Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Merry Christmas with Mr. Brand: A Gift for Male Sex Abuse Survivors Who Struggle With Addictions

Six weeks ago I had no idea who Russell Brand was, but one morning as I was perusing the Internet when I found posted in humor section of the Huffington Post a segment from Conan O’Brien’s new show -- an interview with British comedian, Russell Brand.  I am a big fan of Conan O’Brien so I watched the segment.  Within a minute or so I was an even bigger fan of Russell Brand.  Within two minutes I was sure that Russell Brand was my all time favorite comedian.  He was talking about the royal family and about the shiny hats they wear as well as how buxom the queen is -- foreshadowing what I was in store for as a virgin Russell Brand fan.
I am a middled aged child sex abuse and rape survivor who is a dedicated mother and kind let a certain part of my life wither a bit.  I don’t think like a guy.  I think like a lady who goes to church a lot.  I didn’t think about what Russell Brand’s comedy might be like.  I just thought about the fact he was just about the funniest person I had ever encountered in the media.
As a mother I was also thinking that my 12 year old daughter has been creating jokes since not long after she was able to speak would also love Russell Brand.  So I ran upstairs to get her to come see the segment I had just seen.  We laughed uproariously together.  That night we sought out more Russell Brand courtesy of You Tube and laughed some more.  It turns out that Russell Brand’s comedy is frequently R rated pushing the envelope towards X.  But my daughter tells me that she’s learned much more about sex from her teenaged stepsister than she has from watching R rated movies with me.  I have no control over the stepsister, who is the daughter of my ex’s new wife.  So it is probably better that I talk about sex with my daughter to give her my counsel -- so watching Russell Brand videos is not bad as it might be.
And Russell Brand gives ample opportunity to talk about unhealthy life style choices with my daughter as well as healthy choices as he has undergone treatment for drug and alcohol addiction and as well as sex addiction.
I learned about all these addictions and their causes by reading his book, My Booky Wook: A Memoir of Sex, Drugs, and Stand-up.  This is not a book for the faint hearted or the meek.  Brand’s writing is very funny and poetic.  It is also filled with “f” words and descriptions of various sex acts.
My justification for reading My Booky Wook is that Brand was sexually abused as a child, and that the book clearly describes the relationship between his adult addictions and dysfunctions and the abuse as well as multiple other traumas he suffered as a child.  I read My Book Wook to see if I thought it would help survivors of abuse look at their wounds, and I think it would, but the book is written to entertain rather than to help people come to terms with their own wounds and seek healing.  Brand describes the conscious choice he made while describing his misadventures with a Turkish prostitute in Istanbul
“....there are two ways this tale can be told.  The first is from the perspective of someone who is a connoisseur of sex in general but also prostitution.  The second is through the eyes of a man who has since awoken from the amoral dream of commodified sex.”
The problem with prostitution being is that the majority of it’s practitioners  are child sex abuse survivors and even if they are not, many suffer from symptoms similar to sex abuse.
I strenuously disapprove of people going to prostitutes.  Prostitution is not a victimless crime.  There is a victim -- the prostitute.  On the other  hand, I identify with Russell Brand in other parts of his life.  Like him I was sexually abused as a child in a one time incident although the abuse I endured was considerably more serious than the abuse he endured.  But for a long time I didn’t view my abuse as abuse because it was only one time and all the books about abuse were written by people who had suffered years of ongoing trauma.
Like Brand I also suffered from multiple milder traumas, both sexual and nonsexual.  such as being raped on a date at age 22. I won’t describe in detail the other sexual traumas I suffered because they fall into a “not a good idea” naughty juvenile behavior category rather than the criminal category.  I don’t wish to embarrass the offenders.  
Specifically the sexually traumas that Russell Brand experienced included being tutored by a man who stuck his fingers into Russell’s anus as a way of rewarding him for work well done.  Russell did not consider the finger a reward.  Another time a babysitter masturbated in front of him and invited him to join.  When his parents wanted the babysitter to come back for more babysitting, Brand protested but his parents did not believe him.  In addition to all this, Brand’s father introduced him to pornography as a young child and prostitutes as a teenager.  Fortunately, no one tried to introduce me to pornography, but, some of my other sexual and non-sexual traumas were similar to Brand’s.  Brand’s mother got sick with cancer three times during his childhood, and his was shipped off to live with grandmothers.  My mother suffered a few bouts in the psychiatric hospital for psychotic depression during which I was shipped off to life with grandmothers or babysitters.  Years later my cousin told me that our aunt had told her that all the girls in the family were sexually abused by our grandfather.  But the point is that I know what it is like to lose the support and guidance of a loving parent as a child.
