Mentors: How to Help and Be Helped

Mentors: How to Help and Be Helped

by Russell Brand


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Russell Brand explores the idea of mentoring and shares what he's learned from the guidance of his own helpers, heroes and mentors.

Could happiness lie in helping others and being open to accepting help yourself? Mentors – the follow up to the New York Times bestseller Recovery – describes the benefits of seeking and offering help.

"I have mentors in every area of my life, as a comic, a dad, a recovering drug addict, a spiritual being and as a man who believes that we, as individuals and the great globe itself, are works in progress and that through a chain of mentorship we can improve individually and globally, together . . . One of the unexpected advantages my drug addiction granted is that the process of recovery that I practise includes a mentorship tradition.

"I will encourage you to find mentors of your own and explain how you may better use the ones you already have. Furthermore, I will tell you about my experiences mentoring others and how invaluable that has been on my ongoing journey to self-acceptance and how it has helped me to transform from a bewildered and volatile vagabond to a (mostly) present and (usually) focussed husband and father."—Russell Brand

Mentors: How to Help and Be Helped describes the impact that a series of significant people have had on the author – from the wayward youths he tried to emulate growing up in Essex, through the first ex-junkie sage, to the people he turns to today to help him be a better father. It explores how we all – consciously and unconsciously – choose guides, mentors and heroes throughout our lives and examines the new perspectives they can bring.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781250226273
Publisher: Holt, Henry & Company, Inc.
Publication date: 04/09/2019
Pages: 176
Sales rank: 218,793
Product dimensions: 5.55(w) x 8.59(h) x 0.67(d)

About the Author

Russell Brand is a comedian and an addict. He's been addicted to drugs, sex, fame, money and power. Even now as a new father, sixteen years into recovery he still writes about himself in the third person and that can't be healthy. He is the author of five books, including the New York Times bestseller Recovery. He still performs as a comic and is studying for an MA in Religion in Global Politics. He has two cats, two dogs, a wife, two daughters, ten chickens and sixty thousand bees in spite of being vegan curious. He is certain that the material world is an illusion but still keeps licking the walls of the hologram.

Read an Excerpt



No one escapes childhood unscarred. The raw animalism is crudely sculpted by events and best intentions. Drives designed to survive and thrive in a world we have long concreted over thrash against screens and surge with sugar. And now in practice, as a dad, my tender sentimentalism is tested by the iron will of a toddler – 'I'll nurture that wild and perfect spirit' at 3 a.m. becomes 'Oh God. Oh dear Lord, make this fucking child go to sleep'. Does anyone cross as vast a terrain as the Rousseauian idealist turned parent? If a conservative is a mugged liberal, a dad is a knackered Jesus.

No child is awake enough to appoint a mentor, you take what you are given; it isn't until adolescence that we grope beyond the boundaries of Mum & Dad, or whoever was doing that job. Some boys give that job to peers in gangs, some girls give it to ponies but, for all of us, beyond these narrow roles are scores of Ben Kenobis and Maya Angelous just dying to pass on a lifetime of twinkling wisdom. Worth noting that if the teen craving for an idol is soaked up by vapid consumerism, all that hormonal good intent could get splurged on a digital Kardashian or wrung out on a beatboxing pipkin in a backward baseball cap. Yes, yes, the adolescent wants coitus but what does the wanting want?

Our glacial days of digital perennialism place us in a constant 'now' without ever really being present, and icons are torn apart. No sooner does a hero rise than she isexposed as a hypocrite. Malcolm X was a rent boy, Gandhi had some odd nocturnal habits and even Che, the obligatory teen portal into rebellious sentience, was a homophobic murderer. Too Much Information; the iconoclasm of our omniscient but omni-dumb days unweaves the carpets that we may have walked upon and leaves us in the wasteland of the 'only human'.

Before I was awake to such things as conscious mentorship, I adored my older cousins and they begat Morrissey, who shone the torch of adulation on Jimmy Dean and Oscar Wilde. Each retains a place in the 'constellation of self' as I blaze into my middle years. My cousins with their chip-toothed Essex cool, Moz's elevation of suffering, Dean's sexy damage, and Wilde is a little too complex to skip over with a handful of adjectives but, God, the tragedy, the wit, the ambiguity, the social conscience and the contradiction.

