Although he is facing re-election in six months, Ald. Ricardo Munoz says the upcoming aldermanic campaign had nothing to do with his decision to announce that he is seeking treatment for alcoholism. But when you’re a politician, everything you do is seen as political.
“There is no real good time to find yourself out of control with alcoholism,” Munoz told Ward Room. “There’s some speculation that I did this political reasons, six months before the election. If I did this six months after the election, I’m hiding something. My personal motive for doing this is to talk to my constituents. Part of the reason I did this is to let the neighbors know.”
Was there talk about Munoz’s drinking in Little Village? The Hoy article in which Munoz first confessed his problem said the alderman sought relief from the pressures of political life at a tavern on 26th Street, drinking beer and tequila after work. That routine, combined with beers at block parties and drinks at the social affairs that are part of an alderman’s job, “converted him into an alcoholic,” Hoy wrote.
“It’s no secret that I was a drinker, and I sought help because I found myself losing control to alcoholism,” said Munoz, whose Alcoholics Anonymous sobriety date is in “early May.” “I'm not looking for excuses, but it is a stressful position. There's a lot of jobs that have the socializing and the stress, though.”
Munoz certainly didn’t present the image of an alcoholic. Youthful and fit, he works out at a gym several times a week, is married, has children in college, and, after 17 years as alderman, is a leader in the Latino community. Fear of losing that wonderful life led him to seek treatment.
“That’s what scared the hell out of me,” Munoz said. “I keep drinking, I’m worried about losing my job. I love my job. I love my family.”
Munoz wouldn’t specify how much he was drinking, but said it was “a lot,” and that he was “out of control.”
Since making his confession, Munoz has received encouraging phone calls from other politicians, some of whom have struggled with drinking themselves.
“It’s been heartwarming,” he said.
Munoz has talked about making a run for Congress, possibly against Rep. Dan Lipinski, if they’re drawn into the same district in 2012. His treatment for alcoholism won’t affect his political future, he said.
“At this point, I’m concentrating on the job at hand, which is being alderman, being a father. If a decent exit strategy demonstrates itself, I’m not one to pass that up.”