All the Cocaine and Freebase Couldn’t Free His Brain From His Childhood Trauma

Michelle Monet
Jan 17 · 4 min read

Watching the Richard Pryor special last night reminded me of my own family traumas

TIME Magazine

I watched the Richard Pryor special on ABC TV last night.

This guy was super talented no doubt, but he just couldn’t free himself from his crappy childhood issues.

He definitely had a rough upbringing.

His grandmother ran a few brothels “not houses of prostitution… brothels!!’ as he corrected Barbra Walters in a candid interview in the 70's.

His grandmother was even notorious and got plenty of attention for her crimes.

Richard Pryors grandmother was an infamous madam.

His dad beat him horribly as a young boy and he witnessed ‘white men knocking on the door often’ to ask if his mamma was free for a while.’

He became a serious drug addict.

That seems inevitable. He was attempting to escape it all.

He went through many relationships and married a string of women. He was known to beat many of his wives and girlfriends while he was high too.

People Magazine, 1971

He couldn't get it together even though he did pull himself together enough to perform on stages, which was his solace.

He was carrying down his family legacy — his ‘Generational Traumas’, which I’m studying now and which is a fascinating topic.

This book by Bessel Van Der Kok The Body Keeps the Score is the best on the subject of Generational Trauma, imo.

Bessel Van Der Kolk, The Body Keeps the Score

So, it is obvious that Richard Pryor couldn’t get past his childhood stuff. He couldn’t ‘feel it to heal it.’

I'm sure you’ve heard the saying, ‘you gotta feel it to heal it’. I ask myself these questions often about this:

  • How do you break free and get to the other side of pain if you don’t feel it?
  • If you don’t feel it how can you heal it?
  • What does it mean exactly to ‘feel it’?
  • How do you know if you’re doing the work to ‘feel’ it?

I think most people try to avoid feeling things, especially painful things, which is why addictions are at an all-time high. Some avoid feelings at all costs!

My good friend Jackie said this today, “I’d prefer to ignore all my stress and anxiety issues!”

Hmm. OK then.

Being an ostrich does work for many people. It seems easier. I definitely try the ostrich technique a lot too and it does work, sometimes, until it doesn’t.

I use the Jack-n-the-Box analogy often. When you try to hold down a Jack-n-the-Box head long enough it eventually springs up and…


It bops you in the head and knocks you out! (sometimes when you least expect it!)

Richard Pryor’s Jack-n-the-Box moment was when he set himself on fire and tried to kill himself.

I think my goal in life is to break free of my Generational Traumas which began a few generations ago with my grandmother’s mother.

I can relate to Richard Pryor in many ways. I ended up on a Benzodiazepine anxiety medication called Ativan, which I got hooked on. (I took it ‘as prescribed’, of course!) I also chose a violent abusive husband who almost took my life. I suppose there are many parallels.

I'm feeling a lot of deep wounds and pain from my childhood still, at age 58. Both my parents are alive and ‘well’(?) and kicking and in their late 80s.

Last year my mom did something so unspeakable that I had to go no contact with her to save my own health. (I‘m writing about it now and maybe in my memoir I will have some great closure/clarity with it all. For now, it’s still muddy in my brain…) I also have very limited contact with my ailing dad now.

To be honest, I’m still working through it all.

Am I waiting for them both to go?? I don’t know, but I do believe my goal is to feel it than heal it and then…be freeee.

Invisible Illness

We don't talk enough about mental health.

Michelle Monet

Written by

Musician. Author. Poet. Seeker. Currently writing showbiz memoir and Broadway style Musical. Contact me at

Invisible Illness

We don't talk enough about mental health.

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