Brandon Lee, Former TV Anchor, Details Surviving Addiction

By David Konow 07/31/19

"My parents never drank, I never saw my parents use drugs. So the question I got was, how did someone like you end up using drugs?” Lee said.

Former TV Anchor Brandon Lee
Photo via YouTube

Brandon Lee is a two-time Emmy-winning news anchor who has been in recovery for nearly a decade. He bravely came forward about his addiction and surviving sexual abuse in his memoir Mascara Boy, and in a CNN interview, Lee spoke out about why he went public about his addictions and trauma, and how he hopes it can help others.

Lee was a TV anchor in Phoenix, New York and Atlanta. He grew up in the affluent community of Orange County, raised by teetotaling parents. Lee told AZ Central, “From the outside world, it looked like I had everything. My parents never drank, I never saw my parents use drugs. So the question I got was, how did someone like you end up using drugs?”

It took many years for Lee to deal with it in therapy, but he was sexually abused for years by both his piano teacher and his soccer coach. “That trauma untreated came out sideways,” he told CNN. “There was a lot of early childhood trauma I needed to address.”

Escaping With Cocaine

Lee started using cocaine at the age of 15. “When I was given the opportunity to try a drug like cocaine to escape, I kept chasing that feeling. I kept chasing that escape,” he said.

As an adult, Lee became a successful TV reporter, and he hid his addictions well from the public. “When I was a reporter here in Los Angeles, I was living that double life. I wanted the public to see me as this Emmy-winning news reporter doing a professional job. When the 10 o’clock news was over with that’s when I went to the slums of LA and started using hardcore drugs.”

One day, Lee overdosed. The person he was partying with called 911 and he was transported to the hospital. He wound up on life support, and a kind nurse gave him $10  to take a cab to go to an AA meeting. Lee went to the meeting, “and I have been sober ever since that day on February 22, 2010.”

After Lee got sober, he did a documentary on the opioid crisis in Arizona “to try and break the stereotype of what the public perception of a drug addict is.”

Lee then saw people trolling the comments in response to his report, and it broke his heart. He got on the phone to his sponsor, and said, “I’m eight years sober and it’s time for me to break my anonymity.”

“I needed to let the viewers know that the people that they were ripping in my documentary, that I used to be that junkie about a decade ago,” Lee told CNN. “Do they think of me that way? Do they think of me as trash and scum? The most important message we can get out there is that addiction does not discriminate.”

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In addition to contributing for The Fix, David Konow has also written for Esquire, Deadline, LA Weekly, Village Voice, The Wrap, and many other publications and websites. He is also the author of the three decade history of heavy metal, Bang Your Head (Three Rivers Press), and the horror film history Reel Terror (St Martins Press). Find David on LinkedIn and Facebook.