Former Political Star Andrew Gillum Opens Up About Addiction, Rehab After Hotel Incident

The 2018 Florida gubernatorial candidate said his controversy in March, when police say he was found drunk in a hotel room, caused "great embarrassment and lots of rumors"

Andrew Gillum
Andrew Gillum in November 2018. Photo: Steve Cannon/AP/Shutterstock

Andrew Gillum, the former Florida mayor who narrowly lost his 2018 gubernatorial race only to withdraw from the public eye after a public controversy, is now detailing his experience at a rehabilitation facility.

On Monday, Gillum, 40, posted an 11-minute video on Instagram, offering a personal update after announcing in March that he would be stepping back in order to “seek help, guidance and enter a rehabilitation facility.”

The former mayor of Tallahassee — who was the Democratic nominee for governor of Florida in 2018 — was found drunk in a hotel room on March 13 with another man who may have overdosed on drugs, police previously said. Gillum shares three children with his wife, R. Jai.

"I am thankful to so many of you who have wished me well during this especially challenging time," he captioned his video post on Monday. "I wanted to provide a personal update on how I have been doing. Take good care of yourselves during this season and I will see you on the other side. Warmest, Andrew."

In the video message, Gillum said he was "working" on himself in recovery, taking the time to "deal with some issues I was having," including alcoholism. With the support of his loved ones, he said he also began attending therapy to "talk through some of what was going on with me."

"I knew that if I had not dealt first with issues of addiction and the numbing that I chose with alcohol," he said, "there was no way I could start to pull back the layers and talk about what was truly happening underneath."

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Gillum became Florida’s first black gubernatorial nominee but lost his race to Ron DeSantis by about 32,000 votes, or less than half a percentage point. He said in his new video address that that narrow loss greatly affected him and that he compartmentalized the "personal failure."

"I had totally underestimated the impact that losing the race for governor had had on my life and on the way those impacts started to show up in every aspect of my life," he said.

According to a police report obtained by The Miami New Times in March, Miami Beach officers arrived to the Mondrian South Beach hotel on a Friday night that month and found Gillum in a room with Travis Dyson, who was being treated by emergency responders for a “possible drug overdose.” The police report stated that officers found three bags of what they suspected to be crystal meth on the bed and on the floor of the room.

Authorities told PEOPLE then that the incident was not being treated as a criminal matter and Gillum was not charged with any crime; he quickly denied ever using meth.

Gillum, on Monday, said the public airing of the incident "caused great embarrassment and lots of rumors — some false, some true." He said the "shame" he felt was "tearing me up." He said, "I needed real help to try to unpack that."

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Gillum also thanked his wife for her support, mentioning that she is "a woman who knows everything that I am and everything that I am not." He called R. Jai "literally God's grace on earth — the epitome of grace."

"I can't thank her enough for not just standing by me, but encouraging me through this and helping to prop me up on my leaning sides," he said, adding that she believes that the "best is yet to come" for their family.

Gillum was first elected to the Tallahassee city commissioner’s office at 23, in 2003, and later served four years as the city’s mayor. His near loss in the 2018 gubernatorial election was the closest any Democrat has come in 20 years to beating a Republican in the state’s race for governor.

If you or someone you know is struggling with addiction, please contact the SAMHSA substance abuse helpline at 1-800-662-HELP.

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