The 2020 presidential election was no calm race. Like most democratic elections, it was filled with drama. While presidential candidates Donald Trump and Joe Biden had all eyes (and press) on them, their families were also under increasing scrutiny. This brought Hunter Biden and his drug addiction to light.
As the second son of US President Joe Biden, Hunter has not been far from the media’s spotlight. While he currently works as an investor and lawyer, Hunter spent a handful of years struggling with drug and alcohol addiction until finally finding the path to recovery.
Now, Hunter has come forth with his recovery story in his memoir, titled Beautiful Things. A heart-wrenching book, this memoir tells the all too familiar story of addicts and their difficult journey to recovery.
Today, we’ll dive a bit into Hunter Biden’s recovery story and his struggle with addiction.
Most addicts can point to an incident in their lives that caused them to turn towards substance use. Whether it’s something small or large, there is usually always a trigger. For Hunter Biden, there were far too many.
In 1972, when Hunter was just two years old, he was in an automobile crash with his mother, sister, and brother. Both his mother and sister were killed in the accident, while Hunter and his brother, Beau, were injured.
In his own words, Hunter draws a connection between the loss of his mother and sister and his addiction. He describes how most addicts feel that something is missing from their lives. So, they turn towards drugs or alcohol to fill that gaping hole and feel complete or numb themselves to the point that they don’t feel the hole.
However, it wasn’t just that. Hunter was always bullied – from primary school to college. Hunter states a sense of non-belonging that always resonated within him. Over the years, Hunter grew close to his brother and wife.
He had had his first drink, a glass of champagne, at the age of 8. By the age of 14, he was drinking beer. At 18, Hunter was busted for cocaine possession. Early use of substances could have contributed to Hunter’s subsequent addictions.
Research has shown that early use of drugs and alcohol can lead to addiction. This is because the substances have harmful effects on a brain that’s still developing.
Beau Biden’s Death and Hunter’s Spiral
In 2015, Beau Biden died of brain cancer after battling with it for half a decade. Despite his tough diagnosis, Hunter says Beau remained optimistic. Beau’s motto during his career was beautiful things – hence the title of the memoir.
In the same year, Hunter and his wife, Kathleen, separated. The couple had been married since 1993 and have three daughters.
Following these incidents, Hunter describes himself as falling into a dark place where he constantly drank and used substances to relieve the pain. After his brother’s death, Hunter writes about how he felt completely alone and had lost all hope.
What Causes Substance Abuse?
While the presidential campaign and much of the press presented Hunter’s addiction negatively, it’s a story that’s familiar to many Americans today. Addictions are no rare circumstance.
Hunter’s father, Joe Biden, doesn’t drink, and his brother stopped at the age of 30. Joe Biden had warned his sons not to drink because alcoholism ran in their family.
Individuals that come from families with a history of substance abuse are more prone to becoming addicts and must be careful. In fact, genetics account for up to 60% of a person’s risk of addiction.
However, genetics is not the only risk factor for addiction. Other possible risk factors include:
- Behaving aggressively as children
- Lack of parental supervision
- Lack of peer support
- Availability of drugs
It’s safe to say that all these factors could also apply to Hunter’s life. Growing up, Hunter details feeling unwanted by his peers and always have ready access to both alcohol and cocaine. As a young kid, Hunter also recalls running away from home.
Thousands, if not millions, of families around America have a similar story. They struggle with having an addict in their families. However, if Hunter’s story is an example, things can always get better, and they do with the right kind of support.
It’s always important to know how to spot early signs of addiction. Early intervention is always best. If substance abuse runs in the family, individuals need to minimize risk factors of themselves or loved ones developing an addiction.
Instead, individuals at risk can increase protective factors to prevent substance abuse from happening in the first place. These factors include:
- Parental monitoring
- Schools with anti-drug policies
- Strong support network
Hunter’s Many Interventions
The road to recovery is not easy, and it’s not linear. However, it usually starts with an intervention by loved ones. A meeting to tell addicts they have a problem, and they must get help.
