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Hunter Biden Opens Up About Drug Addiction, Being A Biden In New Memoir

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

And we have another part of our interview with Hunter Biden. His new memoir, "Beautiful Things," has a lot of tough passages about loss, drinking addiction, lies, hitting bottom and how he so often broke the hearts of his family who had already borne so much. He answered our questions on those subjects and his involvement with the Ukrainian energy company Burisma on Morning Edition this week, but there's also a remarkable section in the book in which Hunter Biden talks about a surprising relationship.

For a few months in Washington, D.C., your dealer, whom you call, I guess, Rhea in the book, moved in with you. Now, it wasn't a romantic relationship, but you - it was a relationship. You seem to like and respect her.

HUNTER BIDEN: I do, you know? Rhea is one of the most amazing people that I've ever met. And for her to have been able to maintain humanity after, it's such an incredibly difficult life, the life of someone who's been without a home for so long, that has been subjected to the violence that I believe is a part of that life. And her addiction, which was mine, the addiction to crack cocaine. And she was not a dealer. She was a user. But, you know, Rhea...

SIMON: She would supply you, right?

BIDEN: Yes, she would supply me. But the one thing that I know is that it is the one relationship in which it allowed me to fully understand the struggles of so many people that are still - that I left behind in in recovery. And thank God I'm in recovery. And I hope now, beginning with this book, is that I'm able to speak to not just the people that are lost in that space that Rhea was lost in then and had been for so long but to the millions of other people that feel the same way because of the guilt and the shame that they feel and because they just don't think that there's a life beyond, that there is and that there is always hope.

SIMON: Could you tell us a little bit about - and I'm going to use this phrase purposely - what amounts to your domestic life with Rhea? Because she did look out for you, didn't she?

BIDEN: She did. She was an incredibly caring and invulnerable person that - but the day to day was literally revolved around procuring and preparing and smoking crack. And I know when I say that to so many people, just the fact of saying that I smoked crack cocaine is such a shock. I think people's perceptions are so formed, understandably, by the media's portrayal of the, quote, unquote, "crack addict." And the fact of the matter is that if it could overcome me, it can overcome and has overcome so many people. It is not just limited to the Rheas of the world. And what Rhea showed me is an enormous amount of compassion in a world in which there's very little.

SIMON: Did you ever - respecting each other, as I gather from the book you did, did you ever turn to each other and say this isn't good for either of us? Let's quit. Let's help each other.

BIDEN: All the time, literally all the time, I mean, almost continuously. It's a continuous refrain of an addict, that this is the last time, this is it. And the hardest part is telling yourself what becomes the ultimate lie, that this is the last time. This is the final hit. We're going to get better. We're going to go to seek help. And when you break that promise so many times, it makes it all that much harder to ever break free.

SIMON: And you break that promise to yourself and...

BIDEN: You break the promise to yourself. You break it to the people that are around you. You break it to the person that's sitting across from you smoking crack that - while you both may be engaged in ultimately killing yourselves, that you may care for. And when I told the story about how my dad just said, I don't know what to do. I just don't know what to do. Tell me how to help. It's an impossible question for an active addict to be able to answer. And one of the reasons why, you know, as much as there are issues with rehabilitation, 30-day rehabilitation, inpatient programs, the importance to me, at least in my experience, was that you have to be removed from that capacity to make the wrong decision and to at least get some space long enough that your brain starts to come back and is not just constantly telling you if you don't get the next drink, if you don't get the next drug, you're going to die, when it's the exact opposite that's true.

SIMON: "Beautiful Things" is the title of Hunter Biden's new memoir. You can hear an extended interview at npr.org.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.