We make ourselves, consciously or unconsciously, building patterns in the infinite, holding on to strands amidst the limitless, sometimes grasping through fear, sometimes clutching with desire. Through proper mentorship, a transition of skills, a nurture of energy can take place that instantiates an adult from the beautiful wreckage of childhood, a sober man from the drunk, a master from the student, a mother from the girl.

When I was sixteen I left home in search of my misfortune and quickly found it. It was in Bermondsey. There's enough misery in South London for everyone, it wasn't as cool then as it's meant to be now. There I holed up with some Lost Boys, two years older and a great deal wiser, and in my mind I made them legends. When I look back now at these eighteen-yearold lads I see that they were herberts but I needed them to be cool, so cool is what I saw. Question: is there an objective 'reality' or a series of interdependent mental projections? In other words, was Hitler a kind of nationally conjured totem to re-energize castrated and enraged Germany? Were The Beatles a quadrant of awakening shamans that carried a generation from plodding rock, to sexy pop, then psychedelia and ultimately consumerism? The events in the outer world are governed by subtler energies, many of which pass through our collective psyche. No doubt meteors and hurricanes shape environment but culture, by definition, is the manifestation of human drives. There are patterns, shapes and archetypes that recur.

At nineteen when I first saw the already dead Bill Hicks I felt a bodily transference. I'm not claiming to be entitled to the mantle of the great American stand-up, there's enough people doing that, but I felt empowered and inspired by him. Inspired – he put breath into me. And breath is life. It is curious to me that in early life my mentors were remote. Famous or dead or both. It wasn't until Chip Somers that I chose to emulate another man in order to move from one state to another.



A recovering drug addict is a contradiction by definition and Chip is a fine example. A nerd bank robber. Middle-class scum. Pious atheist. I didn't make him a mentor when he diagnosed my addiction, at that point he was just the bloke who ran the treatment centre I was unwillingly being packed off to, someone I'd have to charm into letting me out at some point. For all I knew there would be a test and a certificate. In fact there was: drug tests and a kind of 'well done, you' certificate – like 'Sports Day Medals for Everyone' at a progressive school.

When I met Chip he had been clean for a little longer than I have now, sixteen years. He'd been trawling London with zealous do-goodery, interfering in the life of Davina McCall and was friends with Eric Clapton, so he had credentials. Of course I was not famous at this time but if you'd cut me open I was pure ambition. Well, not pure, I was significantly contaminated with crack and heroin – that was the problem.

Chip had been a far worse drug addict than I was. For one thing he was intravenous, for another he served real time for proper crime; in the warped ecology of junkies and inhabitants of the underworld that means he had status. More practically it meant I could trust him on the subject of addiction and the business of quitting drugs.

In this case there was the added advantage that I had been institutionalized and that there was a clear endpoint in mind – abstinence – and a method to achieve it: 12 Step recovery. Perhaps these are the perfect conditions for mentorship: a mentor, a mentee, a method and an institute. The Hindu guru–disciple relationship typically functions along these lines, as does martial arts training. Interestingly, neither of these paths have an obvious western counterpart; the most obvious comparison – trade apprenticeship – is contextualized by commerce and professional necessity. In my experience, mentorship is more successful when there is no financial component.

The most immediate and obvious thing that Chip taught me was that it is okay to talk about your feelings, more than okay, mandatory. In fact that's all we did, talked about feeling vulnerable, inadequate, fearful and angry. Honesty is non-negotiable in a relationship of this nature because you need to trust someone if you're going to allow them to help you, and they of course need to be dealing with the truth of who you are, not the Facebook, press-release version of yourself you've been fobbing the world off with up till now. Through his honesty, Chip demonstrated that it was safe to be vulnerable; through his own abstinence and change he showed me that the task I had to undertake – to give up drugs and alcohol – was entirely achievable and he told me what I would have to do. What I brought to the relationship, I now know, was Honesty, Open-mindedness and Willingness – known as 'HOW' in 12 Step jargon. This is the attitude I deploy still in any relationship where I am the student. Whether in meditation, Jiu Jitsu or business affairs I approach my teacher, my 'mentor', in an honest, open-minded and willing way. I recognize that they have something I want, that they have achieved something that I haven't, that as I am in the moment I sit before them, I am insufficient, and for the transfer of energy or education to take place I must be mentally and spiritually prepared. This is as true for a yoga class as it is for a Spanish lesson or therapy.