Sometimes it takes one intervention, sometimes it takes two. In Hunter’s case, it was a 15 year-long journey filled with rehabs and relapses.
One particular intervention for Hunter was carried out by his father. After a particularly harrowing binge, his father approached Hunter and told him he needed help. The conversation Hunter had with his father made Hunter want to get sober and save himself. So, he checked himself into rehab and worked towards becoming sober, only to relapse later.
In 2019, the Biden family sat Hunter down and told him he needed help. The intervention, according to Hunter, did not go well. Hunter recalls Joe hugging him and crying, asking his son how he could help.
After an outburst of anger, Hunter agreed to check into a facility, only to later run away to a hotel and do more cocaine. His addiction spiral after his brother’s death was fast. Hunter spent most of his time in fancy hotel rooms and cheap motel beds, getting high and staying away from his family.
Over the years, Hunter lied to his family about the state of his sobriety – something many addicts do when they’re not prepared to get sober.
Hunter’s Road To Recovery
Hunter’s journey to recovery was not easy. In 2003, Hunter completed his first stint in rehab and began attending Alcoholics Anonymous meetings. His efforts were successful for a while, and Hunter was able to remain sober for seven years.
In 2010, Hunter relapsed and returned to the same rehab center. This time, Hunter was able to stay sober for three years. In 2013, Hunter relapsed once again when he started drinking to wean off painkillers prescribed to him for shingles.
Just one year later, in 2014, Hunter was dishonorably discharged from the navy after he tested positive for cocaine use. After getting discharged from the army, Hunter tried hard to get sober. He visited various treatment centers and tried methods such as yoga and meditation, but none were successful.
In 2016, after his separation from his wife, Hunter once again decided to get help at his father’s request. He was admitted into a treatment center in Arizona, but he soon relapsed on cocaine.
By 2018, Hunter claims he was ‘smoking crack every 15 minutes.’ He even learned how to cook drugs and spent most of his time with con artists and addicts.
After a series of tough interventions, his current wife, Melissa Cohen, finally motivated Hunter to clean. Melissa met Hunter in 2019, stood by Hunter, and helped him get clean. She cut off everyone in his life who was related to drugs and helped him ease from drinking.
Why Did Hunter’s Attempts to Become Sober Fail?
Hunter’s addiction story and journey to recovery are not unique. Individuals from all walks of life, be it elite families or working-class individuals, can fall prey to addiction and the dirty relapses that come on the journey to being sober.
But why did Hunter’s many attempts to get sober fail? Why did he relapse so often? Studies suggest that up to 85% of addicts relapse within their first year of being sober. There could be many reasons for this, such as:
When individuals stop using substances they’re dependent upon; their bodies go through withdrawal. These withdrawal symptoms can be painful and difficult to deal with. They can also last for months, sometimes even more than a year. To relieve the pain of withdrawal symptoms, most addicts return to using substances and get stuck in a vicious cycle.
As Hunter has repeatedly pointed out in his memoir, the dilemma of addiction is one that is related to mental health. While substance abuse is a problem itself, there is usually a mental health condition that underlies said addiction. Until and unless that mental health issue is addressed, the chance of relapsing will always be present.
Addicts tend to surround themselves with other addicts. That’s why part of recovery entails cutting those people out of your life who have ready access to substances and can offer them to you as well. This was a big reason for Hunter’s relapses until his wife finally made him cut those people out of his life completely.
Another reason addicts relapse is because they get triggered by places that remind them of their substance use. This could be bars and clubs they used to frequent, or it could also be other places like a park or a certain street that they frequented a lot. This is the reason why treatment centers help addicts become sober – by keeping them away from potential triggers.
Sobriety and The Present
This story of recovery is all too common for many addicts—years of stints spent in and out of rehab. However, a key aspect of getting onto the road to recovery is having a good support circle and the right treatment.
For individuals whose stories are all too familiar to Hunter’s, getting to an inpatient drug and alcohol treatment center for men in Texas is all too important. One such center is Stonegate Center, which specializes in drug and alcohol treatment.
