After an absence of roughly four weeks, Missoula Mayor John Engen returned to the office on Monday, admitting in a letter to city residents that he was an alcoholic.
Engen stepped away from the job temporarily in late October to deal with personal medical issues. The medical condition wasn’t disclosed at the time, though Engen said Monday that he’d received treatment for the disease and is fully sober.
Engen, who plans to run for reelection, declined an interview request on Monday. Instead, the mayor issued the following letter:
Nov. 28, 2016
Dear Fellow Missoulians,
On the evening of October 24, I checked into a 28-day, inpatient treatment program for alcoholism.
Today, Monday, November 28, I returned to work in the Mayor’s Office in Missoula, Montana, the city I love, to continue the work I’ve loved for the last 11 years.
I’m telling you this because you deserve to know that your mayor is an alcoholic in recovery. And I’m telling you because my story might help someone else get her or his life back.
I’ve learned much over the last month about myself, about addiction, about life. I left treatment a more compassionate man, an incredibly grateful man, a humble man. I’ve learned that I can’t drink safely.
I want what my parents wanted for me, what my friends want for me, what we all ought to have: health, happiness and a meaningful existence taking care of others. Because my friends, who are really my extended family, loved me enough to intervene in my addiction, I get another chance at that good life. I am confident I can live a healthy, productive, sober life, as millions of other alcoholics do on a daily basis.
Not everyone believes addiction is a disease. Given what I know now, I do. And I don’t expect everyone to forgive me or understand me in the wake of telling my story. But the story is mine, it’s true, and it won’t change. What can change is that I can do everything I can every day to stay sober, to be my best self.
I want to be your mayor for another term and will run for re-election in 2017. Only a serious, sober me can do that. And you deserve the serious, sober me you’ve elected in the past.
If you have an addiction problem, there is hope. Please seek help. And know that you will find support.
Sincerely, John Engen, Mayor