Carey’s Corner: Escaping Rock Bottom

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Posted By on August 1, 2019

Newscaster Brandon Lee uses the power of his voice to help others overcome addiction

By Carey Peña | Contributing Writer

It was nearly 5 p.m. and the news was in full swing. I was the main evening anchor at the time and that’s when I first met Brandon Lee.

He was in Phoenix to interview for a job at KTVK and management brought him into the studio to observe our newscast. He was friendly and well put-together. Little did I know that beneath that smile and the impeccable suit he was hiding so many secrets.

Lee got the job and he and I later became coanchors. We also became very good friends. Still, I had no idea about the demons that had followed him since childhood.

Slowly, as time went on, he began to share with me that he was a recovered alcoholic.

“People who are on TV have immense pressure by the companies they work for to portray that they have some perfect life,” Lee said. “I challenge that way of thinking. Because we don’t relate to perfection. We relate to one another when we open up and share our trauma and our scars.”

COMING CLEAN

To begin truly healing, Lee decided it was time to share his story. All of it.

Not only was he an alcoholic, Lee also dealt with drug addiction and sexual abuse. He writes about all of this in his new memoir, “Mascara Boy. Bullied, Assaulted & Near Death: Surviving Trauma & Addiction” and we talked about it on my podcast.

In 2018 Lee left his job at KTVK — a station where he was very well liked and had a lucrative contract. He felt so strongly that he needed to tell his story, he parted ways with the station on friendly terms, packed his house and moved back to his hometown of Los Angeles. He rolled the dice.

Returning to LA without another job in news lined up was a risk he was willing to take. Lee grew up in an upper-class home in Orange County. From the outside, some might say he had a perfect life. He’s the only boy of three siblings. He was very athletic, especially excelling at soccer. He also loved music. That’s when, Lee explained to me, the sexual abuse began.


“Every mistake that I made, he assaulted me,” Lee said about his piano teacher. “And that abuse got worse and more graphic over time.”

He also shared that he was assaulted by one of his youth soccer coaches, but was terrified to tell anyone. “I felt the shame, I felt guilty, I felt like I had done something. I felt dirty,” he said.

By the age of 15, Brandon Lee was living a dangerous double life.

He explained in frank detail how he would go “score drugs and hook up with older men” on a nearly nightly basis. His parents, he said, were unaware of what was happening in their son’s life.

Later, when he moved to New York to attend college at NYU, his addiction worsened. But Lee had become quite good at hiding the demons.

He landed some impressive jobs in news at a very young age, rising through the ranks and eventually, in his late 20s, working in LA. This is where he hit rock bottom.

“I lived the perfect double life,” Lee said. “Everyone saw me as this television reporter and anchor. No one knew that at 11 p.m., when the news got done, I would go in my car and do a dose of GHB — it’s the liquid date rape drug. It gives me 15 minutes to get to where I needed
to go.”

He nearly died twice in one week.

Lee explained that he overdosed somewhere “in the slums.” Remarkably, after being rushed to the hospital and treated by a team of what he calls miracle workers, he went right back to using drugs (at that time he had a crack pipe in his car).

Next time he ended up in a coma and on life support. The same team of miracle workers saved him — again.

That was the turning point. That’s when he escaped rock bottom.

“A nurse heard me crying and she came over and asked me if I still believed in God,” Lee said. “And I said, ‘No, I don’t.’ And she said, ‘That’s OK, because God still believes in you.’”

The nurse suggested he attend an AA meeting at her church and Lee promised he would go. That was 10 years ago. He’s been sober ever since.

GOING PUBLIC

Even though he’s been a newscaster and in the public eye for well over a decade, going public with his story caused some fear and anxiety.

I spoke to him on the phone the evening before his book was released. I asked if he was ready and he told me it was time to live in his truth.

The following day I posted about his new book and life story on social media and I could see immediately that by telling his story Brandon could help so many people come out of the darkness. My Facebook and Instagram pages flooded with comments. One of them read, “Cheers to your bravery and the power of your voice.”

“The more success stories of addiction that we get out there, the more it will help people who are suffering in silence,” Lee said. “It takes work, a lot of rewiring of the brain, but it can be done.”

Sitting across from him in my podcast studio, I felt so much love for my friend. It’s incredible what has happened since we first met at the TV station.

Lee’s book is now a bestseller in its category, and he is traveling the country doing public speaking. He is also the host of a popular podcast about addiction and recovery titled “Escaping Rock Bottom.”

“I love the man I am today. And I love God’s path,” he told me.

Lee’s path is still unfolding.

He’s had to let go of many former friends who did not fit into his new sober life. Along the way, he’s built healthier relationships. In his book, he talks a lot about this, including the complicated relationship he has with his family now that he has published his life story.

He hopes he will be able to work in TV news again and that a news director will be willing to consider who he is as a whole person — scars
and all.

I asked if he regrets the things he’s done in his past. “As an adult,” he said, “we have to take responsibility for our actions, despite the trauma that happened.”

He takes full responsibility for his life, and he is not ashamed. Nor is he worried what people say about him now that the real Brandon Lee — not the TV persona — is revealed.

“There’s one thing I learned in recovery that I absolutely love,” he said. “What you think of me is none of my business. I have to stand and live in my truth.”

To watch the interview, visit inspiredmedia360.com. More about Brandon’s book can be found at escapingrockbottom.com.

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