I felt positively touched this week by a politician with whom I completely disagreed, until he spoke about addiction. A popular Huffington Post video on Facebook of Chris Christie showed him telling stories about 1) his mother’s addiction to nicotine and eventual lung cancer and 2) a law school buddy’s addiction to drugs and ten-year slide from having it all to losing everything, including his life. Christie noted how differently we treat addicts from cancer patients. We do not say to cancer patients, “Don’t treat them because they are getting what they deserve.” However, that IS what we say to incarcerated people addicted to heroin, alcohol and cocaine. He made the case that every life is precious. Every life is a gift from God. We need to stop judging and get addicts into treatment, instead of jail, and give them the tools they need to get better.
I would say that once addicts/alcoholics have gotten into treatment, they also need to make restitution for their crimes, if they have committed any. Twelve step recovery programs require taking responsibility for one’s individual actions in the past and making amends. So, recovering people often have a debt to pay financially or a debt to society. This may require public service or some form of restitution rather than jail, and it is consistent with recovery work itself. Doing such esteem-able work builds self-esteem.
So, Chris Christie, Governor of New Jersey, “gets it” about addiction. He surprised me. We have some common ground to discuss in the unlikely event that we bump into each other.
May we encounter other people with open minds and hearts, ready to be surprised by what we see and feel. May we also be informed by the wisdom of our life experience and reflection upon it.