POLITICS
09/14/2014 12:54 pm ET Updated Sep 15, 2014

Paul Ryan, Chuck Todd Discuss Shared Experience Of Losing Alcoholic Fathers

During a Sunday "Meet the Press" appearance, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) opened up about what it was like to lose his alcoholic father at a young age -- an experience he had in common with host Chuck Todd, whose own alcoholic father died when he was 16.

In his new book The Way Forward: Renewing the America Idea, Ryan discusses his father's alcoholism and death of an apparent heart attack when Ryan was just 15. Todd said the story grabbed him because he'd lost his own father under similar circumstances.

Todd told Ryan that it had taken him a long time to come to terms with his father's alcoholism. Ryan said he was familiar with the period of denial.

"You kind of repress these things," Ryan said. "You want to think in glorious ways, you want to think of all the good things. It took a while for this to bubble up, and then I didn't want to talk about it. None of my siblings and I really talked about this. [But] I discussed this with my mom and my siblings and we basically decided that if this is such a big and impactful part of your life [...] to not discuss it would be to whitewash it."

Todd asked Ryan why he decided to share the experience in his book.

"First of all, it was a big part of a challenge we experienced, like lots of families," Ryan said. "And there's a good story at the end of this, which is, you can overcome these things, you can overcome these scars that occur."

"You grow up faster," said Todd.

"You grow up a lot faster," Ryan agreed.

"I don't know if that's a good thing or not," said Todd, "but you just do."

The Republican congressman said that his well-known commitment to fitness and his habit of abstaining from hard liquor are both outgrowths of his father's alcoholism.

"You can repeat that history" of alcoholism, Ryan said. "You need to make sure it doesn't come and get you as well."

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