Book Review

Recovery steps to winning personal war against addictions

Recovery: Freedom From Our Addictions by Russell Brand. PHOTO | DIANA NGILA | NMG 

Recovery is not an easy read. It will make you pause, think, reflect and take actionable steps towards changing your life.

Brand, an author, and actor who’s struggled for decades with addictions of various kinds, that is, sex, drugs, and pornography, chronicles the manner in which he rose from the ashes, like a phoenix to reclaim his life amidst the ruins and possible death. The level of emotional honesty in this book can at times be mind boggling, even he admits.

Russell was desperate. He had to change, he admits readily he’d messed up his life and so he had no choice but to seek and accept help. However this didn’t come easy. He says he’d have died miserably had he not started on the 12 Steps and their encompassing philosophy. He says its work that led to “a personal rebirth and the journey entails all manner of uncomfortable confrontations with who you truly are.”

This is not necessarily a book about people suffering from addictions. It’s a work that will have you addressing your relationship with technology, gambling, work, food, relationships, “because the instinct that drives the compulsion is universal”. Brand states that the problem is that the world as we know it is ill-equipped to deal with the challenges of ‘being human’ hence “we are all on the addiction scale.”

So just what is addiction? According to Brand, “Addiction is when natural biological imperatives, like the need for food, sex, relaxation or status, become prioritised to the point of destructiveness.”


The modern way of life, great with advertising knows how to sell using human indicators so you never miss the beat of the message, whether in the streets, online or in the comfort of your home watching telly. Of this he writes, “Our natural yearnings are running amok and they are being stirred and nourished by a society that uses our desire as its fuel. Consumerism and materialism are creating a culture of addiction.”

Brand is an interesting fellow. He manages to fascinate as well as surprise the reader with the intimate details of his addictions and subsequent recovery. You will laugh, pause, think, and empathize, with him and his family following his struggles. But then he also manages to turn the tables to the reader to do something but putting at the end of each chapter, the work to-to do to get better, or past a struggle into the next step of recovery.

Russell uses the 12 steps of recovery as the 12 chapters of his book. He tweaks the titles a lot, to fit in with his style of writing and personality obviously so a few curse words are in there and the stories are told in first person perspective, with the grit of a man who’s just survived war. A personal war.