By L.A. Williams, Correspondent
Christian Action League of North Carolina, Inc.
Perhaps not since Joe Boylan was elected to the State House has the entire governing body known as much about the Moore County Republican’s troubled personal life than they do now. But never in recent memory has Boylan felt better about where he’s headed. The freshman representative confessed Monday on the House floor that he is an alcoholic and asked for forgiveness and prayers.
“My behavior over the past year has hurt a few of you, disappointed many of you and has reflected poorly on this House,” Boylan said. “I cannot change the past, but I can change behavior. So I commit to you that as I start each day, with the grace of God and the loving support of my family and friends, I will do everything that I can to ensure that I end the day without having taken a drink.”
A stunned silence and then thunderous applause followed his public apology, something that lawmakers don’t often hear.
“Here was a man who really took responsibility for his behavior,” said the Rev. Mark Creech, executive director of the Christian Action League of North Carolina. “He knew he wasn’t coming back the next session, but he did the right thing before he left.”
Charged with driving while impaired in April after steering his truck into a tree, Boylan lost the GOP primary the following month. He said late this week that the accident was a God-sent wake-up call.
“The good Lord had been sending me messages and I didn’t have the clarity of mind to deal with my drinking problem,” Boylan said. “This is something I have been struggling with and praying about for several years.”
He said he abstained from alcohol for 11 months during his first run for office and had concluded that he did not have an alcohol problem, only to finally realize that “it’s not when or how often you drink, but how you drink.”
“When I drank alcohol, I abused it,” Boylan said. “I could, at times, go to a reception and have a glass or two of wine, no problem. Then, at other times, I would get to a point where I had no brakes. Then I drank until it was gone.”
Allegations regarding inappropriate behavior toward a female colleague about a year ago included claims that Boylan was intoxicated at a Raleigh steakhouse.
Boylan said his apology on the House floor and other attempts to make amends have been cleansing for him and he hopes will send a helpful message to others who face similar problems.
“If you think you’ve got a drinking problem, you’ve got a drinking problem. And you can’t get over it alone. You need help,” he said.
Boylan said once he sought help and began a 12-step process of recovery he wanted to apologize to fellow lawmakers, but decided to wait until close to the end of the session so as not to appear to be seeking any political advantage.
He said he was “shaking like a cat in a dog kennel” when he rose to make his remarks, but that he had received many words of encouragement since and is most grateful for “God’s good grace” and His blessings on his family.
“As an alcoholic, I have been very lucky. I haven’t lost my business, my family or my house, or gone through any of the major tragedies that many alcoholics have had to experience,” Boylan said, reiterating his belief that God used his car accident as a turning point.
“As for drunks driving into trees or people or into other cars, I always thought that wouldn’t happen to me. I was too careful. I was too good at driving under the influence – or so I thought,” Boylan said. “One other thing that was a big help with my turnaround was that when my wife came to pick me up at the hospital, I was expecting the worst, but all I received was love.”
He said he had even jokingly asked the police to shoot him so that he wouldn’t have to face the wrath of his beloved.
“But when she saw me, I think she knew and I knew that I was done drinking,” he said. “We both count it as a real blessing from God.”
Boylan said he is disappointed that he will no longer be representing the people of Moore County in the Legislature, “but losing the election is a small price to pay for getting a much longer lease on life and the chance to live a happier and healthier life.”
John Owen, chairman of the Moore County Republican Party, called Boylan’s apology “commendable,” and said he is glad that Boylan recognized that he has a problem.
Owen said. “I applaud him for seeking help and wish him and his family all the best.”
“Joe Boylan’s apology and request for forgiveness was one of the most inspiring moments I’ve ever witnessed at the General Assembly. It took a real man to do what he did. It was powerful. There’s always more hope for a confessed sinner than a conceited Saint. I’m confident Joe has bright future ahead of him,” said Rev. Creech.