Russell Brand hasn’t touched alcohol or drugs in 10 years. But when was the last time he thought about doing heroin? Oh, just yesterday.
In a column he wrote for Britain’s The Spectator, published on Tuesday, the 37-year-old actor implores society to start treating those with addictions as people who need help, not people who need to be imprisoned, and shares his own endless struggles to stay off drugs.
“I cannot accurately convey to you the efficiency of heroin in neutralising pain,” Brand writes, mysteriously mentioning that the latest pain he experienced was a “beautiful woman” telling him she was pregnant with another man’s baby. “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.”
Though Brand explains that his life has “immeasurably improved” since giving up substances, the price he says, “is constant vigilance, because the disease of addiction is not rational.”
Brand explains how when he viewed footage of himself smoking heroin, it didn’t bring the feelings one might have expected. “Instead I felt envious of this earlier version of myself, unencumbered by the burden of abstinence,” he writes. “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.”
The “Brand X” host uses the column to announce that he’s launched a fund to raise awareness of (and money for) “abstinence based recovery” with the founder of Comic Relief, Kevin Cahill, someone who actually reached out to him after Brand wrote about fellow addict Amy Winehouse’s death, something that still haunts him to this day. “What was so painful about Amy’s death is that I know that there is something I could have done,” he explains. “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.”
He also takes issue with British author Peter Hitchens’ stance on punishing drug users with prison time. “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,” he writes. “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.
At the end of the piece Brand – whose divorce from pop star Kay Perry was finalized last year – confesses that after hearing that pregnancy news “yesterday,” he did more than just think about doing heroin, he started going over places in his head he could buy the drug. “Off Santa Monica, there’s a homeless man who I know uses gear. I could find him, buy him a bag if he takes me to score.”
Brand instead called a fellow alcoholic, who talked him off the ledge. It’s that kind of support that he wants for other addicts too … who, like him, are in danger of falling off the wagon just with one drink … or as Brand so eloquently explains: “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.”
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