Opinion | I’m 26 years sober. I see Republicans’ attacks on Hunter Biden’s sobriety as a warning.


The prosecution rested Friday in the Hunter Biden trial, in which he faces three federal charges tied to the possession of a gun while using narcotics. The felony gun charges stem from allegations that Biden lied on a firearm purchase form about his sobriety. He has pleaded not guilty in a trial that is the culmination of years of investigations into the president’s youngest son led by a number of pro-Donald Trump Republicans.

During the trial, the prosecution presented the jury with audio from Biden’s memoir “Beautiful Things,” in which he discusses his struggle with addiction, as proof that Biden was not sober at the time he purchased the gun. The prosecution also presented this text message exchange between Biden and his then-girlfriend Zoe Kestan: “I can be sober, but I’ll always be an addict. And the addict is as much me as the me you love to hate.”

To someone who isn’t overly familiar with addiction, this might seem like something nefarious, like some kind of admission on Biden’s part. But anyone who has experience with addiction knows it’s not as straightforward as that.

I’m 26 years sober in the program Alcoholics Anonymous, and we are taught to think of our sobriety as a day-at-a-time thing. We are taught the fundamental belief that despite our sobriety we will always be, at our core, addicts. We will never be cured of our addiction. I am granted a daily reprieve from the disease of alcoholism, one day at a time. I took my first drink at 3 and my last (I hope) at 19. The personal details of addiction vary; Biden’s struggle with addiction is very typical. I have never had a legal drink (since I was too young to do so legally). Many alcoholics struggle to get sober, and some people need to go back and forth before they get “it.” A lot of them eventually do.

This is not an attempt to prove innocence or guilt stemming from Biden’s actions; but the basis and nature of the prosecution’s argument is problematic, because Biden talking about his “bloodhound” instinct when it came to seeking out crack, his drug of choice, shows that he’s sick with the disease of addiction — not that he is guilty or his actions nefarious. I hope the jury will be able to keep this in mind while it deliberates over Biden’s fate in the coming days or weeks.

Biden and I are not alone in being addicts. Roughly 16% of Americans (but likely more) struggle with alcohol and drug addiction. That’s about 48 million people.

Fox News’ “The Five” co-host Jeanine Pirro reportedly complained about “eight jurors who have someone in their family who’s had a drug or alcohol addiction problem or someone who died from alcohol or addiction. So they picked a jury who is sympathetic.” The Washington Post’s Aaron Blake pointed out that “8 of 12 jurors = 66%. That’s exactly in line with the population.”

And herein lies the problem with the ongoing Republican attack on Biden: Seating jurors who have experiences with addiction to various degrees does not make a jury “sympathetic.” It makes it informed. Addiction is a disease. People who struggle with addiction are sick, not bad. Huge swaths of the country are affected by alcohol and drug addiction that affects not just them, but their family members and people who are even tangentially connected to them — the parents, grandparents and kids and brothers and sisters and acquaintances of the addict. Alcoholism and drug addiction are a disease with a long tail, a disease that ripples through our society in myriad ways.

Also on Fox News, host Jesse Watters implied that President Joe Biden was a bad parent and that he, as a father, was to blame for Hunter Biden’s substance abuse problems. Shaming addicts and their families has long been a trope. But as we’ve learned more about substance abuse, we now know that the genetic predisposition can be hard or even impossible to fight. I for one truly believe I was born an alcoholic. My mother was an alcoholic. My grandmother was an alcoholic. My body just processed alcohol differently than my peers’ did. Some nights I could have 10 or 15 drinks and appear totally sober; some nights a drink or two would send me into an epic blackout and I would lose hours of the night.

Watters issued another bold statement: “The Trump kids don’t do drugs, they don’t even smoke cigarettes. They’re a part of the family company, they have beautiful families.” Which may or may not be true — but we do know that Trump’s niece Mary Trump has written about her father losing his battle with alcoholism. This would mean that both the Biden family and the Trump family have some level of a genetic predisposition to alcoholism, just like my family and so many others’.

Republicans going after Hunter Biden for his addiction in this way is a dangerous game. More people than you think are affected by alcoholism and addiction, and shaming the family of the addict is neither productive nor grounded in any basis of efficacy.

For years, Republicans have used pictures of Hunter Biden strung out on crack cocaine as some kind of indictment of his father. But when I see those pictures, I see a warning.

I’m sober 26 years, but I have the same illness of addiction that Hunter Biden does. Being sober doesn’t make me a better person than people who are active in their addiction. It just makes me luckier than they are.

This article was originally published on MSNBC.com





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