‘Sun-Times’ Columnist Describes Arrest, Battle with the Bottle

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Neil Steinberg, a leading Chicago columnist, on Monday described in the Sun-Times his battle with alcoholism that led to his recent arrest for domestic battery, writing that so far he is winning the fight to stay sober.

A Cook County judge last week dropped domestic battery charges against him after prosecutors said he had complied with a court order to attend an alcohol treatment program.

Writing in Monday editions of the Sun-Times, the 45-year-old recounted how he slapped his wife, Edie, in September at their Northbrook home during an argument, and while he was drunk.

“She called the cops, they came, clapped me into handcuffs and hauled me off to jail,” he wrote. “When I asked her later why she had to have me arrested, she said, ‘Nobody hits me, buddy.'”

He spent 14 hours in a Northbrook jail. When a judge said he could either enter a rehab program inside Cook County Jail or somewhere else outside, “I eagerly opted for the latter,” he wrote.

Steinberg, who returned to work Monday after two months of medical leave, wrote that he understood his struggle with alcoholism would be a grueling one.

“The relapse rate — those who go back to drinking — is something like 90 percent and often it seems the giddiest optimism to suggest that I won’t be among them,” he wrote. “But so far, so good.”

At the Nov. 23 court hearing, Steinberg’s wife testified that she wanted the case and an order of protection against her husband dropped, saying she no longer feared for her safety.

Steinberg wrote in the Sun-Times that his relationship with his wife of 23 years is on the mend.

“I could fill this space with apologies, but that’s our business and not yours,” he wrote. “Not everything belongs in the newspaper.”

In a telephone interview, Steinberg said it was his decision to write Monday’s column and not a demand of the Sun-Times.

He also said he hoped the matter was behind him.

“I certainly don’t plan to get myself in jail again,” he said. “I will do everything I can not to betray the support of the paper.”

Steinberg said the Sun-Times dropped him in recent weeks from the newspaper’s editorial board, where he had served for four years. But he said he did not consider the move a disciplinary action in response to his arrest.

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