EXCLUSIVE: Rep. Tom Garrett (R-VA) opens up about his road to recovery, next steps

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WASHINGTON (Gray DC) -- “I got a new energy, a new passion," said Rep. Tom Garrett (R-VA).

Virginia Congressman Tom Garrett talks with us for the first time since publicly sharing his struggle with addiction and announcing he would not seek re-election. After that bombshell in late-May – Garrett remained in his seat and vowed to get well, while continuing to serve the district.

Now our Washington Correspondent Alana Austin sits down with him in for an exclusive interview.

We’ve been asking Congressman Garrett to talk to us, and you, our viewers, since he acknowledged a drinking problem. Just last week he sat down with us for this exclusive TV interview.

“I didn’t like me," said Congressman Garrett.

Rep. Tom Garrett describes being forced to publicly confront his drinking problem as a wake-up call. He says he’s more than 135 days sober and feels like a new man.

“I should have more good years in front of me than I have behind me," said Garrett.

Garrett called his drinking self-destructive. But, he says he never drank on the job or let his habit get in the way of doing the people’s work.

“I would find moments, right, I’d look at the calendar and say, ‘I don’t have to be anywhere until 11 and then almost alone just drink to excess," explained Garrett.

He says that pattern would be two to three times per week, and not every day.

After he shared this emotional announcement over a video, Garrett held onto his seat – but says dropping out of the race sped up his recovery.

“It’s been liberating. It’s allowed me to redouble my focus on my family," said Garrett.

He says he hopes his battle will help others with theirs.

“There are great people all over the place and all of them are going to have to fight their own battles, and this is one I’m glad I’m fighting and I’m happy to have fought publicly," said Garrett.

He remains interested in public service.

“What I’d like to do is something where I can advocate on behalf of civil society, on behalf of ethnic and religious minorities who might be oppressed," Garrett said.

Garrett says he’s proudest of his work helping to resettle Sudanese refugees in Virginia – and envisions turning that into his next calling. He also is proud of pushing for more recognition of civil rights activist, Barbara Johns, in the Virginia General Assembly. Thanks to those efforts, Virginia held its first-ever 'Barbara Johns day' on April 23rd.

“With that in mind, we’re going to try to do everything we can while we’re still here and then find ways to make an impact once we go do something else.”

For now, Garrett says his focus remains on getting healthy and finishing his term serving Virginia’s fifth district.

Anonymously quoting staffers, Politico reported Garrett forced aides to run personal errands. He denies it, but those claims are part of a Congressional investigation. We’ll have more on that part of the story in our report coming up, tomorrow night.

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