“Most people who’ve gone through what I’ve gone through are either dead or in jail,” Hunter Biden told “CBS This Morning” co-host Anthony Mason.
In Biden’s new memoir, “Beautiful Things,” he addresses his lifelong battle with addiction, and his family’s efforts to save him from himself.
He said anxiety and trauma experienced as a child, with the death of his mother and one-year-old sister, played a part in pushing him to alcohol and crack – and it was a blind date with his future wife that rescued him.
Hunter’s battle with addiction began with a feeling of loneliness he said he’s felt since he was a child: “It’s the feeling of never fitting in. It’s that hole. And you don’t know what it is exactly.”
Mason asked, “Where do you think that feeling came from?”
“I am more convinced now, that trauma is at the center of it.”
“Which trauma – the loss of your mother?”
“Yeah. Absolutely. And I don’t know why I had such a hard time ever admitting that.”
Biden’s mother, Neilia Biden, and his one-year-old sister, Naomi, were killed in a car crash in 1972. He and his older brother, Beau, just two and three at the time, were critically injured, but survived. Their father, Joe, was sworn in to his first term as a senator by their hospital bedside.
“I think there’s a lot of research now that points to the idea that almost all addicts who suffer from addiction have a serious trauma in their lives,” Hunter said.
In his book Hunter writes, “Beau and I never really grieved the loss of our mother or our baby sister.”
“You didn’t talk about it with your dad, either?” asked Mason
“We talked about my mom all the time with my dad. But the actual accident, no,” he replied. “The darkness that I know my dad suffered afterwards was not something that we necessarily talked about until much later.”
“Do you wish you had now?”
“No. And this is where I am … it’s hard. This is why I don’t want to admit that we probably should have. I think they were trying to protect us,” he said.
The book chronicles Biden’s lifelong struggles with alcohol and cocaine. At one point, he managed to stay clean for more than seven years. But when Beau died of brain cancer in 2015, Hunter began a four-year descent into the darkest period of his addiction, what he calls “a blur of complete and utter debauchery.”
“Drinking a quart of vodka a day by yourself in a room is absolutely, completely debilitating,” Hunter told Mason, adding he was “smoking crack around the clock” and “drinking insanely lethal amounts of alcohol.”
By 2019, he’d become a target of the Trump campaign and yet, Hunter said, “It didn’t change my behavior in any way. I still needed to get high. I still needed to hide. I still needed to fill that hole.”
As his father was planning a presidential run, Hunter, who’d left behind three daughters and a failed marriage, was living out of roadside motels, chasing his next fix.
Then, the family planned a dramatic intervention, disguised as an invitation to a family dinner.
Mason asked, “Why did you agree to go?”
“My mom said she missed me. ‘Dad, ‘ she said, ‘Dad really, really needs you, honey.”
“But you were not really in a condition to go?”
“No. And I walk in and there are my three girls, my niece and nephew, my mom and dad, and two counselors from a rehab center I’d been to before. And I looked and I said, ‘Not a chance. No way.'”
“Exploded, literally began to run up the driveway.”
“And your father chased you?”
“Yeah, and he grabbed me in a hug. And grabbed me. [Gives me a] bear hug. And he said, and just cried and said, ‘I don’t know what to do. I don’t know what to do.'”
“What did you think when you heard that?”
“I thought, ‘I need to figure out a way to tell him that I’m gonna do something so that I can go take another hit,'” Hunter recalled. “It’s the only thing I could think. I don’t know of a force more powerful than my family’s love, except addiction.
“I said I was gonna go get help. Booked the next flight to Los Angeles, and decided that I was going to completely disappear forever.”
But before he disappeared, Hunter agreed to an interview with The New Yorker. He said, “It’s part of the thing that saved me, though. I started to tell my story.”
Mason said, “A lot of people looked at that New Yorker article and thought, ‘Why are you doing this to your dad right now?'”
“Yeah. And I looked at it as, I was gonna take away their ammunition,” Hunter said. “The one thing that I thought that they would try to use against [my dad] was my drug addiction, this idea that I was a crack addict.”
“You wanted to put it out there before they could use it against you, and against your father?”
“Yeah, exactly, exactly. And no one in the campaign knew I was. Because I knew they’d say no.”
What happened next, Biden calls a “miracle.”
On a blind date, he met Melissa Cohen, an aspiring filmmaker from South Africa. They had an instant connection.
“And then I told her an hour later, I said, ‘I’m a crack addict,'” Hunter said.
“And she didn’t run away?”
“She said, ‘Well, that ends now.'”
Mason asked, “Did you think it was your last chance?”
“Yes. I knew it was my last chance.”
Just seven days later, they were married. Last year their son, Beau, was born.
With Melissa’s help, Hunter Biden began to repair the damage. One of the deepest wounds to his family: the affair he had with his brother’s widow, Hallie, just after Beau’s death.
Mason asked, “A lot of people look at that and think, ‘What were you thinking?’ What were you thinking?”
Hunter replied, “Both of us had gone through the most incredibly painful loss. And it was out of love. And I thought that maybe that love would bring my brother back. And it didn’t work.”
“In the middle of that, did you think about how your own kids would look at this?”
“Yeah. And it was hard. That’s all I can say. It was really hard.”
In the nearly two years he says he’s been sober, Hunter Biden has tried to make amends. The hardest amends to make, he said, was to his brother.
“‘Cause you couldn’t make that in person?” asked Mason.
“I made a promise to him that I would, I’d be okay.”
“You felt like you let him down?”
“So, how do you make peace with that?”
“Live every day in honor of that,” he replied. “Being of purpose and of service to other people. That I know is what I need to do.”
“Beautiful Things” will be published Tuesday by Gallery Books, an imprint of Simon & Schuster (a division of ViacomCBS).
For more of Anthony Mason’s interview with Hunter Biden.
To watch Tracy Smith’s interview with Hunter Biden on “CBS Sunday Morning”.