I’m not a big fan of Chris Christie, but without getting into his politics, I was really impressed with a talk he gave last week about addiction and the need for empathy for people struggling with addiction issues (are you listening “Christian” Ben Carson?)
From a Rolling Stone article:
The Republican presidential candidate first spoke about his mother, who took up smoking as a teenager and tried to quit multiple times before she was diagnosed with lung cancer at 71, and then about a close friend whose life was destroyed by a painkiller addiction.
“No one came to me and said, ‘Hey listen, your mother was dumb. She started smoking when she was 16, and even 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? Because she’s getting what she deserves,'” Christie told voters. “No one said that. Yet somehow if it’s heroin or cocaine or alcohol, well, we say ‘they decided, they get what they deserve’.”
I like Christie’s point. People pass judgement on someone struggling with meth or heroin? How is that person different from people struggling with nicotine? Someone who keeps lighting up even though they’re waking up with a smoker’s hack each morning, who keeps lighting up, knowing full well they could give themselves lung cancer. Because they can’t stop? It’s not that they’re stupid or don’t care or are lazy, it’s because they … physically … cannot … stop.
I will disagree slightly with one thing Christie says here, though I get his point. Yes, actually some people do pass judgement on people who get cancer from smoking. Data has shown that funding for lung cancer research falls short of other cancers (even though lung cancer is the No. 1 most deadly cancer), because there is this mentality lurking out there, often unsaid, but lurking nonetheless beneath the surface — those people who get lung cancer asked for it. So, while Christie said no one said this to his mother, the attitude is out there, hiding.
This empathy is something important to consider. I’ve watched loved ones in my own life and family destroy their lives with smoking. I have other family members who have struggled mightily to quit smoking. I don’t pass judgement on them. I’ve been accused of passing judgement, usually by people who I feel don’t really pay close attention to what I’m saying or trying to say.
I also get that a lot of smokers feel defensive and feel that people are judging them. I’ve really run into that online, where smokers automatically assume I’m down on smokers. I’ve found myself more than once put on the defensive trying to explain to smokers, “I’m not down on smokers, honest! This isn’t about smokers. This is about an outright evil industry that hooked you on this stuff.”
Anyway, it was a surprisingly human moment coming from a guy who has a reputation for being a prick and a bully. I prefer Christie’s human and grounded opinion of addiction to someone like Carson, a doctor for Pete’s sake, who recently said that addiction is somehow caused by moral failings. No, moral failings are not what makes nicotine addictive, Ben.