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Sweet brother of mine: The kidnapping of Steven Adler

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This is the third installment of Yahoo’s exclusive three-part series chronicling the story of Jamie Adler and the extraordinary, family-shattering and most assuredly illegal measures he took to get his brother and Guns N’ Roses drummer Steven Adler off heroin.

Part 1: Growing up Guns N’ Roses 
Part 2: An infamous GNR firing and the tumultuous aftermath 
Part 3: The kidnapping of Steve Adler

“We’re gonna go and literally kidnap this dude.”

March 2007. Jamie receives a frantic call from Deanna. Doctors from Sunrise Hospital in Las Vegas contacted her because Steven was in ghastly shape. He had abscesses all over his body from his shooting up and had developed a serious blood infection. There was talk they might need to remove his eye. “The doctors told him and my mom that he needs to take this medication for the next 30 days to clean out his blood. And if he doesn’t do this, he will die,” Jamie recalls. He had no confidence Steven would take the meds.

“I said, ‘This is going to be my last hoorah with my brother. This is going to be the last time I’m going to be able to try to save this guy.’ … I needed to get him under our control.”

Jamie asked Lobel for help. They called Slash and said, “This is life or death.” Slash reached out to Eric Clapton, who offered to admit Steven at Crossroads, the recovery center Clapton opened in Antigua in 1997, free of charge. On March 19, 2007, Jamie, Lobel, Slash and an interventionist flew to Vegas to retrieve Steven. They let themselves into the house and Jamie ventured upstairs to Steven’s drug lair, where he found his brother in a dark room, TV on, completely strung out. “He just looked so bad. So frail and sickly and deathly.”

Jamie lured his brother downstairs with the promise of weed. Steven was shocked to see Slash for the first time in years (and who was now sober). “I think [Steven] went into the bathroom and threw up all over the place,” Jamie remembers. “I’ll do whatever it takes to help you, you’re my brother,” Slash told Steven during a two-hour intervention. “You’re the reason I’m like this,” Steven screamed back, blaming his habit on being kicked out of GNR. “And Slash just sat there and took it,” Jamie says. “I always loved Slash for that.”

Steven agreed to go to Crossroads, but stalled for hours as he “packed.” Says Lobel: “Steven just kept going back upstairs, coming down, going up, coming down.” They eventually got Steven out of the house and to the mansion of Jamal Rashid, the hip-hop producer otherwise known as Mally Mall. Steven was in such bad shape, Mall summoned his personal doctor to the compound. “He looked over Steven and determined he was in critical condition,” Jamie says. Jamie held down Steven as the doctor lanced the abscesses with a knife. “As soon as he made an incision, poison shot all over me. And all over the place. It shot up to the ceiling,” Jamie recalls with horror. “I threw up my milkshake, it was so disgusting,” says Lobel. The doctor sent Steven to the hospital to recover.

There, Jamie lied to the doctors and told them Steven was threatening suicide. “I knew that they would put him on a 72-hour hold, and that would be 72 hours we could be feeding him this medicine. And 72 hours to put together a plan on how we save this guy’s life.” Steven didn’t go down without a fight. “He’s swinging at the doctors,” Jamie recalls. “They brought in security.”

“I said, ‘F*** it. We’re gonna go and literally kidnap this dude,’” Jamie recounts. (While corroborating Jamie’s story, Lobel remains reticent to talk about many of its details: “I don’t want to incriminate nobody,” he says. “I know Jamie says we’re past the statute of limitations.”)

Scott Storch, Steve Lobel, Steven and Jamie Adler. (Photo courtesy of Jamie Adler)

Scott Storch, Steve Lobel, Steven and Jamie Adler. (Photo courtesy of Jamie Adler)

Three days later, Jamie arranged for his associates to pick up Steven at the hospital. They handed him a milkshake — Steven loved milkshakes. What the musician didn’t know was that the beverage was laced with Valium and Xanax. “There were enough pills in there,” Jamie says, “to kill a f***ing horse.”

By the time Steven woke up, he was in North Hollywood.

“I’m committing so many f***ing felonies at this point,” Jamie says. “But the one thing I did know is I had so many witnesses, so many people in our lives that would go to bat for me if, god forbid, the cops came for me. Because everybody around Steven knew that he was gonna die.”

Over the course of a month, they moved Steven among three residencies. Each was locked from the inside. Escape was impossible, but Steven tried every day. Jamie kept his distance, remotely calling the shots as two security guards, known as G and the Shadow, were on 24-hour duty, making sure Steven got his medication.

Jamie knew the risks. He knew his brother might disown him. But more urgently, Jamie knew guerrilla rehab could be extremely dangerous.

Steven fought his forced incarceration “tooth and nail the whole time.” There were days when he had to be physically restrained. At one point Steven managed to get hold of a phone and called his dealer in Vegas, who sent him crack hidden inside a microphone. When the FedEx package arrived, Jamie’s guards eyed it with suspicion, eventually screwing open the mic and finding the baggie of drugs.

Jamie eventually dispatched Drew Pinsky, aka Dr. Drew, to counsel Steven. (Jamie says Pinksy was aware of the abduction.) Other people came to talk to Steven, too, including one of the heads of the Crips and late L.A. rap legend Nipsey Hussle. “Everyone was trying to help my brother,” Jamie says. “I was a big part of saving that man’s life,” says Lobel, who eventually opened his own treatment facility, the holistic-based Heavenly Center in Studio City. “I think he’s alive because of everything we all did collectively to help him.”

