Stories Of Recovery: Russell Brand

Posted by Jackson Bentley on Oct 22, 2018 8:00:00 AM
Jackson Bentley
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“The last time I thought about taking heroin was yesterday.”


British-born comedian, actor, and author Russell Brand is not afraid to speak his mind. His numerous television appearances, hosting gigs, and books have solidified his status as an outspoken, vivacious, and eloquent individual in today’s media landscape. Some critics believe that Brand is simply an eccentric and flamboyant narcissist who is obsessed with preaching his gospel of free thought, but when one takes the time to listen to him, you can come away with some very thoughtful and profound takeaways on the subject of addiction.


“The mentality and behavior of drug addicts and alcoholics is wholly irrational until you understand that they are completely powerless over their addiction and unless they have structured help, they have no hope.”


Russell Brand smilingEva Rinaldi creator QS:P170,Q37885816, Russell Brand Arthur faceCC BY-SA 2.0


Brand was born June 4, 1975 in Essex, England. His parents split up at a young age and Brand was raised by his mother primarily. He had a troubled upbringing, being sexually abused by a tutor at a young age and affected by his mother’s contracting of breast cancer.


At 14 he was diagnosed with the condition of bulimia nervosa, a condition where one binges on food and vomits it back up in order not to gain weight. At the age of 16, he struck out from home in the hopes of becoming famous, having being accepted by a theater on scholarship. However, excessive drug use and poor attendance wound up getting Brand kicked out within his first year.


“Addiction is when natural biological imperatives, like the need for food, sex, relaxation or status, become prioritized to the point of destructiveness. It is exacerbated by a culture that understandably exploits this mechanic as it's a damn good way to sell Mars bars and Toyota's.”


He spent the next several years struggling to establish himself as a comedian, actor, and entertainer, bouncing from gig to gig and basking in the party lifestyle. In interviews, Brand has stated that once he started taking drugs, he used them daily for 11 years. Heroin, alcohol, cocaine, pornography, sex…his personal laundry list of addictions covers every vice in the book.


“The mentality and behavior of drug addicts and alcoholics is wholly irrational until you understand that they are completely powerless over their addiction and unless they have structured help, they have no hope.”

 Russell Brand at an event

jessie essex, Russell Brand 2014CC BY 2.0


Brand says that his behavior easily classified him as a full blown junkie. However, his antics, along with his own wit and tasteful elocution, helped Brand quickly rise through the ranks of the entertainment world and eventually he landed a stand-up gig on national television for a British comedy show in 2000.


This appearance got him the kind of attention Brand was craving, and helped earn him a manager and more job opportunities. However, with each increase in success came an equal and opposite reaction of using drugs, alcohol, and promiscuity to battle his own demons. Brand describes eventually having to come to terms with these demons when he entered rehab in 2002.


“I was touched as a child and I felt the warping, like flexed a memory I was waiting to have, like a stone on the path that I knew I would not pass but pause to pick up and carry with me, uneasily in my pocket. Finding ways to incorporate this transgression into my understanding of the world, stitching it into the fabric of my understanding: ‘Mum is ill a lot.’ ‘They say I am bad.’ ‘My dad does not like me.’ ‘I am not safe.’ ‘I don’t like school.’ ‘I don’t belong.’ ‘People don’t like me.’ ‘I made Mummy ill.’ ‘I am bad’. Until chocolate and porn and self-harm seem like sanctuary from the gentle unbearable pain. And as we walk along we collect and collate the familiar, the path appears before our feet as we walk and we move further from home until we are too far away to recall that we ever had a home.”


Brand entered into an abstinence-based rehab program in 2002 after his agent found him taking heroin in the toilet at an office Christmas party. The 12-week rehabilitation program allowed Brand to get clean and finally get real about the severity of his addictions. To sex. To drugs. To alcohol. To fame.


Since getting clean from substances in 2002, Brand has become an outspoken advocate for abstinence-based recovery, the 12-Step program, and to helping people around the world to free themselves from whatever addiction they may have. The road has not been easy and Brand has had to focus on establishing a balance and working his program.


“We don’t choose between having a program and not having a program. We choose between having a conscious program and an unconscious program. When you’re not working a program consciously you’re working an unconscious program – the program of your childhood, the program of your culture, the program of your media. So it’s very important to become awakened.”


Brand has become a large and vocal force in the recovery community, having written six books detailing his own struggles with addiction, the travails of the party lifestyle, and the greater cultural and societal shifts that contribute to addiction in the modern world. Through television, radio, and podcast appearances, Brand presents his ideas and confronts some of the more engrained taboos of culture and media that we seem to take for granted.


Russel Brand at his movie premiere for ArthurBrand has admitted that in lieu of substance use, he turned to sex and fame as means of satisfying his endless appetite. In fact, in 2005 Brand found himself in rehab again, this time for sex addiction. In rehab for sex addiction, Brand once again needed to come to terms with his past behavior, specifically being dishonest and unfaithful to the women in his life, as well as a deep-seated insecurity that drove him to such behavior in the first place.


“Once my career as a comedian and TV presenter started to pick up, I began to have loads of encounters after gigs. As my sexual appetite grew, I found myself engaged in an increasingly desperate quest to satisfy it. I became so open to suggestion that when someone asked me if I'd like to go to an orgy, I didn't think twice before accepting this invitation.”


Brand has also been an ardent supporter of spiritual practices in daily life, particularly Buddhism. Brand has been busy with everything, from talk shows to movies, television hosting gigs, radio, and activism covering everything from religious freedom and politics to being asked hosting Buddhist youth events alongside the Dalai Lama. Brand is also outspoken about the ignorance of policy makers when it comes to governing drugs and addiction. Brand believes in abstinence based recovery above all.

Eva Rinaldi creator QS:P170,Q37885816, Russell Brand Arthur PremierCC BY-SA 2.0


“I want to change the world, and do something valuable and beautiful. I want people to remember me before I'm dead, and then more afterwards.”


For him, there is no difference between alcoholism, drug addiction, food addiction, or sex addiction. It takes staying abstinent one day at a time and learning how to cope with feelings of self-centeredness, self-pity, anger, fear, resentment, and the whole slew of human emotions, in a manner that is healthy. This is also expressed in his views towards the way the government handles incarceration and treatment for drug addicts.


Overall, it starts with offering compassion and understanding, and resolving to address the uncomfortable truths behind addictions. That there are figurative holes that people try to fill, and it takes continual work, love, and support to adequately address them.


In “Russell Brand: From Addiction to Recovery," a one-hour documentary in which Brand explores the world of recovery, he speaks to scientists, specialists, and addicts about a multitude of topics. The program challenges the conventional wisdom behind many addiction treatment and offers a fascinating view of the ways in which we currently handle the drug problem.


“A counselor at the treatment center where I got clean, herself a woman in recovery, surprised me when she said, ‘How clever of you to find drugs. Well done, you found a way to keep yourself alive.’ This made me feel quite tearful. I suppose because this woman, Jackie, didn’t judge me or tell me I was stupid or that ‘drugs kill’. No, she told me that I had done well by finding something that made being me bearable… To be acknowledged as a person who was in pain and fighting to survive in my own muddled-up and misguided way made me feel optimistic and understood. It is an example of the compassion addicts need from one another in order to change.”


At Landmark Recovery, our patients are provided with the tools, resources, and support they need to find clarity in the fight against addiction. We provide residential treatment, outpatient treatment, and medical detox services to individuals struggling with a substance use disorder. If your or someone you love is struggling with an addiction, don’t hesitate to call our admissions team about our drug and alcohol rehab.


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Topics: Stories of Recovery

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