Russell Brand: “Drugs and alcohol are not my problem — reality is my problem”

Russell Brand explains his love affair with drugs at The Spectator:

The last time I thought about taking heroin was yesterday. I had received ‘an inconvenient truth’ from a beautiful woman. It wasn’t about climate change (I’m not that ecologically switched on). She told me she was pregnant and it wasn’t mine.
I had to take immediate action. I put Morrissey on in my car and as I wound my way through the neurotic Hollywood hills my misery burgeoned. Soon I could no longer see where I ended and the pain began. So now I had a choice.

I cannot accurately convey to you the efficiency of heroin in neutralising pain. It transforms a tight white fist into a gentle brown wave, and from my first inhalation 15 years ago it fumigated my private hell. A bathroom floor in Hackney embraced me like a womb, and now whenever I am dislodged from comfort my focus falls there.

It is ten years since I used drugs or drank alcohol and my life has immeasurably improved. I have a job, a house, a cat, good friendships and generally a bright outlook. 

Ten years without drugs…but he has just ben talking about how his last time he thought about taking heroin again was just the day before. The reality of drug use isn’t pretty.

Recently, for the purposes of a documentary on this subject, I reviewed some footage of myself smoking heroin. I sit wasted and slumped with an unacceptable haircut against a wall in another Hackney flat (Hackney is starting to seem like part of the problem), inhaling fizzy black snakes of smack off a scrap of crumpled foil. When I saw the tape a month or so ago, what was surprising was that my reaction was not one of gratitude for the positive changes I’ve experienced. Instead I felt envious of this earlier version of myself, unencumbered by the burden of abstinence. I sat in a suite at the Savoy hotel, in privilege, resenting the woeful ratbag I once was who, for all his problems, had drugs.

That is obviously irrational, but the mentality and behaviour 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.

A life without hope is no life at all. Brand is starting a fund within Comic Relief, ‘Give It Up’. He is trying to raise awareness of, and money for, abstinence-based recovery. He talks about the death of Amy Winehouse.

What was so painful about Amy’s death is that I know that there is something I could have done. I could have passed on to her the solution that was freely given to me. Don’t pick up a drink or drug, one day at a time. It sounds so simple, it actually is simple, but it isn’t easy — it requires incredible support and fastidious structuring. Not to mention that the whole infrastructure of abstinence-based recovery is shrouded in necessary secrecy. There are support fellowships that are easy to find and open to anyone who needs them, but they eschew promotion of any kind in order to preserve the purity of their purpose, which is for people with alcoholism and addiction to help one another stay clean and sober.

Without these fellowships I would take drugs. Because even now the condition persists. Drugs and alcohol are not my problem — reality is my problem. Drugs and alcohol are my solution.

I can identify with his problem, but I certainly have never been able to connect with his solution.

If this seems odd to you, it is because you are not an alcoholic or a drug addict. You are likely one of the 90 per cent of people who can drink and use drugs safely. I have friends who can smoke weed, swill gin, even do crack, and then merrily get on with their lives. For me this is not an option. I will relinquish all else to ride that buzz to oblivion. Even if it began as a timid glass of chardonnay on a ponce’s yacht, it would end with me necking the bottle, swimming to shore and sprinting to Bethnal Green in search of a crack house.

I looked to drugs and booze to fill up a hole in me. Unchecked, the call of the wild is too strong. I still survey streets for signs of the subterranean escapes that used to provide my sanctuary. I still eye the shuffling subclass of junkies and dealers, invisibly gliding between doorways through the gutters. I see the abundantly wealthy with destitution in their stare.

Very powerful explanation of the allure of and the control over him that drugs and alcohol presented.

Can there be any other disease that renders its victims so unappealing? Would Great Ormond Street be so attractive a cause if its beds were riddled with obnoxious little criminals who had ‘brought it on themselves’?

Peter Hitchens is a vocal adversary of mine on this matter. He sees this condition as a matter of choice and the culprits as criminals who should go to prison. I know how he feels. I bet I have to deal with a lot more drug addicts than he does, let’s face it, I share my brain with one, and I can tell you first-hand they are total nightmares. Where I differ from Peter is in my belief that if we regard alcoholics and drug addicts not as bad people but as sick people, then we can help them to get better. By we, I mean other people who have the same problem but have found a way to live drug- and alcohol-free lives. Guided by principles and traditions, a programme has been founded that has worked miracles in millions of lives. Not just the alcoholics and addicts themselves, but their families, their friends and of course society as a whole.

This is precisely the approach that is working so well in Portugal.

Brand has written a very moving article, one which almost anyone can identify with. This video made 10 months ago was of Russell Brand talking to a select committee about addiction.

  • jaundiced

    Brand is brilliant!

  • Ururoa

    Damn he writes well.

  • PlanetOrphan

    Well said Russell, it’s the devorced subculture that causes the problem, time too open our eyes and recognise it.

  • LesterPK

    Watched the documentary here in Oz a couple of months ago. Was very interesting and ceratainly changed my opinion of him for the better.

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