A man, reawak­ened

Drugs, sex, food – Rus­sell Brand knows more than most about ad­dic­tion, but he’s now con­quered his demons, be­come a fa­ther, and gained a new un­der­stand­ing in his re­la­tion­ships with women

Red - - CONTENTS - Pho­to­graphs PEROU

Rus­sell Brand on re­con­nect­ing with him­self – and women – post ad­dic­tion

Red. Red, the colour of blood, love, pas­sion and dan­ger; the colour of wom­an­hood, the bi­o­log­i­cal sym­bol that sep­a­rates women from men and girls. I have fix­ated on women for much of my life. I have al­ways un­con­sciously seen women as the so­lu­tion to my lone­li­ness and empti­ness, as­sum­ing that within your mys­tery my sal­va­tion lies.

I felt this when I was a child, watch­ing my mum’s friends, aunts as they were col­lo­qui­ally known, try­ing on clothes at her ‘clothes par­ties’. My sin­gle, work­ing mum would drive up from Es­sex to the Com­mer­cial Road, east Lon­don, and buy whole­sale clothes, which she’d sell at these gath­er­ings. I re­mem­ber still her busi­ness cards; ‘Special Lady’ they read; pink ital­ics on a grey back­ground.

How can the fa­mil­iar re­tain its ex­oti­cism? Only, I sup­pose, by be­ing some­how un­know­able and there­fore un­ob­tain­able. Glance at the Old Tes­ta­ment and see how the word ‘know’ is used to de­scribe coitus there. Per­haps this need to ‘know’ drove my promis­cu­ity be­cause my child­hood in­trigue with women merely grad­u­ated, never abated. I re­ally wanted to know women. In my new book, Re­cov­ery, I ex­plain how my ad­dic­tion to drugs mor­phed into my ob­ses­sion with sex, and how, in fact, the sex­ual ob­ses­sion may have been there prior, lurk­ing and la­tent, in­stalled in Grays, Es­sex, at those clothes par­ties of my mother. How, in fact, ad­dic­tion, in my opin­ion, is not de­ter­mined by its sub­ject but by the yearn­ing that drives it. It doesn’t mat­ter whether you’re crav­ing crack or Cad­bury’s, smack or Snapchat, it is the feel­ing, rather than the means by which you sa­ti­ate it, that is im­por­tant.

I be­lieve too that we are all on the ad­dic­tion spec­trum, that we all have be­hav­iours and traits that we use to dis­tract and anaes­thetise our­selves from vague and un­ad­dressed dis­con­nec­tion. I al­ways had it, this feel­ing. I be­came a drug ad­dict be­cause, for a while, it was a suc­cess­ful way of man­ag­ing life with­out con­nec­tion. Of course the con­se­quences even­tu­ally be­come un­ten­able, the ar­rests, the con­flict, the fear­some places you find your­self when you are a drug ad­dict. Fright­en­ing places with wounded peo­ple bleached in orange light, scored by sud­den screams and sirens.

Thank­fully I had ‘re­cov­ery’ im­posed on me by peo­ple who knew bet­ter. My book is called ‘Re­cov­ery’ be­cause of the be­lief that when we are free from ac­tive ad­dic­tion we can ‘re­cover’ the per­son we were in­tended to be, that we can ful­fil our po­ten­tial. Of course, if we don’t ad­dress the dis­con­nect­ed­ness that drives ad­dic­tion, just its symp­toms, the ad­dic­tion will sim­ply morph and at­tach to an­other ob­ject. In my case, when I got clean from drugs, my dor­mant prob­lems with eat­ing re-emerged and my promis­cu­ity be­came over­whelm­ing. Both these man­i­fes­ta­tions of my ad­dic­tion were eas­ier to live with as they are, to a de­gree, so­cially ac­cept­able – at least they’re not crim­i­nal. Any­one who has – or knows some­one with – an eat­ing dis­or­der knows how dev­as­tat­ing the con­di­tion in this form can be and sex ad­dic­tion, un­reme­died, is sim­i­larly de­struc­tive. But in a cul­ture where male promis­cu­ity is li­onised and cel­e­brated

I be­came a drug AD­DICT be­cause, for a while, it was a way of man­ag­ing LIFE with­out con­nec­tion

I’ve heard FA­THERS say, ‘I never knew I had such LOVE in me.’ I al­ways knew, I just didn’t KNOW what to do with it

this be­hav­iour can con­tinue unchecked for quite a while. Like all forms of ad­dic­tion though, it is ul­ti­mately in­ef­fec­tive and lonely and even­tu­ally has to be ad­dressed.

