"I wasn't a knee-walkin' drunk," the former president tells Matt Lauer in an interview previewing his new memoir, Decision Points. "I could easily have a beer or two, or a martini, before dinner, bourbons, B&Bs. I was a drinker."
Of his relationship with alcohol, Bush says, "It became a love and, therefore, began to compete for my love with my wife and my daughters."
It also got him in trouble with his parents.
Bush recounts for the special Matt Lauer Reports, airing Monday, Nov. 8 at 8 p.m. ET, what he calls one of the worst examples in which alcohol combined with his "wise-ass" personality.
"So I'm drunk at the dinner table at Mother and Dad's house in Maine. And my brothers and sister are there, Laura's there. And I'm sitting next to a beautiful woman, friend of Mother and Dad's," says Bush. "And I said to her out loud, 'What is sex like after 50?' "
After that, one could hear a pin drop. It was "total silence," says Bush. "And not only silence, but like serious daggers" from my mom and my wife.
He says that, with a case of "after-dinner remorses," he later called the woman to apologize. But she got the last laugh. Bush says that on his 50th birthday, when he was Texas governor, the woman sent him a letter reading: "Dear Governor, Well, what's the answer?"
He never answers that particular question but does tell Lauer that he quit drinking cold turkey the day after his 40th birthday in 1986 and never once fell off the wagon – not even a sip of wine with communion in church.
"I hope somebody reads this book and says, 'If Bush can quit, I can quit,' " he adds.