Chris Christie's Passionate Plea On Addiction Goes Viral

By Victoria Kim 11/04/15

The presidential contender put aside his usual bluster to speak from the heart on addiction.

Chris Christie
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"It can happen to anyone."

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie had this powerful message for a happy hour audience in Belmont, N.H., with whom he spoke about how addiction has touched his life to drive the point home that it can happen to anybody, and that it's unfair to stigmatize addicts.

He spoke about his mother, a long-time smoker who started her habit as a teen. “By the time 1964 came and the Surgeon General’s report came out and she was in her mid-30s, she knew that smoking was bad for you,” he told the crowd at Shooter's Tavern.

But that wasn’t enough to get her to quit. “She tried everything she could to quit. She had the gum, the patches, hypnosis—she tried everything,” he said.

In her seventies, Christie's mother was diagnosed with lung cancer. At that point, no one found her at fault for her condition, the governor noted.

“No one came to me and said, ‘Hey listen, your mother was dumb. She started smoking when she was 16. Then after we told her it was bad for her, she kept doing it. So we’re not going to give her chemotherapy, we’re not going to give her radiation, we’re not going to give her any of that stuff. You know why? ‘Cause she’s getting what she deserves.’ No one said that,” he said.

"No one said that about someone who had cancer."

But when it comes to other drug addicts, turns out it's another story. "Yet somehow, if it’s heroin or cocaine or alcohol, we say ... they’re getting what they deserved,” said Christie.

It’s not fair to perceive addicts in this light because it can happen to anyone, like one of Christie’s good friends from law school at Seton Hall University. He had everything, Christie recalled. A beautiful wife, three daughters, a great house, great car, and “worse yet,” he was really good looking and "in perfect shape."

One day, he hurt his back while on a routine run. The doctor gave him Percocets. About a year later, Christie received a call from his friend’s wife: “She said, ‘He’s addicted to these painkillers. He won’t listen. I kicked him out of the house … You need to go and get him to rehab.’ So we all went over there, and we had an intervention with him. And it started a 10-year odyssey of him being in and out of rehab.”

During that time, his friend lost everything—his family, his license to practice law, and his home. Eventually, Christie received a long-dreaded call.

“When a year and a half ago on a Sunday morning, we got the call that we’d been dreading forever—that they found him dead in a motel room with an empty bottle of Percocet and an empty quart of vodka. 52 years old.”

“By every measure that we define success in this country, this guy had it. Great looking guy, well-educated, great career, plenty of money, beautiful loving wife, beautiful children, great house—he had everything. He’s a drug addict. And he couldn’t get help. And he’s dead,” said Christie.

It’s a situation that’s far too common, and the governor made it clear that stigmatizing those who are suffering isn’t doing anything to help.

“It can happen to anyone. And so we need to start treating people in this country, not jailing them,” he said. “We need to give them the tools they need to recover. Because every life is precious. Every life is an individual gift from God. And we have to stop judging and start giving them the tools they need to get better.”

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Victoria is interested in anything that has to do with how mind-altering substances impact society. Find Victoria on LinkedIn or Tumblr