20 Quotes from ‘Recovery’ by Russell Brand

Here’s a collection of quotations from Russell Brand’s compelling ode to the 12 Steps: Recovery.

As Jesus said, “It’s not the healthy who need a doctor but the sick.” Brand speaks as someone who knows the power of the sickness and our profound need for a help that comes from beyond.


1. “Here in our glistening citadel of limitless reflecting screens we live on the outside. Today we may awaken and instantly and unthinkingly reach for the phone, its glow reaching our eyes before the light of dawn, its bulletins dart into our minds before even a moment of acknowledgement of this unbending and unending fact: you are going to die.

You and your children and everyone you love is hurtling toward the boneyard, I know you know. We all know but because it yields so few ‘likes’ on Facebook, we purr on in blinkered compliance, filling our days with temporary fixes. A coffee here, an eBay purchase there, a half-hearted wank or a flirt. Some glinting twitch of pleasure, like a silvery stitch on a cadaver, to tide you over. And you’re probably too clever to ‘repose in God’, or to pick up some dusty book where the poetry creaks with loathing for women, or gays or someone. Maybe if quantum physics could come up with some force, or web, or string or something that tethers the mystery to something solid, something measurable, you’d think again but until then there’s nothing but an empty grave and a blank tombstone, chisel poised. So no one’s going to blame you if you perch on a carousel of destructive relationships and unfulfilling work, whirling round, never still, never truly looking
within, never really going home.”

2. “Be honest, have you ever sat down and inventoried all of the things that bug you: the childhood skirmishes; seething stings of patricidal rage; your fury with the government or traffic or global warming or racism, or Apple for continually changing their chargers? When are you planning to become the person you were born to be? To ‘recover’ your connection to an intended path? On holiday? When the kids leave school? When you get a pay rise? Tick-tock, tick-tock, chisel poised.”

3. “Do you have that sense that something is missing? A feeling in your gut that you’re not good enough? That if you tick off some action, whether it’s eating a Twix, buying some shoes, smoking a joint or getting a good job, you will feel better? If you do, it’s hardly surprising because I believe we live in an age of addiction where addictive thinking has become almost totally immersive. It is the mode of our culture. Consumerism is stimulus and response as a design for life. The very idea that you can somehow make your life all right by attaining primitive material goals – whether it’s getting the ideal relationship, the ideal job, a beautiful Berber rug or forty quids’ worth of smack – the underlying idea, ‘if I could just get X, Y, Z, I would be okay’, is consistent and it is quite wrong.

Addiction is when natural biological imperatives, like the need for food, sex, relaxation or status, become prioritized to the point of destructiveness. It is exacerbated by a culture that understandably exploits this mechanic as it’s a damn good way to sell Mars bars and Toyotas. In my own blessedly garish addiction each addictive pursuit has been an act of peculiar faith that the action will solve a problem.”

4. “No wonder people hanker after animalism and raw thrills. No wonder people go dogging, hot real breath on a windscreen, torch lights and head lights searching, huddled strangers clutching in the dark for the piercing relief of orgasm. No wonder people use porn, hunched over a laptop, grasping and breathless, serious and dutiful like a zealous attendant clerk at a futile task. From this form of escape I am not long exempt. I usually laugh afterwards. As soon as the biological objective has been reached I am ejected from the mindless spell. I look down on myself and sometimes enquire out loud, ‘What was that all about?’, like some monkey man coming to consciousness, and I glance back transcended, ‘Was that honestly your best idea at solving the way you
feel? Now get me some tissues and a bible.’”

5. “What are we doing when we’re masturbating? Or swallowing mindless food. Or swilling silly drinks? Who there do we serve? What is the plan?”

6. “What happens when you don’t follow the compulsion? What is on the other side of my need to eat and purge? The only way to find out is to not do it, and that is a novel act of faith.”

7. “Here’s some good news for the fallen, for those of you that are reading this in despair, the junkies, the alkies, the crack-heads, anorexics, bulimics, dyspeptics, perverts, codependent, love-addicted, hopeless cases: I now believe addiction to be a calling. A blessing. I now hear a rhythm behind the beat, behind the scratching discordant sound of my constant thinking. A true pulse behind the bombastic thud of the ego drum. There, in the silence, the offbeat presence of another thing. What could it be, this other consciousness? Just the sublime accompaniment to my growing nails, pumping heart and rushing blood? These physical and discernible bodily phenomena, do they have a counterpart in a world less obvious? Are we addicts like the animals that evidently pre-emptively fled the oncoming tsunami, sensing some foreboding? Are we attuned to prickling signals that demand anaesthesia? What is the pain? What is it? What does it want?”

