I don’t normally use my blog as a platform to discuss pop culture or politics or world events, mostly because I’d much rather talk about my kid and my life, and I don’t want to risk saying the wrong thing about the wrong person and getting my shit litigated (not that enough people even read my blog for anything I say to have a particularly large reach, but still, you can never be too careful in these sue happy days we live in). But I’ve got a bug up my butt about something, and since this is MY blog on MY website (and subsequently, all thoughts and ideas are MINE), than I thought I’d go outside the norm for a sec and try to excise the bug.
See, someone died this weekend. A very talented, very troubled soul singer by the name of Amy Winehouse. And she was amazing, and famous, and had legions of fans. But instead of the outpouring of grief or sorrow or mourning we normally see when a celebrity dies, Amy’s death seemed to elicit a much different, much more callous response. Cruising the internets after news of her passing hit, I encountered A LOT of backlash from people celebrating her death, bidding her good riddance, calling in “death bets”, and just being all around douchey (not a word, I KNOW, but it’s my blog). A few snippets: “Why is this news, she was a junkie, she deserved it”, “It’s about time, moving on”, “Who Cares?”, and one that made me particularly angry, “Good, one less crack whore to worry about”. Not exactly tombstone worthy eulogies, ya know? And it got me thinking about why, and then it got me angry about why, and then I started writing this in my head, and well, here we are.
For some reason, we as a people have an incredibly difficult time acknowledging that addiction is NOT A CHOICE. Addiction is a disease. It is a difficult, and many times deadly, disease to beat. It is a disease that, even if you are one of the very fortunate ones who happen to win one of the battles, will mercilessly and ceaselessly pull you back into the war for the rest of your life. That’s why we see so many addicts relapse; it is an ongoing, never ending fight for sobriety. Telling an addict to just stop drinking/smoking/doing drugs/gambling is like telling a manic depressive to just be happy. You know when you’re feeling kinda shitty, and some asshole has the nerve to tell you it’s not that bad, just get over it? It’s like that, only a million times harder, because no matter how much an addict WANTS to stop, or knows they should stop, or has people telling them they need to stop, they just can’t stop.
I grew up in a family of addicts. My father was an alcoholic who had been clean for 25 years when he died. And most of his family is/was/are alcoholics. There are a few, ahem, problems on my mom’s side as well. I don’t have a problem with substance abuse, but I can say with almost terrifying certainty that it isn’t because I’m above it, it is because I am conscious of the fact that for me, there is a very thin line between using and abusing, and I have worked very hard to not cross that line. I come from addicts, and I have a VERY healthy respect for the disease and how quickly it can and will destroy you.
Amy Winehouse was an addict, I don’t think there is any dispute there. And many, many people don’t understand or sympathize with someone who has a substance abuse problem, I totally get that. I don’t necessarily feel sorry for addicts either. But how can we mourn some deaths and mock others? Why was Heath Ledger’s death so much more sad, or Michael Jackson’s? Both, if you recall, were drug related, both overdoses. But when they died, I don’t remember the horrible jokes, or dismissive remarks. I don’t remember people writing it off as expected, just another junkie who refused to get help. So why was THIS death so much less sad or tragic or unfortunate?
I don’t know the answer to that, I wish I did. Maybe it’s because we saw her hit (our perceived) bottom time and time again and still not “get better”. Maybe it’s because Amy made no apologies for fact that she was a “junkie”, even had a massive hit about refusing treatment (although, if you listen to the song, it’s CLEARLY about not wanting to leave her man, not about wanting to stay a drunk). Maybe it’s because after you turn someone so sick into late night fodder on a regular basis, you tend to dehumanize them and their disease. Who knows. What I do know is that she was an amazing talent, a soulful artist who’s pain (because think about it people, she was medicating SOMETHING, addicts don’t stay addicts for the fun of it) made her music haunting and mesmerizing and special. She was a person, who none of us actually knew, but felt like we did, at least a little, because she sang to us about our lives, our pain. She was a friend. She was a DAUGHTER. And yes, she was a junkie. But the latter shouldn’t make the former any less true. And her illness shouldn’t make her death any less sad or tragic or unfortunate.
Ok, I’m done. Thanks for allowing me to veer off the topic of my little loveball. I promise, loveball posts will resume immediately. Bug successfully excised.