LEE COUNTY, Fla. - It's been more than 24 hours since Congressman Trey Radel checked out of rehab and spoke publicly about his political future. Radel made it clear he will return to Washington and continue his duties on Capitol Hill as well as his addiction treatment. New tonight, local experts reveal Radel's road to recovery could last the rest of his life.
Last month, Radel pleaded guilty to cocaine possession. He claimed his "poor choices" of buying illegal drugs were rooted in alcoholism which he's being treated for. After 28 days in rehab, addiction experts say the work is far from over.
"My recovery is underway and it is ongoing," Radel said Thursday night.
Hours after checking out of rehab, Congressman Radel spoke about his treatment, never once saying the word "cocaine."
"I've been treated for the disease of alcoholism," Radel said. "Alcohol is my issue. This is what has happened clinically. I now have a step-by-step program and a rediscovery in faith and family and God."
A leader with Lee County Alcoholics Anonymous tells WINK News that 28 days in rehab isn't enough time for an alcoholic to establish healthy habits. Patients usually agree to a discharge plan that includes a 12-step program or sponsor. He said those who don't do that tend to fall right back into alcoholism. "I have an will continue to build a support system for the rest of my life," Radel said.
But, Political Science professor Peter Bergerson thinks the real issue was glossed over. "He's the first member of Congress who has been arrested and convicted for the possession of cocaine," Bergerson said. "The issue that was unaddressed last night was that issue."
Radel's only mention of cocaine, without referencing it, had to do with how often he used. "It's been a handful of times," he said.
Court documents show, Radel bought cocaine "several" times for personal use and would sometimes share it with others. The difference between "a handful" and "several" is still unclear but Radel maintains it never happened in southwest Florida.
"This is an opportunity for him to decide what's more important - his political career or his constituents," said Brian Gibens, who has announced for Radel's seat. "The way I look at it is, the people will decide."
Radel's office was open Friday for constituent services, as it normally would be. But, the Congressman did not come in.
While in rehab, he donated his salary to the Boys and Girls Clubs of Lee and Collier counties. We're told he'll write those checks personally.
Rep. Trey Radel is a former WINK-TV news anchor and conservative talk show host on 92.5 Fox News Radio in Fort Myers.