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Is Chris Christie an Addict?

Here's why you might want to view the governor as more than just another deceiving and ruthless politician.

Photo Credit: By Bob Jagendorf from Manalapan, NJ, USA (NJ Governor Chris Christie) [CC-BY-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons


This article  first appeared in The Fix, which features coverage on addiction and recovery, straight up. 

This, at least, is obvious:Chris Christie has had better weeks. His reputation as a tough, straight-talking, no-nonsense politician is at risk of being replaced by one of hubris and arrogance. The most dogmatic of voters will surely pick one side or the other depending on their political leanings. But this is the moment where he loses some of the middle. 

And what a reversal! He’d actually done a remarkable job of luring more than a few Democrats to his side, especially in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy. To that group, he’d managed to tap a nostalgic sense of America - the one before we traded common sense and direct communication for party-line fanaticism, political correctness, and chai-tea lattes. What’s emerging in its place is the cliché image of the fat boorish American - both unyielding and inclined to pick fights with weaker opponents. 

The truth, of course, is somewhere in between. Like most of us, Christie is more complicated than political oversimplifications would have you believe. But now that we’re talking about him non-stop, isn’t it time to talk about the elephant in the room? And by that I mean the fact that he is almost surely an addict.

Addiction is truly an individual phenomenon. There are standard diagnostic criteria used by treatment centers and insurance companies, but if we can be honest here for a moment, many of us find the manifestation of addictive behaviors getting the better of us more often than we’d like to admit, and in situations that often have nothing to do with our favorite forms of intoxication. And to me, this is quite clearly what’s happened to Chris Christie.

Lets start with the obvious: His apparent-to-the-naked eye eating disorder. While he may try to make light of his gluttony by devouring donuts on Letterman, the truth is that he’s got a problem with food that’s threatening not only his health, but also his life. In 2013, Dr. Connie Mariano commented that Christie was vulnerable to stroke, heart attack or diabetes and that his health was a legitimate voter concern should he actually make a 2016 run at the White House. What did Christie do in response? He lashed out at the good doctor, saying, “She should shut up!”

The remark will sound familiar to anyone who has pleaded with an alcoholic to cut down on his or her self-destructive behavior. Chris Christie suffers from an eating disorder. And just as it is with so many alcoholics and addicts, Christie himself knows the risks but thinks the consequences are not his problem. Even after bariatric surgery, Christie’s weight loss - if he’s had any at all - has been slow, suggesting that the governor is thinking of the surgery not as a way to get a running start at tackling the problem but as the entire effort he had to make toward a solution. He wants to be a limited participant in his own recovery. And that never works.

Spend enough time in AA meetings and you’ll eventually hear that, “It’s not just the drinking, it’s the thinking.” While AA can be aggravating in its overuse of pat slogans - for some reason, many of them come with the added aggravation of rhyme - there is wisdom in this one. Addictive behaviors manifest themselves in maladaptive thought processes and behaviors that end up making life difficult for the alcoholic and even more so for the people around them. They won’t do it again, they promise. But they usually do.

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