I be­gan to re­alise that un­til I dealt with the feel­ings of dis­con­nec­tion that un­der­scored my ad­dic­tion, I’d never have a fam­ily and I’d never know true in­ti­macy. The work I’ve done in 12-step pro­grammes is what has made my new life pos­si­ble. The 12 steps, con­ceived to tackle prob­lems with al­co­hol and drugs, have sub­se­quently been adapted to tackle many forms of ob­ses­sive and de­struc­tive be­hav­iour – ev­ery­thing from sex to shop­ping, gam­bling to ex­ces­sive phone use and hoard­ing to co-de­pen­dent ro­man­tic re­la­tion­ships. There are lit­er­ally hun­dreds of va­ri­eties of 12-step sup­port groups all over the world. Through the trans­for­ma­tive gift of this pro­gramme I am able, one day at a time, to live a healthy life. This is how it works; first you ad­mit you have a prob­lem, then you con­sider that you could live dif­fer­ently, you ac­cept help, you be­come aware of your pat­terns and habits – in metic­u­lous de­tail. You share them with an­other per­son you can trust, you be­come will­ing to live dif­fer­ently, then faith­fully com­mit to this new way. You ad­dress the dam­age you’ve done in the past and then com­mit to liv­ing con­sciously, con­nect­edly and to help oth­ers when you can. Whilst this sounds sim­ple it is ac­tu­ally quite dif­fi­cult and, for me, amounted to a com­plete change of per­spec­tive.

I can’t re­call a time when I wasn’t en­cap­su­lated in my aquar­ium head, trapped by the claus­tro­pho­bia of my end­lessly think­ing mind, never able to see be­yond the ful­fil­ment of self­ish wants. As a boy it was choco­late, as a teen, porn and at­ten­tion. Then the af­fec­tion of women, then drugs and al­co­hol. And when they be­came un­ten­able, the ear­lier part of the cy­cle was zeal­ously re­vis­ited. Now, while I am still some dis­tance from per­fec­tion, my life has rad­i­cally al­tered, solely be­cause of this pro­gramme. With­out this pro­gramme, I wouldn’t have been able to com­mit to my cur­rent part­ner, I wasn’t con­scious of my ten­dency to get into fraught re­la­tion­ships with in­com­pat­i­ble peo­ple. I thought re­la­tion­ships were sup­posed to be tense, I found it ex­cit­ing. This re­la­tion­ship is calm and fun and lov­ing. Cu­ri­ously, my part­ner and I knew each other 11 years ago and went out briefly then, but I was about to hurl my­self face-first into a tum­ble drier full of adren­a­line and glam­our and was in no state to ac­cept do­mes­tic­ity and har­mony.

This pro­gramme meant that we are able to cre­ate an en­vi­ron­ment to­gether in which it was ap­pro­pri­ate to have a child. I’ve wanted chil­dren for a long time and, se­cretly, I al­ways hoped I’d have a daugh­ter. When my girl­friend, that morn­ing in our bath­room, held up that fast-act­ing or­a­cle, a tiny white stick called some­thing like ‘Claire Bloom’, that an­nounced with a smi­ley, cir­cu­lar face that she was preg­nant, my body sank to the floor and my heart soared. For days I walked with the giddy knowl­edge of our se­cret news, un­able to tell any­one and un­able to think of any­thing else. Scans and tests and apps that show the steadily de­vel­op­ing foe­tus, com­par­ing it al­ways to fruit and veg, for some rea­son: “it’s as big as an av­o­cado now”. Weeks of sa­cred eu­pho­ria.

In a way I’m still on that bath­room floor, still giddy, and even though she’s born now and any­one who sees me with her would surely be able to see how strongly I feel, to me it’s still se­cret. The depth, the pur­pose, the quiet vows and new cer­tainty. I’ve heard fa­thers say be­fore the birth of a child, “I never knew I had such love in me.” But

I al­ways knew, I just didn’t know what to do with it.

When I saw her I knew her and I knew what to do.

With­out the awak­en­ing this pro­gramme has given me, that any­one who works it is ca­pa­ble of achiev­ing, I would never have been in a po­si­tion to know, never have been able to be­come the man I was meant to be. Re­cov­ery: Free­dom From Our Ad­dic­tions by Rus­sell Brand (Blue­bird, £20) is out now

Brand’s new book (left) and new baby (be­low, with girl­friend Laura Gal­lacher) mark a change in his life and out­look

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