Once Again, Entirely too Soon

We’ve lost another tremendous talent to a horrific disease. Whitney Houston died much too soon. And though the official cause of death may not be listed as “Addiction”, one cannot help but speculate that it will prove to be a contributing factor. This, of course, becomes fodder for the would-be comedians again. As someone posted on facebook today, “Whitney Houston picked a good time to die. This seems like the only was she would get mentioned at the Grammys again.” (sic).

You probably know by now that I won’t join in the chuckles. I won’t laugh, though I can’t imagine that I’ll shed many tears, either. I’ve done enough of that over the years, though to what purpose, I’ll never really know. It’s not as though I have known any of these superstars that have died too young. I have known others that shared the same fate, however.

I don’t think it’s funny when someone dies. Period. I certainly don’t think it amusing when they die of addiction.  Of course, there but for the grace of Bob, and all that…so yes, I take it to heart. The only difference between someone like Whitney and someone like me is that I didn’t have millions of people watching every time I stumbled. (Well, income differential might indicate that she had access to better drugs, but that’s neither here nor there) And I did stumble. I fell. I constantly failed to live up to any standards or resolutions that I laid down. Quit? Sure! Absolutely. Hundreds. Of. Times. What did I do to finally succeed? How did I earn the right to keep on living, when those who have so much more to give die one after another? Fuck if I know.

I also don’t know if it will ever be enough. This disease, and yes, it is a disease, so quit your morality-laden willpower bullshitting already, is never cured. I may never use again. I may never drink again. But I will ALWAYS be an addict. And if some future use doesn’t get me, it’s always entirely possible that some past use will rear its head and wipe me out in some other fashion. Don’t believe me? Ask United Health Care. I told them I went to rehab and they said “No, no, no.” As in “Your stint in rehab makes you too much of a risk for us to provide life insurance at this time.” I didn’t bother to ask when might be a better time.

Want to know the truth? Want to know how we know we have truly succeeded at staying sober? We die of something else.

Ordinary Amy

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.