With a team of fully licensed counselors, the Stonegate Center offers patients a safe space to break away from addiction. They offer high-quality treatment and address core issues such as trauma, anger, fear, and guilt. It is by addressing these core issues that they help individuals get sober.
For Hunter, recovery was difficult. Even with overwhelming love and support from his family, he talked about how much he thought about needing another hit and how he really had no control over these feelings.
However, in recovery, he finally got honest with himself and understood the true power the addiction had over him. Now, after a while of staying sober, Hunter says the days are getting easier. He spends his days taking part in creative activities and says the itch to use substances is gone.
The 2020 Presidential Campaign and Support for The Bidens
In the first presidential debate of the 2020 election, presidential candidate Donald Trump bought up Hunter Biden’s addiction as an attack on Joe Biden and his family. Where is Hunter became a common sneer at Joe Biden during the election.
Trump also criticized Hunter for being on the board of a Ukrainian gas company, Burisma, which sparked some political controversy.
However, having fully recovered from his addiction, Hunter was adamant that his story be told as one full of hope. Both Joe and Hunter never hid any aspect of Hunter’s addiction and spoke about it to highlight America’s growing substance abuse issue.
On countless occasions, Hunter has spoken about the support his family has given him and how they never gave up on him. In addition to Melissa’s help, he credits his father’s unconditional love as being the reason he could eventually get sober.
During the 2020 presidential election, there was definitely an outpour of love and support for Joe Biden from families who had their own addict struggles at home. However, it’s safe to say that both Hunter and Joe did receive their fair share of criticism from American society as well.
According to Hunter, addicts can recover and do great things. The time when addictions were thought to be morally wrong is long gone. Instead, it is and should be treated as a mental health issue.
American’s Substance Abuse Problem
On the release of Hunter’s memoir, US President Joe Biden spoke about how proud he was of his son, opening up about his struggle. The President stated that everyone in America probably knows at least one family with a story like theirs. While this may be true, it points to America’s concerning substance abuse problem.
Addiction kills thousands of Americans every year, yet treatment for addictions is rarely sought out. In fact, approximately 21 million Americans battle addiction, but only 10% receive treatment.
Deaths via drug overdose have also more than tripled since 1990. The growing use of substances in America means they are becoming more readily available to the population. Research has shown that young adults are most likely to engage in the heavy use of drugs than any other age group.
Alarmingly, by eighth grade, 52% of children have consumed alcohol, 41% have smoked cigarettes, and 20% have tried marijuana. As we already stated, using substances at an early age makes individuals much more susceptible to developing addictions.
A decline in the number of anti-drug messages in the media has also been linked to more alcohol and drug use among the American population. In fact, substance use is shown more frequently in movies and talked about in songs as well.
Substance abuse then leads to many other problems that are prevalent in American society, such as violence and driving under the influence.
To counter America’s growing drug problem, early intervention and proper treatment are necessary. If Hunter Biden’s story can teach us anything, it’s that recovery is possible no matter how far along you are.
Out of the 42 million people in America with a mental illness, 18% have a co-occurring substance use disorder. This alone should be enough to shed light on how substance abuse is a mental illness, and addicts need adequate help from qualified professionals to get better.
With stories like Hunter’s making headlines, the need for addicts to get help and the hope for a better life is being bought to the forefront. Instances like this raise awareness of a growing issue and can help those currently struggling with a disorder reach out for help.
If you, or someone you know, is struggling with an addiction, it’s important to extend some love, support, and a helping hand. Plan an intervention if possible and look for a good treatment facility to get your loved one on the road to recovery.
John Eckelbarger is a Business Development Representative for Stonegate Center. With a BSA in Chemistry from the University of Texas at Austin, he has an interest in the neurobiology of addiction as well as the pharmacology of drugs. He hopes to bolster Stonegate Center’s status at the forefront of addiction medicine through bold, innovative content creation. He is currently pursuing his MBA in Finance from Texas Christian University.