Russell Brand tells Oprah ‘Stay vigilant if you’re in recovery’

March 10, 2014

The sudden passing of acclaimed actor Phillip Seymour Hoffman reignited the national discussion over drugs and those who struggle with addiction. Experts have posited dozens of theories for why Hoffman, who had been sober for nearly 20 years, suddenly went back to a habit he had tried too hard to rid himself of.

Russell Brand, the British comedian and actor, knows a thing or two about recovery and sobriety as a former drug user himself. Brand has been outspoken in years past about the need for substance abuse to be reconceptualized as a condition that requires help from professionals in addiction treatment centers. An ardent activist for greater support for those struggling with drugs, Brand once again opened up about his experience as a recovering drug user in an upcoming interview with Oprah, USA Today reported.

Keeping a close watch

Brand struggled with alcohol and heroin abuse up until 2003, when he went to recovery and began the first step of the journey that would lead him to celebrate 11 years of sobriety in March 2014. While he has incorporated his experiences into his comedic performances with a degree of levity, Brand told Oprah that despite his decade-plus of sober living, he must remain committed to his clean way of life every day.

“It never really goes away,” Brand told Oprah, according to USA Today. “It’s always there – dormant. If something provokes it, you’ll be back out there. I know that about myself.”

Brand acknowledged that the problem with many who struggle with substance abuse is not self-control, but rather a condition that takes all choice from them. He explained that some days there might be a part of him that wonders, after so many years sober, if he could control the number of drinks or amount of drugs that he consumes.

Brand called this a “seductive” but dangerous idea.

As a drug addict, the first thing you have to do is accept you can never use,” he told Oprah.

Working for recovery

As Brand explained, the first step on the road to recovery for those who struggle with substance abuse is denying that life in the first place. Inpatient substance abuse treatment centers can help those interested in changing their lives for the better, but most people think that these programs are only for short stays of several weeks. After that, they may experience the seductive pull of substance abuse in their daily lives.

Instead of a short period of support from professional counselors, Thomas Kosten, M.D., chair and founder of the division of substance abuse at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, told Everyday Health that because recovery is a life-long process, treatment should be as well.

“The hope is that people with addictions don’t ever really get out of treatment,” Kosten told Everyday Health.

Kosten recommended that after an initial detox program, the subsequent options should be carefully evaluated according to the individual’s needs.

“Relapse prevention interventions could include medications, behavioral interventions – it all depends on the individual and what works for them,” Kosten said.

For some people, talking with family members, friends and other loved ones might be enough of an informal support group to help them maintain their sobriety. Kosten recommended a comprehensive lifestyle change on the part of the former substance abuser to avoid potential triggers such as drug-using friends or places associated with alcohol abuse in the past.

In a column on relapse for The Huffington Post, psychotherapist Howard Samuels agreed with many of Kosten’s pieces of advice for those working toward recovery, namely the need to stay in some form of support or treatment even after the initial recovery process. Samuels recommended individual or group meetings led by a professional counselor to work through emotional issues that may have been hidden by past substance abuse.

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