No wonder my high school education was a washout. On the days I showed up I sat detached, glum, angry and impenetrable. I did not want what the teachers had to offer, I wanted to go home. But to be fair to teenage me, because I've learned to love that little guy, while the schools I went to may have declared that they were there to educate, they were in fact, unconsciously or otherwise, there to indoctrinate their charges into a state of malleability and passivity. Generally educational bodies do not exist to bring out your innate brilliance but to monger your wayward nature into a unit of manageable energy that will not be too disruptive to the social systems that benefit the powerful.

Chip was not about that at all. He was a kind and caring man, it was clear to me – even then – that he felt invested in my wellbeing. In the intervening years I have changed somuch that it is hard to recall the vulnerability I felt then or how alien Chip's kindness was.

In the three months that I was in treatment I was given written tasks to complete that were formulated around the first three of the 12 Steps:

1. Admit you have a problem.

2. Believe in the possibility of change.

3. Ask for help and follow suggestion.

In practice this meant providing accounts of when my drinking and drug use put me in danger or caused me to behave regrettably, examples of new habits I could adopt to support change, and ways in which I could get help that weren't previously available.

Nearly sixteen years later I use this formula when dealing with less critical problems of my own, and when mentoring other people. It is a near universal template. Having Chip as a witness and a guide as I undertook this as a novice was invaluable. When I gave accounts of the consequences of my drug use he was non-judgemental and offered stories of his own. He was able to validate ideas I had about how to change my habits and patterns and suggest better ones; and, importantly, he was a living demonstration of the success of the methods. He was also the first person that I was able to ask for help in a way that felt safe and free from hidden or unclear obligation. This is the first, and in a way most vivid, example of mentorship because the intention was so explicit, transition from drug user to abstinence; the method was established, the 12 Steps; and the environment supportive, a treatment centre for addiction. This meant that the relationship between Chip and myself had a good chance of succeeding as long as I was honest, open and willing, was able to accept my own flaws, believe I could change and give Chip the authority to steward that change. His obvious compassion, humour, honesty and experience meant that my decision to trust him felt safe. When I read my life story to him, a common therapeutic exercise which gives your mentor an idea of your version of events and forces you to commit yourself to a narrative, he said, and I remember this most vividly and it still elicits a little, inward shudder, 'Poor, lonely, little boy.'

Hearing him say that made me feel understood but humbled, like I no longer needed to inflict an impression of myself on others, that I was no longer required to dupe or trick people into accepting a version of me that I constructed as I went along. It kind of winded me. It meant that I could accept that my shameful feeling about being that little boy could be addressed head on. It meant that I could tell Chip saw the truth in what I wrote. My mate Matt read the same life story the night before I handed it in, he'd come to visit me in treatment, rather sweetly. Let me tell you his assessment of the work was less sympathetic, he wrung it out for comedy in the most brutal fashion, cruelly pointing out my unconscious attempt to present my life as a kind of rock 'n' roll bio, scoffing at the bits where I 'lived above pubs', and coldly undermining the self-aggrandizing tone. Humbling in another way. For this reason I have peers, to remind me where the boundaries of my tribe lie. But if I want to get beyond these boundaries I will need a mentor. Chip didn't take the piss. It would've been pretty unforgivable if he had (!). He saw past all the posturing and grandeur to the deeper truth; I was an uninitiated man and I needed to be recognized and encouraged.

The mentorship Chip gave me was a success, and the goal of every student is to surpass the master. I may never have achieved this goal but I did become clean; once clean I could resume my all-consuming quest for glory and with that I was alone once more, untethered, fatherless. The encoded individualism runs so deep in me that once the obvious symptoms of addiction had been addressed, its power reasserted, and for a decade I was lost in rudderless indulgence and illusion. Whilst I had learned from Chip how to become drug free, I had failed to learn a deeper lesson.



