Amy Winehouse and addiction
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.