De Blasio’s Daughter Reveals Substance Abuse
Days before her father’s inauguration, the 19-year-old daughter of Mayor-elect Bill de Blasio disclosed a history of drug and alcohol abuse .
Chiara de Blasio spoke in candid terms about a battle with depression throughout her adolescence that led to drinking and drug use, habits that worsened when she was attending college in California last year.
“It didn’t start out as like a huge thing for me, but then it became a really huge thing for me,” Ms. de Blasio said in the five-minute video, in which she sat alone on screen, accompanied by soft piano music.
The de Blasio team framed the video as an effort to help those who might be suffering from similar issues during the holiday season. But the timing and nature of its release suggested that the mayor-elect and his family were intent on describing Ms. de Blasio’s substance abuse, long a subject of speculation in the New York political world, on their own terms.
Mr. de Blasio, unlike many office seekers, propelled his beaming, charismatic children to the forefront of television advertisements and public speeches. Still, for months, Mr. de Blasio’s aides declined to respond to repeated inquiries from journalists about his daughter’s drug use.
In a brief and solemn appearance on Tuesday outside their rowhouse in Park Slope, Brooklyn, Mr. de Blasio, surrounded by his family, said he was deeply proud of his daughter’s willingness to speak out about her experience, which included group therapy at an outpatient treatment center in New York City.
“If you look at this video, it speaks to a whole set of challenges that we face in our society,” the mayor-elect said. “She speaks to it with incredible courage and clarity and, you know, with a voice that really suggests an incredible wisdom for someone who’s only 19 years old.”
“I hope that everybody watches the video,” she said. “I think it speaks for itself.”
Ms. de Blasio had wanted to speak out about her substance abuse during the mayoral campaign, but her parents were concerned about how that might affect her recovery, according to an individual familiar with the discussions who requested anonymity to speak frankly about private conversations. Such a disclosure may also have been a political distraction, even as Mr. de Blasio, a Democrat, enjoyed a 50-point lead over his Republican opponent, Joseph J. Lhota.
speaks in typical teenage cadences about the stresses that led to her drinking and drug use, and describes her effort to become sober as “the hardest thing I’ve ever done.”
She described a sense of “physical insecurity” after leaving her parents’ home in Brooklyn for Santa Clara University in 2012, where, she said, she grew dependent on marijuana and alcohol.
“It made it easier, the more I drank and did drugs, to share some common ground with people that I wouldn’t have,” Ms. de Blasio said.
Her parents, Ms. de Blasio said, were “very emotionally committed” to her recovery, even as she acknowledged the demands of the high-profile political work of her father, who formally announced his mayoral bid midway through his daughter’s freshman year in college.
“My mom was trying really hard to help me, just like, any little thing she could,” she said. “My dad was doing the same, but obviously he was really busy.”
Such is the celebrity of Mr. de Blasio’s children that Ms. de Blasio’s announcement on Tuesday was met with a statement from the director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy at the White House, who praised her “tremendous bravery in speaking out about her recovery.”
Patrick Gaspard, a close friend and political adviser to Mr. de Blasio, said in an interview that the mayor-elect — whose father was an alcoholic who battled depression — considered his family his first priority.
“Bill has always been very, very clear that the interests of Dante and Chiara supersede anything else,” said Mr. Gaspard, who is also the United States ambassador to South Africa.
Mr. Gaspard said that Mr. de Blasio’s ability to deal with a difficult private matter, while maintaining a high-pressure job, is “the kind of balance that any family has to confront. It just so happens that Bill was running for mayor.”
Mr. de Blasio’s mayoral bid was punctuated by all manner of intimate revelations, and he and his staff, at times, appeared caught off guard by the personal nature of the coverage.
At the start of Mr. de Blasio’s campaign, his wife, Chirlane McCray, was asked about reports that she once identified as a lesbian. When a newspaper was poised to report that Mr. de Blasio’s father had committed suicide when the mayor-elect was 18, Mr. de Blasio had to broach the issue for the first time with his teenage son, Dante.
But the deeply personal nature of Mr. de Blasio’s campaign struck a chord with a wide swath of New Yorkers, who were accustomed to the impersonal and intensely private departing mayor, Michael R. Bloomberg.
Hank Sheinkopf, a political consultant, said the city had elected a family when it chose Mr. de Blasio in November, and that New Yorkers should expect his wife and children to continue to play a prominent role.
“Now, every one of those members of that family is part of our lives, and will continue to be for as long as Bill de Blasio is in office,” Mr. Sheinkopf said. “They will be part of our daily New York drama, whether they like it or not, and whether we like it or not.”
Reporting was contributed by Michael Barbaro, Matt Flegenheimer, N. R. Kleinfield and Eli Rosenberg.
A version of this article appears in print on December 25, 2013, on page A22 of the New York edition with the headline: De Blasio’s Daughter Reveals Substance Abuse.