Signs Of Different Substance Addictions, with Chris Browning

Dr Daniel Amen and Tana Amen BSN RN On The Brain Warrior's Way Podcast

Sons of Anarchy and Westworld actor Chris Browning went from living in a house in Malibu to living in a tent under the 405 freeway. The progression of his downward spiral was reflected by the different drugs he was using at the time, from cocaine to meth and ultimately to heroin. In the second episode of a series on Chris’ downfall and redemption story, he and Tana Amen discuss what it’s like to find yourself at rock bottom.

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Dr Daniel Amen: Welcome to the Brain Warrior's Way podcast. I'm Dr. Daniel Amen.
Tana Amen: And I'm Tana Amen. In our podcast we provide you with the tools you need to become a warrior for the health of your brain and body.
Dr Daniel Amen: The Brain Warrior's Way podcast is brought to you by Amen Clinics where we have been transforming lives for 30 years. Using tools like brain SPECT imaging to personalize treatment to your brain. For more information, visit
Tana Amen: The Brain Warrior's Way podcast is also brought to you by BrainMD, where we produce the highest quality nutraceuticals to support the health of your brain and body. To learn more, go to
Welcome back. So I'm still here with Chris Browning. I'm really enjoying this. I've had such a good time having you here today, Chris. We actually got to see your brain. I forgot to say that in the first one. So, that's good. I mean, you've actually been clean now for 15 years and we got to see your brain and you're really honest about injuries you've had and those moments where you've done painkillers a couple of times, but for the most part you've been pretty good to your brain for 15 years and it certainly could've been much worse if you had been in 15 years ago, it would have been much worse.
So what was exciting is we can show you the improvements you can make, which I'm looking really forward to taking you on that journey. But I'm actually pretty amazed you were able to get as clean as you did and do as well as you have through these last 15 years. So how did it happen? I want to know, you're in Malibu, you're living in this house, you make that first purchase of heroin. What was on your mind? This is a good idea or maybe I shouldn't do this.
Chris Browning: What got me in trouble when I lived in Malibu was cocaine. Because I was going downtown, I had this bright red '66 Impala convertible that I would take from Malibu all the way downtown to Alvarado to buy cocaine. I didn't even have a dealer. I'm such an idiot. So I'm going down in this red flag of a car, white guy going right in the hood to buy drugs every day, getting an eight ball. And then I would cook it because I was a purist. I wasn't going to just buy crack. I was going to get powder and cook it and make my own freebase like a purist. Who knows what they put in that crack? I like to know what I'm smoking. So I'm driving down the 10 with a test tube and baking soda and water and cooking the stuff up and smoking it while I'm driving a car.
Yeah. And so that's what got me in trouble. That's because the last sitcom I was on that ended. And I knew I wasn't coming back to the next season and, I hated that job anyway, but that's a different story. But, so I knew I wasn't coming back and I was making money. The last couple of years I was making money like I had never had in my life and I would get a gold card in the mail every two days so I took them. I was, I'll take those. And then it just got to the point where I didn't have to be ready for work, so I was running the wheels off of it. And I was just smoking coke and drinking for days at a time and praying an audition wouldn't come in because I don't want to go to it.
I'm a mess and I know it and ran out of money and just started getting cash advances on those credit cards. And I maxed out like 10 gold cards and that's what it was. And then I kind of stumbled into heroin one time, but that wasn't even what... Yeah it was heroin. Because I told you I had a period I have been the meth, the tweaker guy. I've been the crack head. I've been this straight alcoholic and heroin was where I found my calling.
Tana Amen: So you experimented with all of them and then you found the one that...
Chris Browning: Well more than experimented. I mean that's a whole different lifestyle. Crack heads are a crack head. They hang out with other crack heads and tweakers, the meth people, that is definitely their own little world. They don't even hang out with heroin addicts. They think that heroin addicts are the worst. We were talking about that before. The tweakers will say, "Oh, watch out for this guy he's a heroin addict. He'll steal your wallet and help you look for it. And I'm, talk about the pot calling the kettle black because the tweakers are the shadiest because I've been one. And when I was a tweaker my soul left my body and hid somewhere because I was full of demons and it's just evil. And the example I would give when I'm in jail arguing with tweakers about who's the shadiest...
Tana Amen: You realize how crazy this sounds to someone sitting here right?
Chris Browning: It's a conversation happening in jail. There's a warning sign. And I'm going to convince this tweaker that he's worse than me, but he is. I'm sorry, those tweakers because I was. When I was a tweaker the difference is as a heroin addict I'm going to go steal. I lived in the bushes next to the 405 and everybody's got a little hustle right? They've got to come up somehow and my thing was I was a thief and I would steal. I would shoplift vodka and sell it to the Russian mafia with my Russia speaking skills from going to Russia.