And Brand had stepparents with whom he clashed so he moved out of the house when he was a teenager, ending up living with friends and surviving by stealing sandwiches from grocery stores and riding the subway without paying.
In experiences similar to Brands, I left my alcoholic mother's house to live with friends until I felt I was a burden.  Then I moved in with my Dad.  I lasted barely more than a month before my stepmother cajoled my Dad into moving me into my own tiny house.  Most teens would be thrilled, I felt sad at having no home where anyone wanted to take me in.
This is where Brand and I part.  He started drinking and smoking marijuana at this stage.  I don’t seem to have an addictive bone in my body.  In my senior year of high school I watched my mother set the dining room table on fire when she tried to light a cigarette while drunk.  I felt her slap me and tell me “I hate you,” while drunk when I poured her bottles down the drain.
I was not going to going to risk following her down the path to addiction.  Even now, I don’t drink outside of taking sips of communion wine during the Eucharist.
I always sought my highs by hiking in the mountains, and when I made mistakes by having sex with someone I should not have sex with, it happened about once a year as opposed to the 4 or 5 times a day sex addict Russell Brand descended to.  My dysfunctions, like me, are much quieter, and I’ve read enough about Russell Brand on the Internet to doubt that sex rehab cured him of his addiction to sex.  He just seems to have toned down the grossest of his excesses.  I have the jaundiced mind of a  woman who had bad experiences with casual sex.  I feel hesitation in advocating for his lifestyle and his book because I know he has probably hurt many people in his lifetime with his behavior... however I have more to say on this point a few paragraphs below.
And there was one more difference.  Russell Brand cut himself when feeling hopeless or alone.  I did cut myself a few time, but it was just a few times and never the gaping wounds that sent Brand to the Emergency Room.
Brand wrote his book to entertain so the details and these deep reflections concerning these incidents are brief, but his is a story of a child traumatized and neglected, struggling to to come to terms with his wounds as an adult.  What the book is, between the brief reflections and the long narratives of bad behavior is extremely funny.  Humor, for Brand, was a way of escaping every day pain as well as depression he suffered much of his life.  It was also a way attracting attention and manipulating women and the policemen who arrested him for bad behavior into letting him have his way in-spite of his bad behavior.
But humor really does make the pain easier to take.  Laughing at our problems can help us get through them.  So I recommend this book if you are a survivor of child sex abuse, particularly a male survivor struggling with the demon of addiction.
Since it is Christmas time, give yourself the book as a gift or if you know a survivor, give him or her the My Booky Wook as a gift.
Why give it as a gift? Because the My Booky Wook is so, so, so funny.  Please note that this is the first Booky Wook because there is a sequel, My Booky Wook II: This Time it is Personal, that culminates in Russell Brand meeting his wife, Katy Perry.  I haven’t read My Booky Wook II yet.
The happy story that is not told in My Booky Wook is that the sex addict learned his lesson and has embarked on a life of commitment to marriage with one woman.  I hope they make it.  The longer, the better.  They do seem to have taken some very wise steps.  They have made rules for their marriage that include weekly visits to a marriage counselor, no alcohol in the house, no pornographic literature in the house, no visits to clubs without each other, and Katy Perry will learn how to make breakfast in bed every Sunday for Russelll Brand.  I guess that is a concession on Katy’s part for all the rules she placed on Russell.   But good luck to them.  I will be watching to see if they keep these promises........I’ll be very interested from my perspective of someone who works on helping other survivors find the path to healing to see if they can make their marriage work.
One note of caution, if you are a Christian who does not like swear words or descriptions of sex, do not read this book.  It will offend you.  However, if you see that sometimes great sinners know they need redemption when more saintly folk do not and don’t mind a good dose of grit, then this book is a great read.
I’ll leave you with three last Brand quotes from My Booky Wook to illustrate my point.
“Had to write a victims’ list -- a litany of the women I’ve wronged as a result of my sexual addiction.  I feel like Saddam Hussein trying to pick out individual Kurds....”
“He understood that life is transient and that material attachments bring suffering.  Not the way I understand it, which is by nodding sagely when the topic is brought up in conversation then sneaking home to marvel at my glorious skull emblazoned boots.”
“The fact that I had a drug problem meant that wherever I went in the world, from Havanna to Ibiza to the mean streets of the Edinburgh Festival, I always had to seek out the poor and the dispossessed, as they are the people who where the drugs are.....of the immediate recognition of shared humanity.”

Copyright 2010 Virginia Jones

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