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What To Do When Your Self-Talk Works Against You, with Chris Browning

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

When actor Chris Browning became addicted to heroin, one of his biggest takeaways was that heroin addiction is the only disease that tells you that you don’t have it. His ego and distorted view of self constantly got in the way of his getting help and making a change. But, as he describes to Tana in the episode, it was the miracle that took place during a prison riot knife fight that finally convinced him to start looking for the other side.

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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 amenclinics.com.
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 brainmd.com
Welcome back. I'm still here with Chris Browning. This week we are talking about, not only addiction, but coming back from addiction. But in case you missed the first episode, some of the things that you might've seen Chris on, Angel Has Fallen, your new movie Outlaw Johnny Black, right? So we're looking forward to seeing that. Greenlight, Healer, The Book [crosstalk 00:01:09] of Eli. Oh, The Unhealer. Unhealer. Book of Eli. That's coming out soon also, right?
Chris Browning: Book of Eli?
Tana Amen: No. The Unhealer.
Chris Browning: The Unhealer should be out. Yeah. Yeah, that was the thing with Natasha Henstridge and Adam Beach.
Tana Amen: Okay. Fun.
Chris Browning: It's kind of a supernatural thing.
Tana Amen: I'm going to look for it. Fun. But I remember you from The 100, and Sons of Anarchy, and Bosh. Those are three that I watch. So yeah, so pay attention, look for Chris, and you're just a great actor.
Chris Browning: Thank you.
Tana Amen: It was really fun seeing you on set. And we've been, I was just so...
Chris Browning: Yeah, we did a thing. We just did a...
Tana Amen: Yeah, I was doing the stage mom thing, so it was fun. So my daughter actually got to work with you. And that was really fun for me to see.
Chris Browning: In Escape From Area 51.
Tana Amen: Yeah. Yeah, it was really fun. But we...
Chris Browning: You should see it. I can't wait to see it.
Tana Amen: Yeah, It's going to be fun. It's going to be fun. So we've been talking about, as I was sitting on set with you and you were talking about... I heard you say, I did heroin once for six years, and I ended up living under the 405 Freeway. And I'm like sitting here watching you, and I'm... You've got this incredible career that you have now, and you've been clean for 15 years. So you're living under the 405, and at what point do you decide you need to get clean? And how did you just make that decision and make it happen? That's a hard thing to do.
Chris Browning: Well, I knew the answer was there. I knew, you know, my mom was sober for 40 years. So I was raised by sober people, and I knew that's where the answer was. It just, it just wasn't, I didn't seem to be on the list. I've seen it working for other people, but it was like, I don't know the secret handshake or something, because I was in and out and in and out of recovery for 12 years, it took me 12 years to get a 90 day. I couldn't stay sober for 90 days.
Tana Amen: And did your mom know where you were?
Chris Browning: Well, the way that they kept track of me was checking with the LA County jail system.
Tana Amen: That had to be heartbreaking.
Chris Browning: I got... Once I did get sober, I talked to my mom and dad every day for, till they died, after that. I can't imagine, cause now I have kids, and I can't imagine not knowing where my [crosstalk 00:03:35] kids are.
Tana Amen: The pain would just be terrible.
Chris Browning: Yeah. Yeah I don't...
Tana Amen: Yeah, no I track my daughter everywhere she goes. So, I can't imagine [crosstalk 00:03:43] So, but you got the 90 days, and then I mean, at what point, what made you finally, what made it stick?
Chris Browning: I was just thinking about that the other day. Because that's a common thing that comes up when you're... Sometimes you tell your story and stuff and people, or even in the interviews, they say, what was the thing that would, what made it different? What made you stop? I never stopped trying, but I just, it was the first time that I actually applied what was being suggested all those years. Those other 12 years, we were talking about being an egomaniac with an inferiority complex. Well that's what it was. Because I could be right off the streets, 60 pounds lighter than I am now. And asking someone to help me get sober. And they're suggesting, well, you do this, and you do this, and you do this. And I would say, yeah, I don't need to do all that. I mean, he does cause he looks like he's like a landscaper or some manual labor guy. He's not as smart as I am. I'm much more evolved than he is, as... And this is a scrawny, sucked up heroin addict off the streets, covered in abscess sores. And I know better than that guy. That's how...
