Almost immediately after news broke of Whitney Houston's shocking death at age 48 in February, the finger-pointing began -- with many fans holding Bobby Brown, Houston's hard-partying ex-husband, for leading Houston down the self-destructive path of drug and alcohol abuse that ultimately led to her early demise.
But Brown, 43, speaking to Matt Lauer on TODAY in his first interview since Houston's death, admits such accusations "make me feel terrible. But you know, I know differently. I think if anyone ever knew us, if anybody ever spent time around us . . . they would know how we felt about each other. They would know how happy we were together."
The pair were married from 1992 to 2007, and their deep bond but bizarre behavior was showcased on their reality show, Being Bobby Brown. "The reality show gave us a wakeup," Brown admits to Lauer in the interview, airing this Wednesday and Thursday on TODAY. "We [were] able to see that our drug use had affected our relationship, had affected the love that we felt for each other."
But the "My Prerogative" singer tells Lauer it's inaccurate to say that he introduced Houston to drugs. In fact, he says, "I didn't get high before I met Whitney," he says. Although he says he smoked "weed" and drank alcohol before he met the "Greatest of All" singer, "I wasn't the one that got Whitney on drugs at all," he says, adding that Houston used drugs "way before" she met him. "It's just unexplainable . . . I'm not the reason she's gone."
Houston and Brown shared a daughter, Bobbi Kristina, 19. "I love that woman with everything that I am," Brown says of Houston. "And I believe she loved me the same way. We wouldn't have been able to make the most beautiful girl in the world-- without love. And that's the truth."
Despite their split, Brown tells Lauer he saw Houston about a week before she was found dead, submerged in the bathtub in her hotel room at the Beverly Hilton.
But the last time Brown saw his ex -- alongside Bobbi Kristina -- all seemed well. "She had this glow about her that was just, you know, incredible," he says, noting that Houston was cracking jokes with him and their daughter. "She looked really well."
When the coroner's report confirmed there was cocaine in Houston's system, "I was hurt," admits Brown, who says he's been off narcotics for seven years. "I didn't know she was struggling with it still. It's a hard fight to, maintain sobriety that way."