In a raw and personal post on Instagram, former Florida gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum talked about his father’s alcoholism and the damage that addiction can do to a person and their family, and the healing power of therapy.
He said the depression he felt after his narrowly losing the 2018 race for governor manifested itself in addiction and said he’s been in therapy since his dramatic and public crash in March. He said in an Instagram post he had been taking some time away himself to deal with “some issues.”
He didn’t address the most critical questions about the incident that led to his downfall: why he was in a Miami Beach hotel room with two other men, three bags of crystal meth, a pillow that appeared covered in vomit, open prescription pill bottles and pills spilled out.
One of the men was treated for a possible drug overdose.
Gillum said he went away to rehab to focus on his issues with alcoholism.
“Having grown up in a household where my father battled addiction to alcohol and later died from complications from that deadly addiction, I know well the toll that alcohol can take on not only the individual, but also on the family,” Gillum said in the video on Instagram. “I know well the toll that it took on my father’s dreams, on his hopes, on his ambitions. And I knew that if I didn’t want to recycle many of those same issues for my children, that I had to do something about it and I had to do it now.”
He said he felt shame, particularly after the election loss and finding himself without the platform of an elected office after years as a city commissioner and mayor in Tallahassee.
“While my stuff had to be public and cause great embarrassment and lots of rumors, false some true, the shame that I felt from all of that from the harm that I had caused was tearing me up. I needed real help to try to unpack that. It’s one thing to feel guilty for harm that you feel you may have caused someone. That’s how you know you’re human. That’s how you know you’re not a sociopath. But shame is something completely different. Shame is like kudzu. It takes over you from the inside out. It has no real meaning and redeemable purpose other than to keep you from being the person you need to be,” he said.
Gillum also said he felt added pressure as a Black man. “I know as a Black man what it means just to have to convince people that your life has meaning. Convince people that your life has purpose,” he said, adding that the pressure “sometimes causes us to look for other ways to try to numb and put ourselves in a different mindset.”
After winning the Democratic nomination for governor in 2018 with 34% of the vote in a five-way primary, he was thrust into the national spotlight in one of the most watched gubernatorial races in the country.
He lost to Ron DeSantis, now governor, by just 0.4%, a difference of 32,632 votes — out of more than 8.2 million cast statewide.
“I had totally underestimated the impact that losing the race for governor had had on my life and on the way those impacts stared to show up on every aspect of my life,” Gillum said in the video.
He said he tried to suppress and numb the depression that came after losing the election and didn’t deal with processing the impact of the loss “because it was a constant reminder of failure and my own personal failures. It was a reminder that I had let so many people down. It was a chorus of this voice that I tried for so long to quiet that said I wasn’t enough, that I wasn’t good enough.”
Gillum didn’t offer any hints as to what he would do next, though he said that he’s writing, for now on a personal level. Books are often a way for people who’ve had public crises to attempt public redemption and re-enter public life.
He thanked friends for the support they’ve provided and praised his wife R. Jai Gillum, “a woman that knows everything that I am and everything that I am not. And she chooses to love me anyhow.
Gillum said his spouse has not just stood by him, but propped him up and told him that “even though we don’t know what the future looks like that she believes that this is just the beginning and the best is still yet to come.”
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