With the 2020 elections dominating the daily news cycle, despite being over a year away, some candidates in the race are coming under fire for past misconduct, both real and perceived. With an array of candidates from across the spectrum, some of whom with strong stances and platforms against the opioid crisis plaguing the U.S., it can be hard to keep track of who has been doing what to push their campaign along. Chief among those candidates is former Vice President Joe Biden, whose decades-long career and lifetime in the public eye had made him a perfect target for digging up past offenses or lapses in judgement. It’s for this reason, among others, that Biden’s son, Hunter, has decided to come forward with a series of interviews published by the New Yorker that detail his struggle with addiction. He hopes that with his upfront confessions of the struggle that began while he was a student in Georgetown, he can prevent his father from being smeared and get ahead of any stories that might falsely attribute his battle with substances to his father’s skills as a parent.
The loss of his oldest son to brain cancer held Joe Biden back from running for the presidency in 2016, and other family troubles, including Hunter’s addiction, have also weighed heavily on his campaign and decision to run for president in 2020. Hunter Biden, 49, has done his best to stay out of the public spotlight since his father announced his 2020 bid, but felt it necessary to come forward and offer clarity regarding his fight with addiction. While Joe Biden had made the decision to abstain from alcohol at a young age due primarily to family history issues, Hunter began drinking socially when he was just a teenager. Although most of the New Yorker’s piece delves into Hunter’s work as a lawyer and businessman overseas and in the United States over the course of the years, it also provides an extensive amount of insight into Hunter’s decades-long battle with alcoholism and cocaine, which was exacerbated by his tumultuous marriage and the loss of his older brother, Beau.
“Everybody has trauma,” Hunter Biden shares. “There’s addiction in every family. I was in that darkness.” Hunter details the descent from what had begun as an unhealthy habit of smoking cigarettes and occasionally doing cocaine while a student at Georgetown to what culminated in a week-long crack binge in Los Angeles after formally separating from his ex-wife, Kathleen.
The Struggles and Relapses that Held Hunter Back
During his time living in Washington D.C. working as a lobbyist, Hunter relied on alcohol as a crutch to help him get through the day. It was only after he found himself “making the decision to have another drink” or choosing to take the train home that he recognized that he had a problem. Hunter first checked himself into a rehab center for a month in 2003 after a business trip, and after being discharged attended his first Alcoholics Anonymous meeting in Dupont Circle with Beau. He later suffered small relapses: one in 2010 during an overseas flight from Madrid, and the other in 2013 after running out of prescription painkillers after he was struck by a bout of shingles.
Hunter later joined the Navy Reserves in 2014, where he disclosed that he had used drugs in the past but was sober. He had been drinking on and off at the time of receiving his waivers to join the Reserve, and the night before he was due to report for Reserve Duty, he stopped by a bar and bummed cigarettes from two men who claimed they were from South Africa. After smoking them, he described feeling “amped up” as he drove to the base in Norfolk, and then felt “incredibly exhausted” by the end of the night. He took a drug test the following morning, and months later received a letter stating that cocaine had been detected in his system. Although Hunter claims that he had no idea how the drugs were in his system and believed that the cigarettes he’d smoked had been laced with cocaine, he did not appeal his dishonorable discharge in order to prevent his father from receiving any backlash. He kept the truth of his discharge from everyone except his father and brother, and again tried to reign in his drinking problem.
Death and Divorce: Hitting Rock Bottom
While all of these problems were occurring with outside agencies, Hunter’s marriage was hanging by a thread. While Kathleen had been the first person to encourage him to go to rehab, it was hard for Hunter to put his marriage before his desire to drink. During their time in couples therapy, they had come to the agreement that if Hunter drank again, he would have to move out. The day following their 22nd anniversary, he drank an entire bottle of vodka and moved himself out of the house. After the two formally agreed to separate, Hunter spent weeks alone in his apartment, drinking vodka alone. It wasn’t until his father showed up unannounced one afternoon and asked, “What do we have to do?” that Hunter realized how far he had let himself slip.
Things were going well until Beau was diagnosed with brain cancer. After his brother’s death in 2016, Hunter fell back into what he describes as a “never-ending tunnel.” He stayed in Los Angeles looking for ways to forget about the pain of losing his best friend, and found himself in a homeless encampment looking to buy crack. He spent the week in a crack-fueled haze, and experienced a scary encounter when the rental car agency he was using later found a crack pipe in his car. Thankfully, the agency chose not to press charges, and Hunter was able to walk away from the experience relatively unscathed.
Most of the details of Hunter Biden’s long-term battle with addiction came to light during his bitter divorce proceedings. After officially filing for the divorce, Kathleen filed for a motion to have all of Hunter’s assets frozen, claiming he had “created financial concerns for the family by spending extravagantly on his own interests (including drugs, alcohol, prostitutes, strip clubs, and gifts for women with whom he has sexual relations), while leaving the family with no funds to pay legitimate bills.”
Recent Marriage and Rekindled Hope
While things aren’t perfect now, he’s has finally found himself in a good place. Although Hunter Biden’s addiction is still a daily battle, he’s begun practicing yoga, has started meditating, and has been searching for his higher purpose. He’s also found love again in Melissa Cohen, a documentary filmmaker, who he married just days after meeting in Los Angeles.
The former Vice President has nothing but happiness for his son. On a call with Hunter, Biden told him, “Honey, I knew that when you found love again that I’d get you back.”
Despite Hunter’s battle with addiction, he isn’t afraid of the future, and is cheering on his father during the 2020 presidential campaign. He believes that everything has happened for a purpose, and believes that his father has a solid chance at being elected. Although he believes that Donald Trump and Trump supporters have picked him to be “the tip of the spear against the one person they believe can beat them,” he’s not afraid of any of it.