8. “Where I have found this program most rewarding and yet most challenging is in the way that it 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 world view: that I am the centre of the world and that what I want is important.”

9. “My mentor sat and smoked and listened hour after hour while I unloaded the deadening burden… The main thing was there was nothing I said that was too terrible or too trivial to shock or bore him. He identified throughout and through this practical communication an unexpected thing happened: the veil of separation that I had lived my life behind lifted. The tense disconnectedness that I had always felt lifted. It is commonly understood that the opposite of addiction is connection. That in our addictive behaviours we are trying to achieve the connection. Think of it: the bliss of a hit or a drink or of sex or of gambling or eating, all legitimate drives gone awry, all a reach across the abyss, the separateness of self, all an attempt to redress this disconnection.”

10. “I don’t wake up in the morning and think, ‘Wow, I’m on a planet in the Milky Way, in infinite space, bestowed with the gift of consciousness, which I did not give myself, with the gift of language, with lungs that breathe and a heart that beats, none of which I gave myself, with no concrete understanding of the Great Mysteries, knowing only that I was born and will die and nothing of what’s on either side of this brief material and individualized glitch in the limitless expanse of eternity and, I feel, I feel love and pain and I have senses, what a glorious gift! I can relate, and create and serve others or I can lose myself in sensuality and pleasure. What a phenomenal mystery!’ Most days I just wake up feeling a bit anxious and plod a solemn, narrow path of survival, coping. ‘I’ll have a coffee’, ‘I’ll try not to reach for my phone as soon as I stir, simpering and begging like a bad dog at a table for some digital tidbit, some morsel of approval, a text, that’ll do.”

11. “My steps 4 and 5 reveal that I am, when in my addiction, selfish, self-centred and think that all my problems will be solved if I get fame, money, power, plaudits, sex and glory. That I think I am some kind of God/Hitler/Gengis Khan/Jesus figure. And that I can’t cope with this world and its occupants unless I have a hook-up to a great er source of power than my ego can provide. When I confess the details of the trauma I had experienced and the shame that I still felt. When I revealed the things that I never thought I’d tell anybody, I felt relief. I also had to acknowledge my helplessness, my brokenness, my need to change deeply. Through the compassion and love of those I shared with I experienced the power of these principles and the reality of forgiveness, of redemption. I felt willing to change not just my obvious addictive behaviour but also the patterns, thoughts and feelings that had long underwritten them.”

12. “In justifying our misery, we recommit to it. The odyssey of recovery begins in earnest when we become willing to truly change. Not content to rotate the object of addiction, we become ‘entirely ready for God to remove our defects of character.’”

13 “We have been taught that freedom is the freedom to pursue our petty, trivial desires. Real freedom is freedom from our petty, trivial desires.”

14. “Each time I have done it [made amends for past wrongs] I have felt a subtle awe and unbidden tearfulness. I have felt humbled. I have felt the grace that occurs when you decide to put aside your own way of doing things and surrender to another way.”

15. “Carl Jung’s verdict [is] that what chronic addicts need is a spiritual experience and ongoing communal support.”

16. “We’ve learned to live with shame and pain, we’ve learned to live disconnected, cast out of Eden. We have forgotten that we can return. The reason you must tackle your addiction no matter how moderate it may seem or whether it be socially sanctioned is it will, in the end, fail you. Because the drive, the fuel, the impetus behind it is legitimate and it’s goals are legitimate –
connection – in the end it will not settle for a simulacrum. It will be found out.

That’s why you’re lucky if you’re addicted to crack or smack. They are fast-hemorrhaging, fast-failing systems. They provide anaesthetic and distraction but are so bloody medically unsound they are quickly exposed as dupes. Sex and food can sustain a longer masquerade.

Now admittedly you see fewer people hunched over in doorways on ice cream than you do on meth but anyone who knows someone who suffers from an eating disorder will tell you that the sufferer is similarly derelict. And because what we are dealing with is a spiritual condition, a post-religious spiritual calling, the inner condition is what we must address.

When you start to drink, wank, eat, spend, obsess, you have lost your connection to the great power within you the great power in others, the great power in all things. There is something in you speaking to you and you don’t understand it because you’ve never learned its language. So we try to palm it off with porn and consuming but it is your spirit calling and it craves connection. Spend time alone, write, pray, meditate. This is where we learn the language.”

17. [We are all] “trainee corpses.”

18. “There is no freedom without forgiveness.”

19. “You can never quench your spiritual craving through material means.”

20. “We crave connection, but so much of the time we are not alive, neutralized. Who are you when you’re listening to the radio in traffic? You are not you, you are on standby. Mostly we are free-floating and disengaged, lost in the spectacle.”


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