When it Comes to Addiction, There are No Simple Answers

An excerpt from The Los Angeles Diaries by James Brown:

My beautiful sister, in the beginning alcohol and drugs bring you relief.  They give you courage and confidence and then slowly, over a period of years, they strip it all away and you spend your final years struggling to fill the emptiness that it’s left inside you.  It’s futile, it’s madness, and my drinking and using will one day take me down the same path.  I will fight with my wife as you fought with your husband.  I’ll explode for no reason and phone you late at night, drunk and wired, while my children cry in the background.  These memories hurt, and I have others, many far worse.  They accumulate over the years, and instead of fading with time they only grow more vivid.  The shame and remorse builds.  The load grows heavier as we age, and I understand now how every day you find yourself a little closer to that overpass above the Los Angeles River.  My beautiful sister, we are drunks.  We are addicts, and we behave recklessly without regard for the consequences of our actions.  Sometimes slowly, sometimes quickly, we destroy the ones we love as surely as we destroy ourselves.

This excerpt is taken from a chapter of my memoir, The Los Angeles Diaries, which is dedicated to the memory of my sister and brother.  Alcoholism runs deep in my family, and it’s spared no one.  As a recovering alcoholic, I eventually had to come to terms with my addiction and attendant insanity.  Simply put, it was either change or die.  I could not continue to live and drink, and, perversely, I could not for the longest time live without drinking.  My brother ended his same struggle with a bullet at the age of 27, an empty fifth of Ten-High on the night stand beside him.  After one last binge, my sister leaped to her death onto the concrete banks of the Los Angeles River.

In writing The Los Angeles Diaries, and its sequel, This River, due for publication in March of 2011, I attempt to better understand the nature of the illness of addiction.  But I don’t find any simple answers.  I don’t know the root causes of alcoholism, and why one person can have a drink, and another safely cannot.  And I try not to judge.  What I regret most about my addiction is the emotional and psychological pain I inflicted on the innocent — my children, my ex-wife and my second wife, my closest friends.  It’s only by taking action to remain clean and sober, one day at a time, with those days turning into years, that I’ve been able to earn back the love and trust of those I hurt most.  That’s a blessing.  I’ve been given a second chance at life where my brother and sister were not.  Sobriety is a true gift, and I can never risk forgetting it.

**This post is in memorium of Marilyn Lynn-Brown, who took her life on July 28, 1998.**

12 Responses

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    James Brown

    April 15, 2011 at 5:28 PM

    Dear Sharon,

    Thank God your son had turned and continues to turn his life around. It sounds like given his early start (pre-teen), and all the classic behavior of addiction you mentioned that he could’ve just as easily succumbed to drugs and alcohol. But you’re absolutely right. As parents we can be there for our children, and must be, but at the same time we can’t enable them to continue their destructiveness. You’re also absolutely right that in the end, only the addict or alcoholic can “fix” their lives. When the willingness is there, the love ones can step up and encourage them to fight, butit’s the addict/alcoholic who has to make the decision to stop killing themselves and hurting those who love them most.

    All my best to you and your son,

    PS – Thanks for the nice comments about my memoirs.

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    April 15, 2011 at 8:28 AM

    Hi James,
    I have a son who is now 28. He has been abusing alcohol and drugs since he was 9 years old. Over the years we have struggled with him, sent him to rehab over and over again, threatened him, punished him, ignored him, loved him. He has attempted suicide more than 10 times in his life. He could not hold down a job for more than 2-3 months. He was aggressive and verbally abusive to everyone. He has 3 kids from 3 different women, all of whom refuse access due to his past behaviors. Our family was shattered. All our efforts seemed in vain. Finally he has come to realize that the ONLY person who can “fix” his life is himself. He is now totally drug free and working (has been at his job for 8 months now – in recruitment) and loving it. I know it may not be over yet, but for right now, he’s doing great.
    Thanks for writing your books that make young people aware of the pitfalls of “paradise”.
    Regards, Sharon

    PS: I am currently embarking on a Motivational Schools Project, doing presentations at high schools in South Africa and sharing our story.

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