"He was my drug," Houston, 46, said on the season premiere of "The Oprah Winfrey Show." "I didn't do anything without him. I wasn't getting high by myself. It was me and him together, and we were partners, and that's what my high was — him. He and I being together, and whatever we did, we did it together. No matter what, we did it together."
That included descending into a frightening abyss of drugs, constant fighting and bizarre behavior that included Brown spray-painting "evil eyes" on the walls, carpets and closet doors of their home.
"Evil eyes that were looking at every point in the room," Houston said, adding that at one point Brown also cut the heads off pictures of her. "I'm looking at it and going, 'Lord, what's really going on here?' Because I was getting scared, because I felt something was going to blow, something was going to give."
The first part of the two-part interview didn't descend into the typical teary Oprah confessional, but Houston, who has sold more than 140 million albums worldwide, was unabashed in detailing the depths of misery into which she fell after achieving the pinnacle of worldwide fame in the early 1990s.
In fact, she said, that fame was part of what destroyed her marriage to Brown. When her career took off with her big-screen success in the 1992 movie "The Bodyguard" and its unstoppable hit single, "I Will Always Love You," Houston said she tried to downplay her fame in deference to Brown, 40, whom she married in 1992 after three years of dating. The couple divorced in 2007.
"Something happens to a man when a woman has that much fame," Houston said. "I tried to play down all the time. I used to say, 'I'm Mrs. Brown, don't call me Houston.' "
Between the deference to Brown and the drug use, Houston admitted that she eventually stopped caring about her music career. "I had totally forgotten about that life," she said. "I had so much money by that point. I wasn't thinking about any of that."
Aside from the drug use — Houston said her drugs of choice were marijuana and crack cocaine, while Brown allegedly preferred alcohol and marijuana laced with cocaine — the singer said their marital problems also got physical.
"He slapped me once, but he got hit on the head three times by me," Houston told Winfrey, saying that she had hit Brown so hard that he fell down bleeding as their daughter, Bobbi Kristina, now 16, walked into the room. During another argument at their Atlanta home during a party she threw for her husband, she said Brown spat in her face in front of Bobbi, which left her "very hurt, very angry."
Houston said the drug use got so bad at one point that her mother, Cissy Houston, showed up at the couple's Atlanta home with a court injunction and asked police to help force Whitney into rehab.
"She said, 'I'm not losing you to the world. I'm not losing you to Satan. I want my daughter back,' " Houston said of her mother's plea. "She said, 'Either you do it my way, or we'll go on TV and [say] you're gonna retire.' "
Her mother warned Brown not to interfere with that intervention, Houston told Winfrey. "She said, 'If you move, Bobby, they're gonna take you down,' " Houston said. " 'Don't you make one move.' And he stood there like he was scared."
Though she was candid in much of the interview, when Winfrey confronted Houston about an article that suggested fans felt "disgust" at how cavalierly the singer had treated her voice, which Oprah called a "national treasure," Houston said simply, "Wow."
Houston said she's trying to re-start her career now because, as she put it, "I needed my joy back." The long climb back has already hit a few bumps, including a much-discussed performance on "Good Morning America" earlier this month, in which Houston appeared out of breath with a voice in poor condition, which she blamed on all the talking she did while taping the "Oprah" appearance the previous day.
Part two of the interview will air on Tuesday.