Sen. Flanagan Admits Seeking Help for Alcohol Abuse

John Flanagan
New York State Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan.

New York State Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan (R-East Northport), the highest ranking Republican elected official in the state, admitted to recently seeking treatment after work-related stress led him to alcohol abuse.

The lawmaker made the announcement in a statement issued Sunday, more than a month after the state legislative session ended in June and six months before it resumes in January. The statement indicated that he would continue in his role as the powerful state Senate leader next year, when state legislators are up for re-election to their next two-year terms.

“I recognized that alcohol was becoming a crutch to deal with pressure I was under related to my responsibilities as Majority Leader of the New York State Senate,” he said. “Therefore, I proactively took control of the situation and sought immediate help so I could overcome it and move forward.”

The 56-year-old married father of three is one of the so-called three men in a room—the other two being Gov. Andrew Cuomo and state Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie (D-Bronx)—that hold the most sway over the state’s legislative agenda and budget.

Flanagan ascended to leadership after his predecessor, former state Senate Majority Leader Dean Sklelos (R-Rockville Centre), ceded control in 2015 following Skelos’ arrest on federal corruption charges. Skelos, who was expelled from office upon his conviction, is appealing.

News of Flanagan seeking treatment sparked a slew of well wishes from his colleagues in the state’s capital in Albany.

“Alcoholism is a disease,” Cuomo tweeted. “[Flanagan] deserves our respect & support for seeking help & for talking about it as an example for others.”

State Sen. Phil Boyle (R-Bay Shore), also applauded the announcement.

“I want to commend my long-time friend and colleague, @LeaderFlanagan, for publicly acknowledging a problem he was facing,” Boyle tweeted. “The bravery and honesty John has shown demonstrates why he is, and will continue to be, a great #NYSenate Majority Leader.”

In a four-paragraph statement, Flanagan said he sought for “myself and for my family” and “to ensure this dependency would not affect my ability to do my job or represent my constituents.”

He suggested that others who are dependent on alcohol follow his lead.

“I would hope my actions serve as a reminder to all those who find that alcohol has become a means to confront personal or professional stress,” he said. “It never has been and never will be. If you find yourself becoming dependent you not only have a responsibility to your family and colleagues to recognize it, but to proactively engage the programs that are in place that will help you.

“No one is immune,” he concluded. “Seek help and regain your personal pathway through life.”

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