Tana Amen: Do you think that's common with a lot of the addicts?
Chris Browning: Sure. I mean, it's not, it's the only disease out there that tells you don't have it, you know? And, but actually, I was always pretty forthcoming with admitting that I was. You can't live in the bushes and tell and try to convince yourself or anybody else that you don't have a problem. I was like, yeah, I'll give you that. I'm definitely an addict and alcoholic. I just don't think, I don't think...
Tana Amen: I have to jump through...
Chris Browning: Yeah. I still, yeah, I'm going to alter whatever suggestion you'd come up with. I'm going to give it my special spin, because I'm so wonderful. You know? And I just kept getting kicked in the ass every time I tried, and I went to 20 detoxes. I went to five rehabs. I spent three years of my life locked up and you're not... So every one of those times, I was clean, kicking heroin on a concrete floor [crosstalk 00:06:08] in the LA County jail.
Not fun.
Tana Amen: Yeah.
Chris Browning: Terrible.
Tana Amen: That's how my uncle had to kick it too. Yeah.
Chris Browning: That's awful. But, so for whatever it was, there was this guy named Gus on the streets, and I just, I was like, if I ever find that guy, and he's probably dead, but if I ever did come across him, I would thank him for saving my life. Because he was talking about it one day. There's plenty of time to talk. It's what you do. And he was 30 or so years old, looked like he was 60. Skin and bones, alcoholic, always had a pint of vodka in his pocket, yellow skin, jaundice eyes. And it just, he was dying. And he just said, you know, that's... He was on, everybody's on parole. I wasn't on parole, but I was on probation, but I'd never been to prison.
But he'd said, yeah man, I'm a dope fiend. I'm a drunk. That's what I do. So they're going to catch me again, and I'm going to go back upstate on a parole violation and do six months, or nine months, or a year. And when they let me out, I'm running. I'm not trying to pee for the man, and have an address, and a job, and all this stuff, cause I'm a dope fiend. And my thing that kept me relaxed about how serious it was, was telling myself that I'm just passing through. This is life experience. You can't... I'm going to write about this someday. This is, I'm sucking the marrow out of life. This is real life and, but I'm just passing through. And it occurred to me that Gus probably talked that way at one point. And if I wake up tomorrow talking like Gus, I'm doomed. I'm not getting out of here if I [crosstalk 00:07:58] wake up ...
Tana Amen: There's some point where that needle shifts and now...
Chris Browning: And you've given up.
Tana Amen: It's too far.
Chris Browning: And you're like, yeah, no, this is me. I'm a heroin addict. If they catch me, when I get out, I'm going to do heroin. How does that guy get out?
Tana Amen: Right.
Chris Browning: He doesn't. And so the people dying around me left and right every week. Someone you know got murdered or overdosed. And those are the kind of friends that you have on the streets. My best friends were the ones who were willing to wait for me to overdose before they took all my shit.
Those were my good ones, those were my [crosstalk 00:08:37] buddies.
Tana Amen: I'm going to have nightmares tonight. I'm going to have night terrors. Crazy. It's like my worst nightmare. I thought it was bad having a heroin addict live in my house when I was little. This is like terrifying.
Chris Browning: Yeah, no. Because that's the other thing. There's always these guys on the fringe that are...
Tana Amen: Just watching you.
Chris Browning: You see them. They're thinking about taking it now.
Tana Amen: Right.
Chris Browning: There's a couple...
Tana Amen: And they're willing to do some nasty things to take it probably.
Chris Browning: Yeah. I mean, every week it was like, I felt like I was in Vietnam or something. And somebody died every week. [crosstalk 00:09:13] got murdered and...
Tana Amen: So that time it stuck. You got your 90 days.
