Andrew Gillum, the former Democratic rising star who was a hopeful for the Florida governorship, opened up for the first time Monday about his experiences battling alcoholism and depression since entering rehab.
In an 11-minute Instagram post, Gillum described the shame he endured after he was found drunk in a Miami Beach hotel room with a man, Travis Dyson, who had been suspected of overdosing on crystal meth. According to local news reports, Dyson worked as a gay porn actor and advertised himself as a male escort.
The March incident led to Gillum withdrawing from public life, shutting down a promising career that led him to a close run for the Florida governorship. He later announced he was entering a rehabilitation facility and starting therapy for depression.
Gillum’s Instagram post focused on his own personal growth since the incident rocked Florida Democratic politics. Gillum expressed remorse for what he did, acknowledging that it was normal to feel “guilty for the harm you have caused someone. That’s how you know you’re human. That’s how you know you’re not a sociopath.”
But Gillum said the public shame of the incident had weighed heavily on him, calling it something “completely different” that “cuts you.”
“My stuff had to be public and cause great embarrassment and rumors, some false, some true, the shame that I felt from all of that … was tearing me up,” Gillum said. “I needed real help to try to unpack that.”
Gillum said his wife, R. Jai Gillum, had been a strong ally as he went through the pressures of public life and dealing with the fallout from the Miami Beach incident. His wife “knows what I am and knows what I am not,” Andrew Gillum said. “She chooses to love me anyhow.”
Gillum also used the post to acknowledge some of the woes that were weighing on the country, from the coronavirus pandemic to the national reckoning on race following the killing of George Floyd in Minnesota. He said feeling the challenges of being a Black man in America had also taken its toll on his mental health, driving him to “look for other ways to take off that pressure.”
Gillum lost the gubernatorial race to Ron DeSantis in 2018 by half a percentage point. Before the race, Gillum had served as mayor of Tallahassee. He had planned to register millions of voters in the lead-up to the 2020 election and was a regular contributor on CNN. POLITICO reported that friends said Gillum started withdrawing from their lives after the incident in the Miami Beach hotel room.