George W. Bush: Billy Graham helped me stop drinking

Former President George W. Bush recalled in an op-ed on Friday how the late Rev. Billy Graham helped him quit drinking in the 1980s.

"God’s work within me began in earnest with Billy’s outreach," Bush wrote in the Wall Street Journal. "His care and his teachings were the real beginning of my faith walk — and the start of the end of my drinking. I couldn’t have given up alcohol on my own."

"But in 1986, at 40, I finally found the strength to quit," he continued. "That strength came from love I had felt from my earliest days and from faith I didn’t fully discover until my later years."

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The former president, who struggled for years with alcohol abuse, recounted meeting Graham for the first time in 1985 at his family's estate in Kennebunkport, Maine. He described how the evangelist "planted the seed" that encouraged him to "strive to be better."

"He told me about one of the Bible’s most fundamental lessons: One should strive to be better, but we’re all sinners who earn God’s love not through our good deeds, but through His grace," Bush wrote.

"It was a profound concept, one I did not fully grasp that day. But Billy had planted a seed. His thoughtful explanation made the soil less hard, the brambles less thick."

Graham died this week at the age of 99. During his more than 60-year career, he became one of the country's best known evangelists, taking his message to multiple presidents.