Gov. Christie understands something essential about the nature of the beast that is addiction.
"It's an issue I'm incredibly passionate about," Christie told host Eric Scott at the start of Monday evening's 'Ask the Governor' call-in show on NJ 101.5 FM.
When Scott asked the governor about Monday's reports he would be offered the unpaid, part-time post later this week, Christie said, "we'll see," and added that he did not want to pre-empt a presidential announcement.
"Helping families and young people, and old people [with addiction issues]...that's what we should do," the governor declared.
Like I said: Christie gets it.
He understands that this epidemic has not arisen from moral deficiencies among its victims (who include, let’s remember, the loved ones of those afflicted).
The governor knows that people who are hooked deserve treatment as much as any other group of Americans, including people suffering from what often are behavior-related diseases, such as diabetes or lung cancer.
His $35.5 billion state spending plan, while lacking in certainty about where $127 million for expanded treatment will come from, persuasively presents the state’s battle against addiction as a mobilization in the face of a public health crisis. Which the opiod abuse epidemic most certainly is.
But Christie also understands that addiction to substances, including that wildly popular liquid drug called alcohol, is a malady far too complicated, deeply rooted, and destructive to be mitigated, much less eliminated, by law enforcement or medicine alone.
Long before he ran for a second term, or for president, and long before he faced a year of lame-duck-hood in Trenton, Christie regularly used his bully pulpit to humanize addiction, which is sometimes regarded as the self-inflicted misfortune of undesirables.
He has often spoken of friends and colleagues who have struggled with the disease, and has showcased successes such as that of recovering addict AJ Solomon, who recently dedicated a treatment center in Laurel Springs.
The governor shares these redemption stories because he knows that addicts and alcoholics are sometimes dismissed as weak, or worse -- and not only by conservatives.
Regardless of our political views, those of us blessed with recovery have learned the hard way that overcoming addiction requires every bit of strength we never thought we had, and more.
So when it comes to the opioid crisis, I’m glad to have a tough guy, a former prosecutor, and a Republican like Christie as an ally in Trenton.
I welcome the Trump administration’s apparent willingness to provide the governor a national platform.
Like George W. Bush, who as president occasionally referenced a personal struggle with alcohol as a younger man -- but did not label himself as a recovering alcoholic -- Christie, too speaks with authority.
The governor has battled obesity for decades; whether he would ever consider or describe himself as addicted to food matters far less than the fact that he clearly knows the beast all too well.
So as commander-in-chief of America’s campaign against the opiod threat, Christie would draw upon the sort of profound personal experience that can have a powerful, and persuasive, effect.
He also will need to deploy every political chop he’s got to convince the Trump administration to spend more for treatment and prevention programs. And to convince the president himself to participate in the anti-addiction campaign.
Look, I don’t expect Chris Christie or anyone else to say something that alone convinces an addict to get clean.
But I do believe the heartfelt words of a leader -- particularly, one who has met the enemy -- matter.
Christie may end up helping me continue to stay sober, one day at a time.
In a way, he already has.