Tana Amen: It's funny now. It would not be funny if it was still happening.
Chris Browning: But the funny thing was these guys they're playing cards in the park looking like retired guys but they're bosses and they all own bars and restaurants and they would take as much as I could bring them. I learned about that little hustle from another guy and that's how I found it. So lots of junkies were coming through the park and going up and saying, "Hey, I've got 15 bottles in the car." And they pretend they don't speak English and they'd just take it because they know they're going to take it, whatever it is. And then I would go in and I would haggle with them. And these are Russian Jew mobsters who love the whole game. They love haggling and they don't care about the money. But we can do a little back and forth and I'm getting $25 and the other guys are getting $15 for a bottle. And they're, well, what are you doing? But the Russians are [foreign language 00:07:26]. I'm, yeah, yeah. They're saying, "You're a good kid. Come here and come see me tomorrow."
Tana Amen: That's so funny.
Chris Browning: So the other junkies are going well, hey, what's going on? And that turned into can you do mine? And so then some days I wouldn't even steal.
Tana Amen: Because, you'd take theirs.
Chris Browning: I would just meet all the... Broker, couple of 100 bottles. Meet me at the park. I'll be there at noon and they'd show up and I'd take my piece of that. But I wouldn't even have to steal anything. I could still make $400 or $500.
Tana Amen: So I thought I had a crazy story growing up. This story is pretty crazy.
Chris Browning: But see, that was the difference. A heroin addict would, I'm going to go and do whatever illegal thing I've got to do to get my money. I'm going to get the dealer on the phone and page him and get my drugs and go back to whatever little camp, wherever my mattress is laying and spend the rest of the day being high. Tweakers will get high and then go out and do shady shit for three days. The high is just a given. The activity of doing scandalous, shady, stealing identities and ripping off cars and stealing, being a burglar, that's what they like. That's the fun thing to do while you're high.
Tana Amen: So I just have to say you're sitting here describing, classifying different addicts, but as someone who grew up with addicts, to someone on the other end of it, you're all scary. I'm sitting here thinking, it just all sounds horrifying and terrifying to me because I'm a little kid. If you're another person on the other end of it, it's just scary to us. And all of them hurt your brain. So you've done them all and they all hurt your brain.
Chris Browning: Well, that was the other point that people used to tell me, they were, you look so young. I mean, when I was 40 I looked like I was 25. And when I tell people I'm 55 they're, wow. I always say that it's like being cryogenically frozen for all those years because my heart rate was about 40. I was slowed down a lot and I didn't even sweat. I was homeless and I had no b.o. I wouldn't bathe for two weeks. I'm, no, I'm still good. And the tweakers were coming through and it was like watching time lapse photography. These guys would come in, especially women. It was tough on women. They'd just come in and there's this 30 year old girl who just ran away from home and she's a tweaker. Next year she looks like she's 50.
Tana Amen: Oh yeah, it's bad. I mean their teeth, everything just starts to...
Chris Browning: And that's the thing I thought I would have been in a lot worse shape if I would've stayed in that world. Because that's just pouring corrosive on your nerves and everything.
Tana Amen: Well, and when you look at someone who's been doing drugs like that and you see their skin and you see their teeth, what people don't realize, it's hurting your brain before it's hurting the rest of you.
Chris Browning: Right. That's the outside of the plant.
Tana Amen: Your skin is a reflection of what's going on in your brain. And so that's one of the things that we try to explain to people. It's aging your skin. It's just destroying your brain.
Chris Browning: Because, that's the last indicator is the outside of the plant. You're dying from the inside out.
Tana Amen: So no one really gets out of it free with a get out of jail free card. At some point it catches up to you and it caught up to you. Obviously you're living under the freeway. Like you said, you even said it sort of steals your soul when you're doing the tweaker thing. But at some point you obviously decided that it was time you were done with that. So in our next episode I want to... I mean not a lot of people can do that, so kudos to you. Not a lot of people are going to go from this extreme of being successful, to living under the 405 freeway, to then having the will and the just the heart and whatever it takes to be able to come back from that. So in our next episode, let's talk about what you did. How did you come back from that? And go on to have the successful career you have now. Because I mean, I read the list earlier and you've got a very successful career. You've been in some great shows. You've got purpose in your life, and so we'll talk about all that.
Chris Browning: Okay.
Tana Amen: All right. If you are enjoying the Brain Warrior's Way podcast, please don't forget to subscribe so you'll always know when there's a new episode and while you're at it, feel free to give us a review or five star rating as that helps others find the podcast.
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