Speaker 4: Yeah. Yeah. Well that time... And like I got hospitalized three days in a row in LA County jail. Three days in a row. And when I got out of there, because there were riots every day. And I always talk about this. You never know what the gift is going to be. So whenever something bad happens today, I'm like, this is good somehow. [crosstalk 00:09:43] Don't know yet, but I learned that because I got broken ribs, they'd saved my life.
Tana Amen: Yeah. You know, I have three questions. Whenever something really awful happens, I have three questions that I've learned to ask myself. What can I be thankful for? What can I be grateful for? And what can I learn right now from this awful thing? There's got to be something I can be thankful for, grateful for, and I can learn. So, and if you can do that, I think it really changes your perspective on life.
Chris Browning: Yeah. Yeah. No, and I've seen that happen. I get kicked out of a place that we're in and you're like, Oh, I love this place. I can't believe we have to move. And then you end up in an awesome place that you never would have found if you weren't kicked out.
Tana Amen: In a healthier situation?
Chris Browning: Yeah, and that's like what I'm in now. I'm living in a house with people that I care about. I was in a terrible situation before. But now... If that hadn't blown apart the way it did, I wouldn't be where I'm at. I said I had broken ribs that saved my life, because being in jail, I got in a riot and got a concussion. Woke up in the infirmary, my head all bandaged up. And they put me back out in general population. That time we were in the chapel, and they rocked the pews out of the floor.
They were bolted to the floor, and they stood them up, and they were tossing them like falling [crosstalk 00:11:02] the trees. And I was like, ahhhh, and crushed me. And I'm in the infirmary. Now my head's bandaged up, and I got one of those rib protector, plastic belts, hard plastic things velcroed, and I can't breathe. Back out to the general population. And this place, the third place was in one of the dorms. Have about 150 people in there, and they'd been there for a while. So they'd had time to make tools, make weapons. Take a piece of metal and just grind it on the concrete for a month till it's a point and wrap bed sheet and string... And when that jumped off, I ended up with a guy on top of me, and a couple other gang bangers from the other gang was just shanking him. And like every other time they miss him and they'd hit me. And I got pierced in the arm right here, and it was an artery and just blood started going out. And I was like, Oh God, here we go again. Passed out, woke up in the infirmary, and they've had a stitch in this. And doctor said, you're lucky to be alive. And I'm like really? He goes, no, look inside. Inside my gown that plastic belt was so dug up with notches from those shanks. Just stuck [crosstalk 00:12:22]
Tana Amen: So your broken ribs really did save your life?
Chris Browning: Saved my life. Yeah.
Tana Amen: That's a great perspective.
Chris Browning: Yeah. So you never know what the gift is.
Tana Amen: You never know what the gift is. So I love this story, and I want to talk about...I want to talk about, .because when I met you, what I love was you were talking a lot about purpose. And we talk to our community a lot about purpose. About people who are purposeful live 11 years longer. But they're also happier. So they're much happier. Especially people who have been through a lot. They... If you can find a way to turn that around and either help others, help someone less fortunate than yourself, you'll just always see the brighter side of things. And when I first met you, you were talking about like the thing that struck me the most. I mean, of course, with what we do, I hear a lot of stories about addiction, about abuse, about trauma.
But, I don't always hear the comeback, and the story of purpose that goes along with it. And that was the thing that really caught me. And that's when I started talking to you about how you need to write a book. And your stories, I mean this is a crazy story. I mean, I know everybody listening right now, and if you're listening please, send us your questions, your comments, love to know what you think. But this is a book. And here you are now 15 years later, and you've had your ups and your downs, you've talked about that, but you keep going. And you're doing so much for other people, and you're very humble, in spite of your success, you're very humble. And it was really refreshing for me to see. Because we see a lot of people, we see a lot of celebrities. And a lot of them are struggling. Not all of our humble. But it's just a really refreshing thing. And you just talked so little about what you have, and what you, who you are, versus what you were doing for other people. And I thought that was really cool. So let's come back and talk about that.
Chris Browning: Okay.
Tana Amen: I would love to hear that.
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