Today Amy Winehouse was found dead in her London apartment. While the official cause of death has not been determined, I think most of the world is assuming her death is the result of a drug overdose. If that’s the case, I won’t be shocked, based on the much-publicized (perhaps overly so) battle she waged with addiction to drugs and alcohol. What has shocked me is the sheer amount of comments I’m hearing about how disappointed people are in her ongoing struggle with addiction and her inability to overcome it. It seems so ignorant, insensitive, and removed.
I wonder how many of these people have ever dealt with addiction up close and personal — in their own lives or of those they love — and not just through the media. I would venture to think that their outlook on the effects of addiction on the addict and the havoc it wreaks would be much different, perhaps less concerned with pointing fingers and more understanding of the rehabilitation process. After all, life is much different when you’re a participant instead of a spectator.
I always want to ask people who trivialize addiction “Do you think any addict wants to be an addict?” Seriously, if people could just shut off their addictions, wouldn’t they just do it instead of enduring days, months, years, decades, a lifetime of the back and forth battle for their health and sanity? Obviously, it’s not that simple. Whether it’s an addiction to alcohol, drugs, food, sex, self-mutilation, etc., there are some very real issues tied to a person’s continued need for them, whether physical, psychologically or otherwise.
I’m not an expert and won’t claim to be, but I know for damn sure that it’s not cool to come back after the fact and wax philosophical about how terrible the situation was, how you would have handled things differently, or question the motives of the people who interacted regularly with addicts. The fact is you weren’t there and therefore don’t know what the struggle was behind closed doors.
I can’t help but listen to Amy’s music and hear some of the pain that comes through in her words and voice. I’m sure it was only a fraction of the pain she had to have felt to deliver such inspired music. Frankly, it sounds like she was a tortured soul who never got a respite from the agony of heartbreak. If her music and public behavior serve as any indication of her internal struggle, it must have been harrowing. It’s no wonder she turned to something, anything to cope with her issues.
I don’t know what her death will mean in the grand scheme of pop culture. I’m sure or at least a few weeks, there will be specials and sound bites about her life and “downfall,” though I don’t trust that it will be done either tastefully or in a way that highlights the realities of addiction in a genuine, non-sensationalized way. Either way, I hope it will give some people the courage to get help, the perseverance to stick to any rehabilitation/help they’re already getting, or, at the very least, the compassion to realize that a life with addiction isn’t as simple as simply wanting to stop.