A divorce is a rupture, the deliberate detonation of a bond made in good faith, a shared and mutual dream. The bouquets, the invites, the napkins, the fucking napkins, all torn up and undone. That happy ceremonial day and pink-cheeked love will be fastidiously unpicked, but first the explosion of divorce. Slowly it has been dawning that things are not working, your own limitations and the limitations of the person you married swarm and enclose like locusts feasting on the corpse of goodwill. They were not who you thought they were, you are not who you think you are. The tracks that led uninterrupted to the future of total union are wrenched up and mangled, the blissful plains you had landscaped together are gone and there is a steep drop into the gawping nowhere.

Now, in the aftermath of the split, I am with Meredith in the modest room in North London in which she practises. It is here and there festooned with Zen Japanese art and books on Chinese medicine. I suppose she is in her fifties but I've known her over ten years and she's always seemed to be in her fifties. She is American, an acupuncturist, calm, sharp and smart, warm in unexpected starts. I must've told her of my plan to cope with the pain of divorce by having sex with lots of people because she said, 'What does it mean then, all this meditation, this program, this faith in God, if as soon as there is a problem in your life you turn to sex?'

Well, what it means is that the meditation, program and faith in God are all phoney, hollow practices, phatic chants and empty dances that I carry out when the going is good, basically just for their aesthetic value. But when pain comes, and pain is always coming, I will abruptly turn, like a good little soldier, to a materialistic solution to a spiritual problem. It means that my true religion is materialism, my true god is the ego, and what I really mean when I say 'I want to be enlightened' is 'I want to feel nice'. It wasn't necessary for me to say this, and I didn't, but the question had revealed the hidden truth: that I still found it hard to live a spiritual life, particularly when threatened, and that is when you need the spiritual life the most.

Ostensibly Meredith is an acupuncturist; I went to see her with a bad back. I don't know when my back got better but I continued to go because the conversations we had during the acupuncture were, to me, more valuable than the acupuncture itself, which I feel somehow will appal her. Meredith is interested in deep truth, wisdom. She is a healer but carries none of the woo-woo baggage that term implies. Some time into our relationship it occurred to me that you have the family you are born with and the family you consciously appoint. Meredith became an appointed mother. I don't mean for this to diminish the vital role of my own mother, nor do I mean to say that I have depended on Meredith to the enormous degree that the word 'mother' suggests. It is that on some biochemical or philosophical level I recognized her as a portal for maternal nurture of a type that I required as an adult. A mentor is a type of hero and a hero is a symbol, much of the work they do for you is in effect done by you, yourself, in your own mind. Take the example of Meredith and the revealing question she asked in this instance. She revealed to me that I was living dishonestly and demonstrated, by her own being, that there was an alternative. Now I don't need to set up camp at the foot of her bed or be there at the breakfast table sobbing, while she feeds her actual family, to receive the benefits of her wisdom. I just need to be open to education, willing to change. In this way we author our reality.

I determined to make Meredith a 'mother'. I decided to accept her nurture. This is a more conscious and less severe example of mentorship than I experienced with Chip, my requirements had changed. Whilst I still have a long road ahead of me and evidently at the time of Meredith's searing question I was still unconsciously functioning through addictive behaviour – distraction from pain through sex – I'd grown beyond the point of shuffling dependency. Any good mentor will enhance your self-sufficiency.


Excerpted from "Mentors"
by .
Copyright © 2019 Russell Brand.
Excerpted by permission of Henry Holt and Company.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

Title Page,
Copyright Notice,
1. Among Lost Boys: The Time Before Mentors,
2. The First Mentor: Initiation with a Devoted Atheist,
3. Mentor Two: Zen Nurture from the Wise Woman,
4. Mentor Three: The Goodison Guru,
5. Mentor Four: The Warrior on the Mat,
6. Mentor Five: The Park Bench Merlin,
7. Mentor Six: The Aphrodite of the Damned,
8. Mentor Seven: The Divine Mother,
9. Missed Chances: Before the Student is Ready,
10. Mentor Eight: The Brother Swami,
11. Fatherhood: How to Practise,
12. Becoming a Mentor,
13. Answering the Call,
The 12 Steps,
About the Author,

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