Balance May 2018 - 25
n a bright and breezy April
evening, on the outskirts of
Edinburgh, Russell Brand
is confronting his past.
"The prognosis at the point
I stopped taking drugs
was 'if you don't, within
six months you'll be dead, or in prison, or in a lunatic
asylum'. The way things were going, I think that was a
pretty fair assessment," he says.
"God knows where I'd have been 15 years later. Most
likely dead, but certainly institutionalised and probably
somewhere quite dismal and desperate."
The grim forecast of his future was delivered by Chip
Somers, a former drug addict and chief executive of
Focus12 in Bury St Edmunds, where Russell checked in
on 12 December 2002, realising that after years of heroin
addiction, he was so beholden to drugs and alcohol
and his life was so unmanageable, that something -
everything - had to change.
By following the 12-step programme, a set of guiding
principles for recovery, favoured by groups including
Alcoholics, Narcotics and Over Eaters Anonymous,
the comedian, actor and presenter achieved sobriety.
Then came other compulsions, for sex, porn, food,
money and fame. Over the years, Russell, now 42,
stamped out each by reverting to and implementing
the programme's steps.
ONE STEP AT A TIME
PHOTOGRAPHY: GETTY IMAAGES/HARRY BORDEN
The fruits of his labour are plain to see in his domestic
existence in Henley-on-Thames, Oxfordshire, with
wife of nine months, Scottish lifestyle blogger Laura
Gallacher, 30 - sister of Sky Sports presenter Kirsty -
and their 18-month old daughter, Mabel.
"I feel happier living with a person, having to pick
up dog poo and change nappies than I ever did being
involved in more decadent activity," he explains,
alluding to a promiscuous past where he bedded more
than 1000 women including Kate Moss, Courtney Love
and Sadie Frost.
"It's tiring picking up poo and being more ordinary
and real, but it's a relief. It feels connected and
purposeful." He's surprised by how far he's come and,
by all accounts, it's not over yet. "I'm curious about how
I can continue to change my life using these techniques.
I look at any area and think 'am I happy with it?'. If not,
am I willing to change it, do the work and ask for help?
I'm a slow learner, but I'm changing all the time."
Not content with his own transformation, Russell now
wants to inspire yours. It's why he penned Recovery:
Freedom From Our Addictions - his expletive-laden
re-imagination of the 12 steps. According to Russell, we
all suffer from addiction, whether it's being glued to a
smartphone, bidding on eBay or munching on Haribo.
"We've got to examine the reasons why we do them,"
says Russell. "Why are people staring at their phones
the whole time? Why are people looking at porn, eating
bad food, getting in bad relationships and - at the
more extreme end - getting into drugs or gambling? It's
usually because of misery, sadness, discomfort, the need
to escape, despair: these things can be altered."
It took Russell 20 years to connect his addictions
to childhood pain, and the most heartbreaking part
of Recovery is when he reveals his abuse at the age of
seven. He also describes harbouring feelings of guilt
when his mum was diagnosed with cancer, and details
a "tense" relationship with his former step dad. Russell
kept all these woes secret until they were so engrained
in his "fabric", he never identified them as problems.
The pain was hiding in plain sight. Shortly before
"graduating to porn", he secretly gorged on packets
of Penguins for comfort. He describes the ritual of
un-peeling the wrappers and devouring the chocolate
as "a survival tool" to cope with "the problem of being
me". By 14, he was bulimic and within a year of joining
London's prestigious Italia Conti theatre school, he'd
been expelled for using marijuana, amphetamines, LSD
and ecstasy. He first tried heroin in his early 20s.
LEARNING FROM THE PAST
I'm talking to Russell in a rare moment of downtime,
midway through his Re:Birth stand-up tour, a set of gigs
he'd later cancel when his mum Barbara, 71, sustained
numerous life-threatening injuries in a car accident, a
month after completing her sixth bout of chemotherapy.
I'm keen to understand why he felt he didn't fit in as a
youngster in Grays, Essex. "I was self-conscious, unable
to immerse myself in activity or regulate my emotions.
I was too adrenalised," he says. "I found relationships
difficult, and was looking for validation and comfort."
A poorly, detached mother, a non-present father
(who left when he was six months old) and an only
child, Russell believes an absence of "open and clear"
communication denied him the chance to learn how to
process his emotions. Now he's a father, he is mindful
of the importance of giving Mabel enough attention and
love in the hope history will not repeat itself.
"No one wants their kid to be a drug addict. I just want
to be present and available. I'm lucky my wife comes on
tour with me, and I get to go off to the playground [with
Mabel]. It's me who changes her nappy when we're out
in a restaurant. I'm doing stuff all the time with her."
PEACE OF MIND
BA LA N CE May 2018
Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Balance May 2018
Balance May 2018 - 1
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