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Sen. Torres Says He Is Alcoholic, Has Finished Treatment Program

November 16, 1989|CARL INGRAM | TIMES STAFF WRITER

SACRAMENTO — State Sen. Art Torres (D-Los Angeles), an influential political leader in the California Latino community, said last month that he is an alcoholic and has completed a 25-day treatment program.

Torres, 43, widely considered one of the brightest and most energetic members of the Legislature, said he realized after his second arrest on a drunk-driving charge that he is suffering from alcoholism.

"I am a recovering alcoholic," Torres said in an interview with the Los Angeles Times. "I thought I could control it by myself, but this is a disease that you can't control by yourself. I wasn't willing to admit that I had a problem."

The East Los Angeles Democrat said that three days after the Legislature adjourned Sept. 15 he enrolled as a day patient in Starting Point in Sacramento. He said he attended therapy sessions for 25 days and returned home at night and on weekends.

Torres said he attends meetings of a self-help group as part of his recovery. He said drinking did not impair his performance as a legislator.

"I know that it didn't affect my performance," Torres said.

Torres, elected to the Assembly in 1974 and to the Senate in 1982, has been considered a rising political star in California and has been mentioned as a potential candidate for governor.

In the Oct. 25 interview in his Capitol office, Torres said he has not yet assessed the political impact of his second drunk-driving arrest.

"I am not a quitter," he said. "I believe that anything can be overcome if you are honest and forthright with people, but at this point I am not really considering a statewide run. I can perceive only one day at a time. Time will tell whether I am a viable candidate down the road anyway."

The lawmaker was arrested for drunk driving in July, 1987, when his car nearly crashed into a Sacramento police vehicle parked with its emergency lights flashing.

He pleaded no contest, paid an $827 fine and was placed on probation for three years. One condition of probation was that he not refuse to take any future chemical tests to determine a blood-alcohol level.

On Sept. 6, Torres was again arrested on a drunk-driving charge. The arresting officer said Torres refused to take a field sobriety examination, "could not perform" a breath test and refused to take any other test.

Torres became the second state legislator in recent months to acknowledge seeking treatment for alcoholism. The first was Sen. Bill Greene (D-Los Angeles), who sought treatment at the end of the summer.

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