Those were the first words uttered by U.S. Rep. Trey Radel as he addressed the media late Wednesday night concerning his arrest and subsequent guilty plea Wednesday on a cocaine possession charge in Washington D.C.
It was a contrite, somber Radel who stepped up to the podium during the 10-minute press conference at his Cape Coral office and accepted full responsibility for his actions.
"I have no excuse for what I've done. I have let down our country, our constituents, I let down my family," Radel said with emotion. "I let down my wife, and even if he doesn't know it, my 2-year-old son."
Radel said he is getting the help he needs and will continue to do so, "To be a better man for Southwest Florida and for my family."
Radel said he would take a leave of absence, during which he would donate his salary to charity. He said his staff would stay in Washington and locally and continue to serve the people in his district. He did not say when or how long the leave would take.
In the meantime, Radel said he would go into intensive inpatient treatment and has already begun that process.
"I believe in forgiveness and redemption, and I believe if anything positive comes out of this, it's that I hope I can be a role model for the millions who are struggling with this disease," Radel said. "I ask for your prayers not of me, but of my family."
Radel welled up when talking about growing up in the public eye as a businessman, reporter, talk radio host and politician, and following the painful death of his mother and the support he got from supporters.
"That has stuck with me, and I hope Southwest Florida can forgive me for this. I have let them down, but I believe in faith, forgiveness and redemption," Radel said. "I hope to come out of this a stronger man, a better man, for all of you."
Radel was targeted in a Washington, D.C., by a police covert operation last month after sources told law enforcement officers that the representative had purchased cocaine on several occasions.
The misdemeanor carries a maximum of 180 days in prison and/or a $1,000 fine, according to the U.S. attorney's office. He pleaded guilty Wednesday and received one year of supervised probation.
Radel admitted he has had drug issues for years, particularly alcohol. Radel said he grew up with a mother who suffered from alcoholism and did not want his son to go through that.
Radel said he wanted nothing more than to hug his wife and "little guy," for whom she was at home caring.
"My wife is my rock, and she has been so supportive. I told her what happened and she said I married you to be with you through good times and bad," Radel said. "I have trust to rebuild and to mend the heart I've broken."