Monday, July 25, 2011

She Said No No No…

So the sad but not very surprising news came out over the weekend. Amy Winehouse died.
My reaction was the same as most everyone’s - that she was a train wreck. Well true. She was. And her death is but the latest in a series of celebrity snuff-outs due to alcohol and drug abuse. Sadly, hers will not be the last.

Addiction is a confounding, heartbreaking illness that is extremely misunderstood by those that do not have it. From the outside looking in, someone like Winehouse looks pathetic and weak. The conclusion drawn by most people is why couldn’t she just stop? Couldn’t she see what she is doing to herself?
The answer to the second question is yes, she knew. But the answer to the first question is, she couldn't stop because she didn’t want to - she never got to the point of wanting to. And therein lies the heartbreak of addiction.  As she sang so famously, they tried to make her go to rehab and she said no no no.
I have first-hand experience in addiction, so let no one think that I am just some talking head expounding on something I know nothing about. Amy’s death has really hit home with me, because I was once right where she is, or more accurately was, prior to July 23, 2011. I was once in grave danger of dying. And the unfathomable attitude I had at that time was, I’m okay, I can handle this. I was unable to see how bad it had gotten. It took others - loved ones - to literally jerk me out of my shell of denial and re-plant me elsewhere. I protested. I didn’t want to go. But I went.
And sixteen years later, I am still here.
Please do not misunderstand. I am not trying to portray myself as better than Amy. I was simply more fortunate. Everyone’s circumstances is different, and in my case I did not have handlers and hangers-on trying to tell me things were cool, to just keep singing so we can all be rich. Nobody made me go do an epic fail concert in Belgrade where I slurred and stumbled my way around a stage for the entire world to see.
In the end it was just me and my drugs. And in that lopsided battle, the drugs were going to win. And that’s what I had in common with Amy.
So why the drastically different outcomes? Why am I here and a great talent like Amy Winehouse is gone? Well here’s the answer, and it is one simple word. Willingness.
Somewhere along the way, after I stopped protesting and the fog started to lift, I realized that I wanted to be sober - that sobriety was a more favorable choice. Amy never got there. The familiar pain of active addiction won out over the unfamiliar pain of recovery. Her life was a process of moving from one fear to the next. Hers was a tormented soul that never had the chance to heal. She never got to willingness.

And the tragedy of that unwillingness is obvious, now.

We never got a comeback tour, we will never know how that soulful voice would have matured. Instead, the disease chalked up another victim.
Pete Townshend of The Who once stated in a documentary that rock and roll is like watching a house on fire - it is violent, oddly beautiful and captivating…until you realize that people are dying, that lives are being expended by the spectacle.
Amy Winehouse was just the latest sacrifice to that altar.
Her soul can now rest.

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