In a lengthy interview with The Washington Post that was published this week, President Donald Trump opened up about his late brother’s tragic struggle with alcoholism and how it inspired his administration’s goal to combat the nation’s opioid crisis.
Fred Jr., the president’s older brother, died in 1981 after suffering a heart attack at the age of 42.
The president has spoken repeatedly in the past about how watching his older brother’s health fail due to alcoholism had informed his decision to never drink alcohol or use illicit drugs, as he feared he might be predisposed to addiction and didn’t want to follow the same fateful path as Fred Jr.
“Let’s say I started drinking, it’s very possible I wouldn’t be talking to you right now,” Trump told The Post. “There is something about the genetic effect.”
But as it turns out, the lessons learned from his older brother’s addiction did more than just keep him from becoming an addict himself — it gave him empathy for other Americans who suffer from addiction.
Trump indicated that the experience serves as a driving force behind his administration’s efforts to tackle the nation’s opioid addiction epidemic.
“I guess you could say now I’m the chief of trying to solve it,” the president said. “I don’t know that I’d be working, devoting the kind of time and energy and even the money we are allocating to it … I don’t know that I’d be doing that had I not had the experience with Fred.”
Trump also admitted that he had “regrets” about joining his father in pressuring his older brother to join the family business, instead of pursuing his dream of being a pilot.
“I do regret having put pressure on him,” Trump told The Post of his older brother, and said that being in the real estate business “was just something he was never going to want.”
“It was just not his thing,” the president. “I think the mistake that we made was we assumed that everybody would like it. That would be the biggest mistake … There was sort of a double pressure put on him.” That pressure may have worsened his drinking problem, Trump said.
President Trump is not the sort of person to readily admit to making mistakes, so his admission of regret here is a rarity.
That said, the silver lining may be that the lessons learned will hopefully save other American families from going through the same thing, thanks to the Trump administration’s focus on ending the opioid addiction crisis.