A month into the confinement, Jamie finally revealed himself to his brother. “You could keep me here for a week, a month, a year, 10 years,” Steven yelled at his brother. “As soon as I leave here, first thing I’m going to do is go get high. And there’s nothing you could do about it.” Once Jamie released Steven, the drummer made good on his threat, returning to Vegas and his heroin abuse. But only a few months later, Steven determined he needed to get clean and contacted Lobel for help. A year after his abduction, in 2008, Steven became one of the most high-profile subjects on VH1’s popular reality series Celebrity Rehab With Dr. Drew and its spinoff Sober House (which also included relapses and even one arrest).

Their brotherly bond was irreparably damaged. Says Jamie now, mournfully: “It was so bad that to this day, we still don’t have a relationship.”

But Steven is alive.

“He was never a junkie again.”

In the 16 years since the kidnapping, the brothers are “cool, and then they’re not cool,” Lobel remarks. It’s now stuck on cold.

Jamie hasn’t seen or talked to Steven in five years. “I could call my brother right now and he wouldn’t know my three kids’ names,” Jamie says. “That’s f***ing family, I guess.”

“The whole situation to me is very sad,” says Deanna. And while Steven supported his mother’s book release in 2017, he has since cut her off as well. When people ask her about Steven, “I have to lie,” she says. “You think I’m going to tell people my son doesn’t talk to me? I say, ‘He’s fine. Thanks for asking.’”

Jamie wasn’t there when Steven and the band were elected into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland in 2012 (neither was Axl). Jamie was shattered when he was invited to Steven’s L.A. reunion with Guns N’ Roses at Dodger Stadium on Aug. 19, 2016. Jamie went anyway. “I don’t care what our relationship was, I wasn’t going to miss this opportunity,” he says. Jamie snuck into the show with a friend and wound up in the front row, where he proudly videoed Steven’s introduction.

“I’m literally standing there in tears,” Jamie says. “I thought, ‘This is the greatest moment of my f***ing life. I got my brother back on stage with f***ing Guns N’ Roses. And that’s how I felt. The truth is Steven might have relapsed a couple times, but after we did what we did, he never was a junkie again. He never became a heroin addict again. He never became a meth addict. He never became a crackhead again. Still to this day. Because if all that s*** didn’t happen, and I didn’t scare Steven straight, if we didn’t do what we did, he would’ve never been back on stage with Guns N’ Roses. That was the closure I needed.”

Steven has spoken openly about his addictions over the years, on Dr. Drew’s shows, in media appearances and in his biography. But he rarely discusses the kidnapping. He does briefly mention the incident in his book.

“F***ers knew that the only way they could keep an eye on me was to enlist a squadron of Jamie’s friends to help, and they all lived in L.A., not Vegas,” Steven writes, describing that “hell time” as a “guaranteed recipe for failure.” (During an appearance on Bill Burr’s Monday Morning Podcast in 2017 where he was joined by Deanna and Jamie in support of her book, Steven said the abduction “just made it worse.” Says Jamie: “He would never want to admit his baby brother saved him. My brother is a very hard-headed person.”)

Steven continued in his autobiography: “I couldn’t blame Jamie and [his accomplices], though, because deep down, I knew that I hadn’t given them any other choice. Later, I wondered whether the way they had gotten me to L.A. could be viewed as a federal offense. I have no evidence, however, no way of proving that they had deceived me, kidnapped me, and taken me across state lines against my will. Besides, they were trying to help me, and what’s done is done.”

Jamie understands the resentment: “I literally held a guy hostage and made him kick drugs against his own will and subjected him to complete terror for over a month.”

“The life that Jamie’s led with his brother,” says Deanna, “I don’t wish it anybody. And as a mother, I don’t wish my life on anybody.”

In recent years Jamie has had his own awakening. “My entire life I never lived for me,” he says. “I always lived for my brother. My brother was my drug. It was time to start living for me.” That’s a large part of why Jamie relocated to Australia, where he focuses on his family (wife Rebecca and kids Lani Mae, 5; Tahlia, 4; and Jake, 2), his newfound Christian faith, his sobriety, his still-thriving booking agency Adler Music Group, and himself. “I never thought in a million years that would be Jamie,” Lobel says of his friend’s domestic ways.

While Jamie’s relationship with his brother may never be fully salvageable, Jamie still holds out hope.

Steven and Jamie. (Photo courtesy of Jamie Adler)

Steven and Jamie. (Photo courtesy of Jamie Adler)

And after all those decades of tumult between them, Jamie keeps coming back to one moment.

In May 2017, 10 years after the abduction, the brothers met following the death of Mario Maglieri, the “king of the Sunset Strip” who owned the Whiskey and Rainbow Room, venues that helped launch GNR.

Steven was off hard drugs and looked healthier than he had in years. Jamie picks up the story: “I said, listen, ‘I’m sorry, but I’m also not sorry. I didn’t know what else to do. I literally thought you were gonna die.” Steven put his hand on Jamie’s leg. “He says, ‘I love you, little brother. I know exactly what you did, and thank you.’ In his clearest moment, he validated everything that I wanted. He gave me that credit and respect, and that’s all I ever wanted. So no matter whatever happened after that, I know that deep down inside, he knows that I did what I did out of love.

“And I know I did the right thing because my brother is still alive.”

Part 1: Growing up Guns N’ Roses 
Part 2: An infamous GNR firing and the tumultuous aftermath 
Part 3: The kidnapping of Steve Adler

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