Walking through the airport on the way to Durban, i spotted Russel Brand’s new book ‘Recovery – Freedom from our Addictions’ in Exclusive Books. And promptly bought it to read on the plane and beyond.

i am a HUGE Russel Brand fan. i think he is highly underrated and that a lot of his wisdom is often missed or dismissed due to his incredible in-your-face persona which many find jarring. But from his comedy to his satirical Trews News internet show to some of his more serious political debate i have often resonated with what he has to say and the way he says it. When he joins Noel Fielding [another personal favourite from The Mighty Boosh and IT Crowd among others] on The Big Fat Quiz of the Year show then all bets are off and the Weirdometer needle just flies off the machine and it is such a pleasure to watch.

His latest book ‘Recovery’ with the tagline ‘Freedom from our Addictions’ is just that. With a well-known history of alcohol and drug abuse and as someone who has been clean for 13 years i think it is, Russell is a great voice to speak into the hows of making the change. But this book is not focused on those two forms of addiction but includes not being able to put down your phone, chasing after fame and money, pornography and basically any form of addiction that grabs hold of you.

With an updated Brand f-bomb version of the Twelve Step programme Russell shares personal stories and gleaned insights from around the world and walks us through the actual Twelve Step programme with a simplicity and directness of language that makes it accessible and understandable to so many.

i have only just dipped my foot into the book and am working my way through step three but already there have been some extracts worth sharing to give you an idea how helpful this book might be:

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This paragraph from chapter three: [We made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understand Him] – gives you an indication of just how insightful Mr Brand can be…

‘I have heard 12 Step support groups referred to as a cult and it could be argued that any group with a system of beliefs is a cult. In working a 12 Step program I don’t feel like I’ve joined a cult, but that I’ve been liberated from one. The cult that told me that I’m not enough, that I need to be famous to be of value, that I need to have money to live a worthwhile life, that I should affiliate, associate and identify on the basis of colour and class, that my role in life is to consume, that I was to live in a darkness only occasionally lit by billboards and screens, always framing the smiling face of someone trying to sell me something. Sell me phones and food and prejudice, low cost and low values, low-frequency thinking. We are in a cult by default. We just can’t see it because its boundaries lie beyond our horizons.’ 

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Earlier on in the same chapter Russell writes:

‘A counsellor at the treatment centre where I got clean, herself a woman in recovery, surprised me when she said, ‘How clever of you to find drugs. Well done, you found a way to keep yourself alive.’  This made me feel quite tearful. I suppose because this woman, Jackie, didn’t judge me or tell me I was stupid or tub-thumpingly declare that ‘drugs kill’. No, she told me I’d done well by finding something that made being me bearable. Addicts talking to each other are apt to find such means of connection. To be acknowledged as a person who was in pain and fighting to survive in my own muddled up and misguided way made me feel optimistic and understood. It is an example of the compassion addicts need from one another in order to change. Thinking about it, that time, early recovery was lit up by moments of connection such as this. Addiction is a lonely business in whatever form it’s suffered. A paralysing loop of unseen, hypnotic, negative thinking and destructive and harmful behaviour. The momentum prevents you from getting off the carousel. Crisis is almost a blessing, providing cessation of a kind, and with it, the opportunity for change.’

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Anyone who has watched Russell Brand at all is likely to identify him as a man with an ego, which is why the last two extracts i want to share are so powerful. Realising and releasing this seems to have been a huge part of his healing and redemption:

‘Where I have found this program most revealing and yet most challenging is in the way that is has unravelled my unquestioned faith that I was the centre of the universe and that the purpose of my life was to fulfil my drives, or if that wasn’t possible, be miserable about it in colourful and creative ways. So whilst this program will work for you regardless of creed or lack of creed, it will also disabuse you of the notion, however conscious of it you are, that you and your drives are the defining motivations for your life. The reason I worked the 12 Steps was because I was desperate. The reason I continue to is because they have awakened me to the impossibility of happiness based on my previous worldview: that I am the centre of the world and that what I want is important.’ 

And then a little bit later:

‘When you do Step 4, you will see how the same patterns and beliefs have governed your life, returning you again and again to the same despair. Every time I am prised free of a painful habit, my morphing condition shifts like mercury into a new behaviour. I can admit to you now that my work in Hollywood was driven by the belief that if I could get ‘enough fame’ I would be alright. I couldn’t get enough, there is not enough. I began commenting on social issues in The Trews, thinking, ‘I can be of use here. I can use my voice and humour to highlight hypocrisy and exploitation.’ But at some indiscernible point, I became excited by the power. See, the power again! The power! The idea that something can make me feel good. The ego’s love of self-centred power.

I can be helping a group of working-class activists retain their homes, saved from the clutches of corporate greed and at some point I’ll get turned on by how me and my ego can ‘own’ it. My best efforts, my best intentions will be sucked into the quagmire if I am not vigilant. You too, you may think, ‘yes, I am an addict, I will change the way drink or eat or think or relate to sexual partners’, but surely the craving will find a new expression, like a magnetic field ordering iron filings. You can replace the filings but the pull stays the same. It is only by finding a more powerful magnetic pull that you can change the patterns completely. This can be the program itself, sedulously applied. It can be a support group, made up of like-minded people. It can be an orthodox or traditional view of God. It can be nature. It can be a unified field of consciousness that supports all phenomena. It frankly doesn’t matter and it is entirely for you to choose, as long as it is loving, caring and more powerful than you.’

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This book is for people who are aware of their addiction, but also for those who might deny they have them. From the obvious to the commonplace, addictions are all around us and operate at different levels of persuasion. And also, for people who know people with addictions, so everyone really. Brand’s writing is real and refreshing and he doesn’t hold back.

Consider giving this one a read… can’t wait to continue…