Hunter Biden, son of President Joe Biden, has seen his fair share of ugly things. His alcohol and drug addiction sent him spiraling for years and led him to cook his own crack cocaine. But he’s seen a lot of beautiful things, too – namely the love he shares with his father and brother Beau Biden, who died of glioblastoma in 2015.
Biden wrote about all of it in in his new memoir, “Beautiful Things” (Gallery Books, 255 pp.), out April 6. His candid chronicle of his drug- and alcohol-fueled binges and relationship with Beau’s widow, Hallie Biden, are sure to shock – but don’t let all the tabloid fodder fool you. Biden has found love again with new wife Melissa, whom he credits for getting him back on the winding path to sobriety.
“Where’s Hunter?” was a rallying cry from former President Donald Trump to try and smear Joe Biden. “I’m not going anywhere,” Biden writes. “I’m not a curio or sideshow to a moment in history, as all the cartoonish attacks try to paint me.”
Yes, the book touches on Trump and Biden’s Ukraine business, but more compelling are the vulnerable, human details of Biden’s personal life. Here’s what we learned about Biden by reading his devastating memoir.
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Hunter talks trauma, addiction: ‘Why I feel the way I do’
Biden has been through more than most would dare to imagine. He and Beau were in the 1972 car accident that killed his baby sister and mother. It’s a moment that defined not only Joe, but his sons too. Biden doesn’t think he ever fully came to terms with the violence of it.
“I don’t see that tragic moment as necessarily resulting in behaviors that lent themselves to addiction,” he writes. “But I do have a better understanding of why I feel the way I do sometimes.”
He took his first drink – a glass of champagne the night his father was reelected to the Senate in 1978 – when he was 8 years old. He drank more when he was 14, even though he knew he shouldn’t be doing it. He went to Mass with a hangover and threw up outside during the service.
His drinking followed him into adulthood (he attended Georgetown University and later Yale Law School). After his third daughter, Maisy, was born in 2000 to then-wife Kathleen, he started to drink more heavily after work at his law firm. He ultimately went to rehab in Antigua and remained sober – for a time.
‘I would not have survived’
In November 2010, Biden relapsed and had three Bloody Marys on a plane; when his father joined Obama’s campaign ticket in 2008, he had to upend his career due to his lobbying work (i.e., it would be a conflict of interest). He “had huge expenses and no savings, and now I had to bust my (expletive) to build another career from scratch.”
After Beau’s death, everything Biden did “for the next four years, resulted in me stumbling, then sliding, then racing downhill.” As his marriage to Kathleen fell apart, he returned to rehab and tried to stay on the straight and narrow. His drinking, however, only worsened. “I was drowning myself in alcohol,” he says.
With the encouragement of his father, he again went to get clean. “Left on my own, I’m certain I would not have survived,” he writes.
By Memorial Day 2016, however, someone offered Biden cocaine. He took it.
This led to his buying crack cocaine in Washington, D.C. from Rhea – a homeless, middle-aged woman he met while he was at Georgetown. Rhea is a pseudonym, Biden writes.
“I spent a couple of thousand dollars on crack in those first two weeks, with Rhea serving as my conduit,” he writes. She even moved into his apartment and stayed there for approximately five months. When he’s strong enough, he says he hopes to see her again and help “get her in a position where she wants to be saved.”
From the book announcement:Joe Biden’s son, Hunter Biden, to release memoir ‘Beautiful Things’ this spring
‘I was smoking crack every 15 minutes’
In the spring of 2018, he used his “superpower – finding crack anytime, anywhere” – in Los Angeles. At one point, a dealer pointed a gun at his head before he realized Biden was looking for drugs.
He later learned how to cook drugs and spent a lot of time with thieves, addicts and con artists. “I never slept. There was no clock. Day bled into night and night into day,” he writes.
The situation grew out of control. “I was smoking crack every 15 minutes,” he writes.
Biden returned to the East Coast in the fall of 2018, again wanting to get better, though that didn’t happen.
Eventually, his family tried to stage an intervention. “I don’t know what else to do,” Joe Biden told him. “I’m so scared. Tell me what to do.” His son replied: “Not (expletive) this.”
It wasn’t until he met now-wife Melissa Cohen in Los Angeles – whom he married after only a week of knowing – that he got sober again. They told each other they loved each other on their first date; she had the same eyes as Beau, he writes. She championed his sobriety and dumped out his crack.
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Hunter’s relationship with Hallie doomed from the start: ‘A failure of epic proportions’
Hallie and Biden connected – romantically – in the wake of Beau’s death, between their grief and Biden’s addiction. His then-wife Kathleen discovered texts between them on an old iPad. “That gave her the gift of justification: I was the sicko sleeping with my brother’s wife,” he writes.
But once they tried living together full-time, it didn’t work.
“It was a giant miscalculation on both our parts, errors in judgment born of a uniquely tragic time,” he writes. And later, when they tried to rekindle their romance after he got sober (again) in January 2018, it didn’t work. “It felt like a failure of epic proportions,” he writes.
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The title ‘Beautiful Things’ comes from Beau
Beau’s mantra to his brother during his illness was “beautiful things.” He wanted them to “dedicate our lives to appreciating and cultivating the world’s boundless beauty” – referencing relationships, places and moments.
“It was our code for a renewed outlook on life,” he writes. Shortly before Beau died, Biden promised him he would stay strong and sober. Beau had gone with him to his first AA meetings, found him his first sponsor and taken him to rehab plenty of times.
“I had no idea then how many dead-end detours I’d take before I could finally keep those promises,” he writes.
Still, “Beautiful Things” serves as a fitting title, considering the book closes with a letter to Beau.
“I’ve survived, buddy,” the letter reads. “I know you were with me through it all.”
If you or someone you know is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, you can call the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration National Helpline at 800-662-HELP (4357) any time of day or night.