What Novelists and Addicts Have in Common (Russell Brand on Addiction)

By , September 19, 2011 12:00 am


When I came across Russell Brand’s eulogy for Amy Winehouse back in July, I expected that I’d peruse it and move on with my day.  I was unfamiliar with Brand’s writing until that point.  I watched a variety of his interviews on YouTube when he was promoting Booky Wook 2: This Time It’s Personal, but I only did so because I find his voice enchanting and his looks captivating.  Or do I find his looks enchanting and his voice captivating?  Either way we both have naturally curly hair, and I respect that he doesn’t cut his short.


I started reading the eulogy, therefore, with my usual, “I want to look at as few words as possible to know what this is about” mentality.  And I stopped myself right away because I could tell that there was too much truth in what he had to say for me not to give it my full attention.


 Russell Brand on Addicts

In particular I was startled by Brand’s description of what it is like to be an addict, an understanding that is guided by his own history of addiction and recovery:

All addicts, regardless of the substance or their social status share a consistent and obvious symptom; they’re not quite present when you talk to them. They communicate to you through a barely discernible but unignorable veil. Whether a homeless smack head troubling you for 50p for a cup of tea or a coked-up, pinstriped exec foaming off about his speedboat, there is a toxic aura that prevents connection. They have about them the air of elsewhere, that they’re looking through you to somewhere else they’d rather be. And of course they are. The priority of any addict is to anaesthetise the pain of living to ease the passage of the day with some purchased relief.

~Russell Brand


Although I read those words so many months ago, I still haven’t been able to ignore the way I see myself in them.  And it isn’t because I’m on the spectrum of “homeless smack head” to “coked-up pinstriped exec,” but because I’m a writer.


 Do You Live With “The Air of Elsewhere?”

It is incredibly difficult for writers to live in the here and now.  We dream about our characters to the extent that we know how often they breakout and blink.  We scan our surroundings and memorize each detail so we may later give credence to the fictional worlds we create.  We fantasize about an alternate existence where we don’t have a day job, publishers send us advances for our writing, and fans by the thousands download our book.


So when it is time to speak with someone, to listen to our spouse, or to sit through a meeting at work, our minds are lingering in these alternate realities.  As Russell Brand suggests, we look through what is happening to where we’d rather be.  Because our priorities are not like those of everyone else.  Those in whom we invest our time and energy have to be real to us before they can even exist to others!

Is Writing An Addiction?

Brand has stated in interviews that anything can become an addiction, and I agree with him.  Writing can become all consuming and over prioritized to the point where we ignore our family and friends as we make time for our characters and our dreams.  So we writers are presented with a challenge: take off the veil and be present to others first.


What Are Your Priorities?

This challenge is one that we should take seriously.  Because no matter how imaginative we are, we must first be present in this world.  Publishing a book now and then does not justify isolating ourselves and neglecting whom we love and those in need.


Do you see yourself in Brand’s description of what it means to be an addict? 

Do you believe that writing can be an addiction?  Do you look at others through a veil? 

Add your opinion in the comments for this post!

4 Responses to “What Novelists and Addicts Have in Common (Russell Brand on Addiction)”

  1. Christy says:

    Um, awesome post. I don’t think that at this point writing is an addiction for me (hence the pure lack of anything actually creative) but I totally believe it can be.

    I am also in love with Russel Brand and stand in awe of his hair. But it’s his voice that gets me every time.

  2. N says:

    Hey MM, nice post. While I’m not a writer, I think this gives some insight it a writers state of mind (couldn’t think of a better phrase…)
    PS I will do anything for cupcakes…addiction…YES

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