PROGRESS STARTS WITH SELF-REFLECTION
Russell Brand is possibly the last person you’d expect to be given a voice in a magazine like Men’s Health. After all, this is a man who took drugs every day for 11 years, notoriously turned up for work the day after the 9/11 attacks dressed as Osama bin Laden (presumably because he was on drugs) and has been arrested no less than 11 times (ditto). Granted, the man looks as though he has a low BMI, but even so, it takes a little more than that to breach our walls.
Thankfully, he has a little more than that to offer. The idea that men’s health is a subject that starts with big biceps and ends with ripped abs is something we have battled for years, hence our ongoing commitment to addressing mental health issues. What Russell Brand brings to this particular edition is an exhaustive and profound understanding of what it means to be felled by addiction and how to stand back up again. Crucially, he repudiates the idea that addiction starts with cocaine and ends with the crack pipe. It is potentially there in all of us.
Certainly reading Brand’s essay I can see it in myself. When he talks of addiction being, “when natural imperatives, such as the need for food, sex, relaxation or status, become prioritised to the point of destructiveness,” then I don’t think about drug binges or sex parties, but instead the way in which I have occasionally let my career dominate my life at the expense of friends and family. When he says that, “we live in an age when addictive thinking has become totally immersive,” I identify with it – not because I’ve ever stuck a needle in my arm, but rather because I can recognise how I justify, erroneously, work and wine and late nights and withdrawn behaviour by equating it with white-collar martyrdom.
The realisation that addiction is a precarious mental state that can just as likely affect the man in the corner office as the resident of the gutter can be confounding, upsetting, but ultimately liberating. I am not an addict, but neither am I completely straight – Russell Brand has taught me that. Give him a chance. Appearances can be deceiving. You only have to look in the mirror to know that.