In his latest book, Recovery: Freedom from Our Addictions, comedian-activist-author-ex-junkie Russell Brand talks about addiction and recovery as only he can. Using his unique perspective from both ends – from 12 drug-related arrests to 14 years-and-counting of sobriety – as well as his inimitable verbal style, Brand tells a story that is somehow both unflinchingly personal and instantly relatable to addicts and alcoholics everywhere.
A Different Kind of Celebrity Tell-All
“This manual for self-realization comes not from a mountain but from the mud…My qualification is not that I am better than you but I am worse.” ~ Russell Brand This is not a by-the-numbers celebrity autobiography or impersonal, ghostwritten self-help book. Instead, this is from a man who has been there and done that, battled his own demons and lived to tell about it, and who now wants to fearlessly use whatever wisdom he has gained along the way to help others.
An All-Too-Familiar Tale of Trauma After Trauma
“Drugs and alcohol are not my problem. Reality is my problem, and drugs and alcohol are my solution.” ~ RB When you look at some at Brand’s self-described “unhappy childhood”, a number of traumatic experiences stand out:
- His parents divorced when he was 6 months old.
- A tutor sexually molested him when he was 7 years old.
- His mother was diagnosed with cancer when he was 8 years old.
- His mother’s illness meant he was sent to live with relatives.
- At 14, he developed an eating disorder – bulimia nervosa.
- When he was 16, conflict with his still-ill mother’s partner led him to leave home.
Already an aspiring performer, he had been accepted on scholarship at a theater arts school. But with his new-found “freedom”, Brand soon got into drugs – marijuana, LSD, amphetamines, and ecstasy. His illegal drug use and spotty attendance led to his expulsion after his first year. How does this early part of his story resonate with so many other substance abusers? According to the National Child Traumatic Stress Network, 1 in 4 children in America experience one or more Adverse Childhood Events before reaching adulthood. Unresolved trauma later pushes many teens—just like young Russell Brand—into experimenting with alcohol and drugs. Of special relevance, research shows us that for each ACE suffered or witnessed, the likelihood of initiating drug or alcohol abuse is multiplied between 2 and 4 times. Tellingly, a child experiencing 5 or more ACEs has a substance abuse risk that is up to 10 times higher than a child experiencing zero. Just counting the above events, young Russell Brand experienced SIX ACEs.
Full-Blown Addiction as a Young Man
“I cannot accurately convey to you the efficiency of heroin in neutralizing pain. It transforms a tight, white fist into a gentle, brown wave. From my first inhalation 15 years ago, it fumigated my private hell and lay me down in its hazy pastures, and a bathroom floor in Hackney embraced me like a womb.” ~ RB For the next several years, Brand worked at establishing himself in the entertainment industry.