Through Decades Of Addiction, Hunter Biden Says His Family Never Gave Up On Him
Hunter Biden's new memoir is a story of his years of alcohol and drug addiction. He tells NPR that the one constant was the love of his family: "Their light was never not seeking me out."
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DONALD TRUMP: Where is Hunter? Locate...
NOEL KING, HOST:
That's former President Donald Trump campaigning in 2019.
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TRUMP: Hunter, you know nothing about energy. You know nothing about - you know nothing about anything, frankly. Hunter, you're a loser.
KING: Hunter Biden is President Joe Biden's second and only surviving son. He's been a lawyer, a lobbyist, and, of course, the subject of political attacks. He also suffered from self-destructive addictions to alcohol and crack. Hunter Biden tells the story of his addiction and his hopes for a recovery that lasts in a new memoir. It's called "Beautiful Things," and he talked to our colleague Scott Simon about it.
SCOTT SIMON, BYLINE: Mr. Biden, I've read the story you tell in the book. I got to tell you - I'm almost amazed that you're still alive.
HUNTER BIDEN: Well, first of all, thank you. Thank you for having me. But, yeah, it's a harrowing story.
SIMON: You've got some startling, insightful sections on what it's like inside the mind of an alcoholic. Can you tell us some of those things that you tell yourself when you were drinking?
BIDEN: Well, one of the things about being stuck in your addiction, there wasn't much that I think any alcoholic, when they're drinking, is rationally thinking, and that's the reason why it's such a hard thing to pull yourself out of. You know, I talk about this in the book - when my dad and my mom asked me to come down, and I was staying in a motel room somewhere in Connecticut.
And I walk into the house, and there they are with my daughters - Naomi, Finnegan and Maisy - and my niece and nephew, Natalie and Hunter and two counselors. You know, my immediate reaction was to run. But my dad grabbed me and held on to me and put me in a bear hug and just said, I don't know what to do. And even with all of that love, the feeling that overcame that love was my need for another hit, which is a hard thing to live with. But that's what recovery's about, is getting honest with yourself and understanding the power of that drug or the power of the addiction.
SIMON: Your father said to you when that happened, in your recollection in the book - he says, I don't know what else to do. I'm so scared. Tell me what to do.
BIDEN: Yeah. I think there's so many people that love someone that's struggling with addiction. I mean, we are struggling with two pandemics right now - the coronavirus, but also a pandemic of addiction, which ultimately, I hope we start to talk about as a mental health issue rather than just a criminal justice issue.
SIMON: Mr. Biden, you know I've got to ask you about Burisma.
SIMON: You were on the board of a Ukrainian energy company while your father was involved in making U.S. policy toward Ukraine. Now, an investigation by Senate Republicans didn't find any wrongdoing or improper influence. But was it a wise thing to do?
BIDEN: I was on about a dozen boards before I joined the board of Burisma. I had an expertise in corporate governance. I was a lawyer for Boies Schiller Flexner, which is one of the best law firms in the world. That's how I came to the job. I did it...
SIMON: But even you note your last name helped.
BIDEN: No, I think that in every instance it is important for me to make that clear and to be honest about that. But, you know, I worked hard to graduate Yale Law School. I had a business. And at the end of the day, the question was whether it was wise. Well, what I know now is that it was certainly not wise in this political environment to create that perception, and that's why I would not do it again.
SIMON: May I ask how much you got paid?
BIDEN: I think it's reported I was paid handsomely. I don't want to say the exact number right now because I don't want to get it wrong. But I was paid very well.
SIMON: Because there are sections in the book when you describe that you would be ensconced for weeks in hotel suites, cooking and doing crack, while your dealers would clear out the minibar, order room service, all on your tab. How did you afford that?
BIDEN: Well, I had a successful business beyond Burisma. And the fact of the matter is, is that addiction hits hard and fast. And if I hadn't have pulled out of my tailspin, I wouldn't have been able to continue. But it wasn't just hotel suites; I spent a lot more time in $39-a-night motel rooms up and down I-95.
SIMON: I've got two blunt, direct, really tough ones for you now.
SIMON: All of the attention your name gets, your story gets, all the sharp opinions some people are going to express - do you worry about falling back?
BIDEN: Constantly. I have a healthy fear of relapse. It's too much a part of my story. I'm only one choice away from being back exactly where I was, and that's the conundrum for everyone that's in recovery. It never goes away; it only hides.
SIMON: Are you afraid of hurting your father?
BIDEN: I've never been afraid of hurting my dad in the sense of - that any mistakes that I've made would rupture his love for me. But I still am constantly aware of how much pain I caused. And, you know, as my dad said - he said, you know, honey, I think the most important thing - and this is the reason I wrote the book, truly the reason I wrote the book is that it'll give, hopefully, some people hope, give them some hope that they don't have to remain locked in that prison.
And I don't just mean the people that are stuck at the bottom of the well like I was, but the people that stand at the top of that well and realize, unless we go down with a lantern, he's never going to find his way out. But that's a dark and dangerous journey for them, and it was for my family. But their light was never not seeking me out - never a moment, never a moment that they weren't trying to save me.
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KING: That was Hunter Biden talking to NPR host Scott Simon. Biden's memoir, "Beautiful Things," comes out tomorrow.
(SOUNDBITE OF THE NATIONAL SONG, "NOBODY ELSE WILL BE THERE") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.