BRYONY GORDON: What my two hours with Hunter Biden taught me about lunacy of addiction

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Once upon a time, in a land far, far away from the ­Delaware courthouse where he has just been convicted of various gun charges, I had a lengthy heart to heart with Hunter Biden.

This is the kind of thing that happens when you have crawled out of the flaming bin fire of addiction: one minute you’re wondering how to get through the day without at least two bottles of Pinot Grigio in your system, the next you’re comparing notes with the son of the President of the United States about all the times you have stood on the side of the road waiting for a drug dealer to sell you cocaine.

For the record, the 54-year-old — who faces up to 25 years in jail for lying about his drug addiction when buying a firearm in 2018 — definitely out-did me on the cocaine scoring. For starters, I never had a gun pointed at my head while trying to get drugs, and I was never blacklisted from every seedy motel in Los Angeles for my unsavoury behaviour.

US president Joe Biden talks with his son Hunter at Delaware Air National Guard Base this week

US president Joe Biden talks with his son Hunter at Delaware Air National Guard Base this week

Nor did I ever go 13 nights without sleep because of my drug use. (I think the maximum was two, and I wouldn’t recommend it.)

Indeed, Hunter is probably the first person I’ve met who has made me feel like a bit of a nun, and as a recovering party girl who once went to Ronnie Wood’s house, that’s saying something.

But back to our heart to heart. It was the spring of 2021, and Biden junior was coming up for two years clean and sober, while I was about to reach four years without a drink or a drug.

READ MORE: BRYONY GORDON: Taylor Alison Swift has done the impossible in this deeply polarised age and united the generations – from Gen Z to Millennials and Boomers – in sparklingly spectacular glory. It is the best night of our lives… 

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He had just published a book, Beautiful Things, in which he detailed with eye-watering ­candour the depths he sank to while addicted to crack, and he had agreed to be interviewed by me for the mental health podcast I presented at the time.

Despite the honesty in the book, I hadn’t expected much other than a bland discussion about the difficulties of writing it, so I was pleasantly surprised when instead, I got an almost two-hour-long chat about the absolute lunacy of alcoholism and addiction.

We talked addict to addict, over Zoom, rather than ­President’s son to journalist.

I had seen the images online of him topless and strung out as he smoked crack cocaine, having filmed himself with prostitutes, but this was a very different Hunter: polite, articulate, ­erudite, with the tell-tale bright eyes and wholesome appearance of someone in early sobriety.

From a smart looking apartment in Los Angeles, he told me he had written the book for me, and while in any other context this might have seemed insincere, here, as one addict speaking to another, it rang true.

‘I don’t mean this facetiously, but I wrote it for you,’ he said. ‘For those people that could identify immediately with that vivid detail I provide about what it’s like to be mired in that awful space of addiction. And most of all I wrote it for people just to let them know they’re not alone.’

We spoke about his first memory, when, as a two-year-old, he came around in hospital, his brother Beau lying in the bed next to him mouthing ‘I love you, I love you, I love you’, as they learnt that they had survived a car crash that had killed their mother and baby sister, Naomi.

Forty-two years later, Beau would die of brain cancer, and in the dual grips of grief and ­addiction, Hunter would embark on an affair with his widowed ­sister-in-law. It was one of many seedy footnotes of his addiction, including fathering a child with a stripper and disappearing on his daughters, as was detailed in court last week.

There are many people, Donald Trump included, who find it astonishing that ‘Sleepy Joe’ would still associate with the Black Sheep of the Biden family — let alone announce that he was ‘proud’ of his son, on the same day that said son became the first child of a sitting president to be convicted of a crime.

But anyone who has been through addiction, or watched a family member go through ­addiction, will get it. Because, as Hunter himself told me, ‘addiction is hard, but it’s even harder on those that continue to come back to you and offer you love time and time again, and you reject it, and seemingly ­consciously choose a drink or a drug over them. It’s infuriating and frustrating’.

But here’s the thing about addicts, when they find recovery, as Hunter has: strange as it might seem, they become some of the most reliable humans on the planet. Twelve-Step programmes such as Alcoholics Anonymous, which so many use to stay sober, encourage people to hold themselves accountable for their mistakes. Hunter told me he felt ‘abject’ guilt and shame for what he put his father through, and every day he counted his blessings. ‘The only reason I am here, is because of his love,’ he said.

And so while some might want us to think of Hunter as a feckless druggie, I think he has shown a resilience few can imagine. And I’m sure he’ll be doing everything he can to make things right.

This is why he would not dream of asking his father to pardon him: because in recovery from addiction, you finally get to do the right thing. You get to show the world who you really are — in the sober light of day.

 

I’ve got PETD (Post Eras Tour Depression)  

Taylor Swift enjoys a girls night out at Argentinian restaurant Casa Cruz in Notting Hill, west London, this week

Taylor Swift enjoys a girls night out at Argentinian restaurant Casa Cruz in Notting Hill, west London, this week

The Taylor Swift juggernaut has officially hit the UK, and like many women around the country who have already been lucky enough to see her in concert, I am beginning to experience a phenomenon known as PETD, or Post Eras Tour Depression. Symptoms include lethargy, tearfulness and a realisation that you have now experienced the best night of your life and it is all downhill from here. 

 

Hooray for Bridgerton’s naked Nicola!

Nicola Coughlan in the six-minute sex scene in Bridgerton raised the temperature of many viewers

Nicola Coughlan in the six-minute sex scene in Bridgerton raised the temperature of many viewers

Well done to Nicola Coughlan, who stars in a six-minute sex scene in Bridgerton.

Some have been surprised that a woman over a size 8 would dare to take her clothes off on camera.

One journalist told Coughlan, 37, she was ‘very brave’ as if she might take this as a compliment. Note to humans everywhere: telling a woman she is ‘brave’ for daring to exist in anything other than a ­hessian sack is in itself brave. Or exceptionally stupid.

Either way, it’s absolutely not the compliment you think it is.

 

Some people are ­concerned for England’s WAGs because the nearest shop to their hotel at the Euros is a TK Maxx — not a Chanel boutique. The thing I find the most troubling? That 20 years after the tired old term ‘Wag’ was coined, we are still using it!

 

Dear HR, I love Harry

BP bosses have told senior staff they must report any office romances — or face the sack.

This got me thinking about my own office romance, many years ago, and how I might have reported it. Would I have dashed off an email or sent a formal letter? Something like: To whom it may concern, I have been having it off with Harry on the tenth floor for some time and we have decided to take things to the next level, by declaring our relationship to HR. Yours, Bryony on the 11th floor.

In the end I chose a more traditional route. Reader, I married him.

 

Confidence clinic

Much like Nicola Coughlan, I have no problem taking my clothes off. As a result, people often message saying they wish they had my confidence. With that in mind, I’ll be distilling my tips here. My first one? Remember: confidence is a trick. I don’t have confidence. What I do have is a desire not to spend a minute more of my one precious life hating my body.