Ben Jones: Hit rock bottom before things got better

June 12, 2008 11:36:30 AM PDT
Ben Jones figures he drank 43,000 beers, 2,000 jugs of whiskey, wine, gin and vodka, and smoked pounds of pot in the 20 years he was out of control.

"I'd wake up in jails just wondering how I got there. Vomit on my shoes and blood on my shirt," the 66-year-old actor told AP Radio in a recent interview.

Jones had to hit rock bottom before things could get better. That happened on Sept. 26, 1977. "I really was literally dying and I knew it," he said. "I was in this free-fall, five-week drunk and I felt indescribable terror."

With the help of a friend, he quit drinking cold turkey.

"A year later," he said, "I walked into an audition and was cast in what was to become one of the greatest television shows in the history of entertainment." That was "The Dukes of Hazzard." Jones would play the wisecracking mechanic Cooter on the popular TV series from 1979 to 1985.

In 1988, Jones was elected to Congress as a Democrat. Considering what he'd gone through, it was an emotional moment being sworn in.

"That all seemed dreamlike to me," he said. "That's when it hit me, what a blessing I had been given and I just started crying."

Jones lost his bid for a third term in 1992 after Georgia's districts were redrawn.

He's written about his ups and downs in his autobiography, "Redneck Boy in the Promised Land" (Harmony).

"My life is not a story about falling down," he said, "it's a story about getting up. I think people could relate to that and they could relate to alcoholism and all that behavior that goes with it because it's a common disease."