Agony Even in Victory I t was only a matter of time before Donna and I went our separate ways. After being married for sixteen years, we finalized our divorce agreement. I gave her everything, except my son. We had joint custody of David, but he lived with me, and I accepted the responsibility to raise him. I was equally to blame for the divorce. All my efforts had been focused on my work, with little time dedicated to my family. Serving in a public office is a sacrifice and is very stressful on the family . I put my job before my family. Donna and I just grew apart. We did remain friends. I had given Donna the house, so I had no place to live in Amarillo. Fortunately, Rick Smith agreed to share an apartment and help me with David for a while until I was in a position, both physically and financially, to care for him on my own. David knew Rick very well, as Rick had been working for me for years in the Senate. Rick was also single, and his two kids were a little younger than David at the time. David and I later moved into our own apartment. I was still very weak and could not walk without a cane, but I was ready to return to work. On my first day in Austin, when the session started, the members rose to acknowledge me. My heart was in my throat. I leaned on my cane and stood to talk. I thanked the members for helping me and the people of the Thirty-­ First District of the state of Texas during my absence. I thanked my staff, who had remained committed during that time of my absence. I could not have asked for a more loyal and dedicated group 216 • The Grand Duke from Boys Ranch of people. I also thanked Senator Ted Lyon and Senator Chet Edwards for helping me with my legislative agenda. On March 25, the Committee on Health and Human Services met to discuss my bill to create the Texas Commission on Alcohol and Drug Abuse (TCADA). It had taken me seven years to finally get a hearing , but my strategy to mandate treatment on a third offense for drunk driving had created a demand for rehab centers in Texas. Speaking to the Senate with a broken back. Courtesy of the Texas Senate. Agony Even in Victory • 217 While recovering in the hospital, I had mentally prepared for this hearing, replaying it in my head. I would not be denied the opportunity to be heard on this issue. I wanted the people that testified to leave a lasting impression in support of this legislation. It took a lot of courage, but I contacted two state officials who I knew were alcoholics to testify in support of the bill. It took even more courage for them to testify, but they both agreed to do so. The Senate chamber was packed the day of the committee hearing. I sat at the end of the long table and set my cane on the floor. I took a deep breath and told the committee my life story, all of it. I described the struggles we encountered trying to find help for my mother. “Maybe all of you have been blessed with solid, stable families and have not experienced the pain that alcoholism can bring to a family,” I told the committee. “Alcoholism is a disease, and we need professionals to help cure that disease. This is one of the primary reasons I ran for the Texas Senate. I have been a member for seven years and have waited for the day that I would stand before this group to hear me on this issue. Texas ranks last in the nation for treatment facilities for alcohol and drug abuse. This state has avoided this enormous problem for too long.” My Senate staff: Kevin Knapp, Paul Jardem, Wil Galloway, Laurie Dickerson, Geneva Finstad, Matt Powell, Joel Brandenberger, Bethany Boyd, Jan Gipson, and Guy Finstad. Courtesy of the Texas Senate. 218 • The Grand Duke from Boys Ranch I further explained to the committee that most people are embarrassed or ashamed of family members who struggle with alcohol or drug problems. I had been there. I kept going, explaining that the State of Texas at the time did nothing to assist with this; people with substance abuse problems often lost their jobs, families, and marriages...


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