The usual presidential campaign rhetoric has been repeatedly punctured this time around with personal drug addiction stories. Prompt by questions from both the media and voters about America’s drug problem and how they plan to address it if they are elected president, candidates have had no option but to face this issue head on. While everyone in this country has been impacted, whether directly or indirectly by the substance addiction crisis; the personal experiences of presidential hopefuls Ted Cruz, Chris Christie, Jeb Bush and Donald Trump have been the most emotionally moving.
In an emotionally charged recounting of his half-sister’s struggle and untimely death due to drug addiction, Cruz laid out the stark realities of drug abuse as well as the potential for transformation. In the Emmanuel Baptist church, Cruz described his half-sister Miriam’s journey into addiction that he suggested correlated to her parent’s divorce that fueled anger and the inability to forgive. These unresolved emotions, Cruz intimated, led her into a drug and alcohol lifestyle that also included stealing to support her habit.
After becoming a single mother, Miriam’s problems took on a more sinister turn when she became addicted to pain pills and crack cocaine that landed her in prison on more than one occasion. Cruz called his half-sister’s story “the human Journey” that is fraught with peril and a tragedy that is being played out all across America today. Although he said he tried his best to help Miriam by reasoning with her in a crack house and eventually taking a $20,000 cash-on-advance loan to send her son to military school; he was unable to save her. At 49 years of age Miriam died of a drug overdose.
Cruz also told the story of parents who drank too much and his father transformative experience with Christianity that helped him to turn from an alcoholic lifestyle. Cruz attributes his father 40 years of sobriety and his escape from being raised by a single mother to his father’s religious experience and the support of charities and churches.
To combat the drug problem, Cruz wants to secure the border between the United States and Mexico in order to crack down on drug trafficking.
Chris Christie is keenly aware that addiction has no favorites. According to Christie, his close touch with the destructive forces of addiction came via his close friend from law school who despite having everything could not resist the pull of addiction. Slowly, he unveiled his law school colleague’s struggle with addiction to alcohol and prescription pain pills. Sadly, according to Christie, drugs and alcohol derailed what could have been a long and productive life. His friend died as a result of drugs and alcohol at the early age of 52.
In an appeal to improve services to help people in addiction reclaim their lives, Christie stated that people battling addiction are often driven into isolation and shame from those with the ability to help them. Putting action behind his words the Governor signed an Executive Order to create the “Facing Addiction Task Force” that will be comprised of twelve members who are leaders and experts in the addiction treatment and prevention arena. Christie explained that the goal of the task force is to develop a comprehensive multi-faceted approach to destigmatize, prevent and treat addiction.
Addiction has also hit close to home for presidential hopeful Jeb Bush. His daughter Noelle’s widely publicized struggle with addiction has had a tremendous impact on family life and her father’s political career. Bush’s personal experience includes coming to grips with his daughter’s arrest for falsifying a prescription and later bringing crack cocaine into a drug rehab center. In his own words, he describes his daughter’s drug addiction as being tough but one that has enabled him to look into the eyes of other going through the same thing and understand what they are going through because he has been there.
Forerunner in the presidential race, Donald Trump’s life was also struck by a drug addiction tragedy. He speaks candidly about his brother Fred Trump Jr’s struggle with alcohol and his untimely death as a result of alcoholism at age 43. According to Trump, this experience had such a “profound” effect on him that he does not smoke, drink or use drugs of any kind. Trump described his brother as a “great guy and a handsome person” who got hooked on alcohol. According to Trump, he understood the challenges that his brother faced and recognized that it was a difficult struggle.
Trump suggests a blanket approach to address the drug epidemic by promising to create borders to stop the flow of drugs into the country. Trump told voters he would build a wall and work with those already in addiction to make them better.
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