WASHINGTON--Mayor Marion Barry, acknowledging that he needs "to heal my body, mind and soul," but declining to mention drug abuse, announced yesterday that he will seek help following his arrest on a cocaine possession charge.
"He has reached the hour of reckoning," said his wife, Effi.
At times blinking back tears, the mayor provided no further details on what kind of assistance he will seek, except to say that social activist and self-described nutritional expert Dick Gregory has been consulting him on how to get help. An aide said Barry's main problem was with alcoholism.
Top advisers to the mayor, speaking on condition of anonymity, said that the mayor is considering checking into the Betty Ford Clinic in Rancho Mirage, Calif., and two unnamed clinics in the Washington area. A decision on where the mayor will be treated is expected by today, the aides said.
Barry's brief statement was the latest chapter in an unfolding drama that has riveted the nation's capital since the mayor was arrested on drug charges last Thursday night.
While the mayor did not say whether he is suffering from drug abuse, others did.
Herbert O. Reid Sr., one of the mayor's closest personal advisors, said he hoped that from Barry's travails "we can all learn something about drug addiction."
"He's doing the right thing," Reid said. "I am--we all are--relieved because many of us have suspected for some time that he has had a problem."
"The most serious problem is alcoholism," Barry spokesperson Lurma Rackley said. "The mayor has acknowledged that he has a health concern, and the details are his private matter."
"For you to admit that you have a problem...that you need to make yourself whole again is truly a burden lifted from our souls," the mayor's wife said in remarks that followed her husband's. "For our family it is just the beginning."
Barry, surrounded by clergy in a broadcast appearance in front of St. Timothy's Episcopal Church near his home, clasped his wife's hand and said he has come "face to face with my deepest human failures."
Barry said, "these ministers have helped me to keep the strength I need...I'm going to find a way to heal my body, mind and soul."
The mayor did not take questions and turned the podium over to his wife following his brief statement. Attention has been focused on Effi Barry in part because the mayor was lured to his arrest by another woman.
Barry, 53, was arrested Thursday evening at a downtown hotel in an FBI sting operation. He now faces a misdemeanor cocaine possession charge after testing positive for cocaine in blood and urine tests administered following his arrest.
Barry had been poised to announce his bid for a fourth term as mayor yesterday but his arrest has thrown local politics into convulsions. Several advisers said Barry had agreed to abandon his bid for re-election, and they added that the possibility of his resigning from office was never discussed in Friday and Saturday strategy sessions.
"The issue never came up, because it is so far out there beyond what we are dealing with now," said one aide who spoke with Barry several times on Saturday. "There is no reason for him to resign, because if he did, he would lose the powers of office, the influence and the ability to generate money for his treatment program and his legal defense."