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Substance abuse expert shares perspective in wake of Congressman Garrett's announcement

Garrett announces he's an alcoholic, drops out of race for re-election

DANVILLE, Va. – U.S. Rep. Tom Garrett says his decision to drop out of the race for his fifth-district seat is a new beginning for him. 

Michael Ellyson, the executive director of Recovery Refuge Peer Support Center based in Danville, said recovery for alcoholics can be dangerous.

"There is definitely a medical model that needs to be followed, in that the body becomes really dependent upon (alcohol)," Ellyson said "There needs to be a detox. Somebody who quits alcohol cold turkey stands a chance of going into seizures."

He said spending time with people who have gone through the recovery process is important.

"We're talking about lifestyle changes for the alcoholic. I mean, it's not just not having a beer at dinner, so to speak, in that a lot of research talks about the connections, the peer recovery connections," Ellyson said.

Announcing his decision Monday, Garrett, who was elected in 2016, said he hopes to now focus on his family.

"My commitment to be the best husband, father, and friend means addressing the only truth I have been hereto for unwilling to tell," Garrett said in a recorded statement.

As of Tuesday, Air Force veteran Denver Riggleman was the only person who had officially announced his candidacy for the Republican nomination for Garrett's seat.

Riggleman believes he can bring a fresh perspective to Washington.

"My knowledge is a bit more operational than theoretical," Riggleman said. "I still support the office of secretary of defense as a senior consultant for electronic warfare. I'm still a CEO, a new CEO, of another company I started in the (Department of Defense) space, but also Silverback Distillery."

Riggleman believes his experience with tax cuts will serve him well.

"I have a lot of operational experience with not only tax cuts with deregulation, but also with property rights. Just many things that I've been tackling over the last three to four years here in Virginia," Riggleman said.

If the Virginia Republican Party nominates him, he'll face off against Democratic nominee Leslie Cockburn.

In a statement, Cockburn said: "It is important that (Garrett) has recognized his addiction and taken the steps to recover. We wish him well."

Voters will go to the polls in November to choose Garrett's replacement.


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