Jul 25

Amy Winehouse and addiction

Comments (10) by Anon July 25, 2011 - 6:04 AM

The death of Amy Winehouse at the age of 27 is not a waste.

A waste is something regrettable that happens when you chuck out something that still has some use to somebody and Amy's death is much more than that. It's a tragic, sobering tale of how addiction can ravage a life and snuff out a talent.

Unlike LiveLady and her thought-provoking post I don't believe anyone ever chooses an addiction. Yes, addicts sacrifice everything - people, possessions, money, success and talent - in the pursuit of the substance of their choice, but no-one chooses the living hell that is being an addict.

Would you say of someone who drowned by accident that they chose to go that way? Then please don't say or imply that Amy Winehouse only has herself to blame for the way her story ended. Will Amy really be remembered as ‘just another stupid child who wasted their life and their gifts in the name of romance and cool' as LiveLady says? Having lost loved ones to the ravages of addiction I feel compelled to say that romance and cool aren't words that ever belong in the same sentence as addiction. There is nothing cool about living with the gnawing, ever-present, all-consuming NEED for something that you know is destroying you, and no addict peers into the abyss of shame, helplessness and self-loathing that accompanies addiction because they fancy a bit of Mills and Boon.

"But why didn't someone do something?" commented a friend, echoing the sentiments of so many onlookers in the drama that was Amy's painfully public battle with drink and drugs. 

The truth is, of course, they did. Repeatedly. Amy's parents spoke out tirelessly about their daughter's problems and their efforts to rescue her. In a TV documentary in 2009 Amy's father, Mitch, commented "I need my daughter to be a whole person again. I've tried it all. I said: 'Amy you've got to do this, you've got to go to this doctor,'... None of it worked." 

Amy's mother, Janis, added: "I just want her to be OK and I would do whatever it took to make that right. Amy is in denial all the time... But I know with addiction you do not have the choice because the substance itself directs you."

There isn't a more accurate picture of what it's like to watch in horrified helplessness as someone you love grapples with an addiction. The experience is the very definition of despair. And denial isn't just stubbornness or a cocky refusal to face your problems - it's a potent, powerful delusion that leaves even the most staid witnesses of its power questioning their sanity. Loving an addict is a savage, relentless exercise in hope - often in the face of terrible odds. 

Had Amy's parents resigned themselves to her fate? I very much doubt it - I expect her death came as no surprise, but I don't imagine they ever stopped begging, pleading and praying for her to clean up her act. The real tragedy of addiction is that sometimes no amount of those things are enough.

An addiction is not bad habit that you could kick if only you're prepared to knuckle down and find some will power. It's not like biting your nails, having a thing for chocolate or not being able to resist a pair of heels you can't really justify. I'd wager that beating an addiction and living 'clean' isn't exactly a walk in the park, either. Addiction is a life sentence, even if you overcome it.  

It's an illness, not a choice. So for those of us who haven't walked a mile in Amy's shoes, let's just extend our condolences to her family and loved ones, and leave the condemnation out.

by Anon July 25, 2011 - 6:04 AM

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Comments (10)

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  • Report Tue Jul 26, 2011 - 12:57 am
    by  Gigi_E
    What I find frustrating about this particular public tragedy is that the people who supplied drugs/and or drink, to someone who obviously was incapable of dealing with them safely, will be free to go about their business after this. Alcohol kills scores of people every day, it ruins families, destroys careers and friendships and is still (merrily) advertised on TV so that of course the govt can continue to make a very tidy sum from it. And whilst I am all in favour of 'wine o'clock for knackered mums'...I do wonder what cruel twist of genes or fate make some of us addicts, unable to walk away, and some of us not. Finally..and not to go on lest this turns into it's own post - I do think we should use Amy's death for a better good - to question the responsibiities of record companies and agents in these cases. Maybe then there can be salvaged some kind of point to it all.
    Reply Delete
  • 1 reply, Last reply by Expat Mum on Thu Jul 28, 2011 at 8:56 pm
  • Report Thu Jul 28, 2011 - 8:56 pm
    by  Expat Mum
    @Gigi_E: A genetic pre-disposition to addiction has been identified and hopefully, awareness of it can prevent huge problems arising. Knowing that it's within the realm of possibility to become heavily addicted to something might perhaps stop a few from taking that course of action in the first place. Or am I being a little too hopeful?
    Reply Delete
  • Report Tue Jul 26, 2011 - 10:54 pm
    by  Jo
    I don't think Amy Winehouse died due to her drug addiction, though that might be the medical reason. I think she died because she was a tortured soul and tortured souls kill themselves. I think she, for whatever reason, didn't think she was worth enough to look after herself. It's a bit like when someone with bi-polar throws themself in front of a train. They haven't really committed suicide, bi-polar has killed them.
    Reply Delete
  • Report Tue Jul 26, 2011 - 9:25 pm
    by  Annia Lindsay
    I echo the comments made by D and Jean - addiction may be illness but when given the chance to manage that illness, a choice must be made. Nobody suggests that giving up addictive substances is easy but it can be done and thousands succeed - because they choose to. Sad that this person has died from too much of so much while millions in Africa die from too little of so little.
    Reply Delete
  • Report Mon Jul 25, 2011 - 12:46 pm
    by  Tash
    I see a lot of people asking "Why feel sorry for Amy Winehouse when 90 odd people were killed in Norway?" And I ask "Why do we have to choose?" All families, no matter how their loved one has died, will mourn, and feel that person's loss forever.
    Reply Delete
  • 1 reply, Last reply by slappyintheface on Mon Jul 25, 2011 at 11:22 pm
  • Report Mon Jul 25, 2011 - 11:22 pm
    @Tash: I agree!
    Reply Delete
  • Report Mon Jul 25, 2011 - 5:43 pm
    by  otherarf
    Nice piece also in today's UK Guardian by Russell Brand echoing sentiments that addiction is an illness, not a choice, and should be treated as such. Which I agree with. The problem is that the treatment for addiction requires the individual to make big changes in how they live their life. Some addicts can do this, some cannot - even with a huge amount of help and support from family, friends and the state. At the end of the day, the addict has to make a choice to change. That, ultimatley, can only come from within.
    Reply Delete
  • Report Mon Jul 25, 2011 - 4:24 pm
    If you were a diabetic and chose not to take your insulin you would eventually die. If you have an addiction (illness) and choose not to get sober you will eventually die of that addiction. Neither illness is a choice but how you decide to handle them are. I've lost one relative to addiction, and watched another come close. What saved the other relative was a choice given to him to want something more than alcohol. He chose sobriety to save his family. Unfortunately for Ms. Winehouse she ran out of time, but choosing to do nothing about her addiction is still a choice. My heart goes out to her parents because watching your child self destruct is one of the most painful things a parent can experience.
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  • Report Mon Jul 25, 2011 - 1:30 pm
    by  D
    I am a recovering addict/alcoholic and while nobody chooses to be an addict, and addicts have lost the power of choice while using, we do have to come to the point of choosing to stay in recovery. I agree wholeheartedly with LiveLady's post. Amy Winehouse may not only have herself to blame, but only she could have chosen sobriety. It's hard but sometimes people just don't. I can only imagine how much harder it would be with fame added to the picture. There are those that do get sober, and it's NOT easy it's a daily struggle. Addicts are not totally without responsibility, even though it is a no-fault illness.
    Reply Delete
  • 1 reply, Last reply by LiveLady on Mon Jul 25, 2011 at 3:06 pm
  • Report Mon Jul 25, 2011 - 3:06 pm
    by  LiveLady
    @D: Thanks D.
    Reply Delete

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