Amy Winehouse was a singular talent, or so we have been told repeatedly since the news of her death broke a few days ago. Talented? Certainly. Singular? Certainly not. There are other musical artists who speak from as dark a place as she did. There are others who, tragically, died young as well. (The internet is abuzz with all the bright lights who were extinguished at 27, go ahead, add her to the list, but NO, it’s not a government conspiracy…) Ms. Winehouse reportedly even died of the same disease that killed most of her fellow 27s. And that makes her anything BUT singular.
Most estimates put about 10% of the US population into the category of alcohol or drug dependent, and I believe it was quite evident to anyone with the barest knowledge of Ms. Winehouse that she shared this addiction. (Yes, as a matter of fact, I do know she was British). Reading public commentary, however, gives one a different impression. While many cite Winehouse’s addiction, few know quite what to make of it. Most seem to at least imply, if not outright state, that she chose to die in this way. It would appear that the general public knows more about celebrity lifestyles than they do common disease.
Make no mistake, addiction is a disease. Only someone who has never personally suffered addiction could say otherwise. NO ONE chooses addiction. It is a devastatingly insidious disease with no cure, and no absolute treatment. Yes, there is treatment, but it doesn’t always work. And the reason it doesn’t work isn’t a lack of effort or desire. Any addict can tell you, will tell you, how many times they’ve tried to quit. They can tell you all the different tactics they’ve tried. And failed. Twelve-Step programs are known for some success, but there are many who will tell you that they were only able to come to terms with their addictions once they gave up on a higher power and took responsibility for their own lives, as well as those who’ve stepped and stepped and never did get sober.
So if there is a lesson to be learned from Amy’s passing, it is this: Addiction kills. And more often than not, there is shit-all you can do about it. RIP, Amy. Peace.
An interesting follow-up from the NYT,