”When you love someone who suffers from the disease of addiction you await the phone call. There will be a phone call. The sincere hope is that the call will be from the addict themselves, telling you they’ve had enough, that they’re ready to stop, ready to try something new. Of course though, you fear the other call, the sad nocturnal chime from a friend or relative telling you it’s too late, she’s gone.” – Russell Brand
I logged onto Twitter a few hours late that morning, and by the time I did, streams were full of the news of Amy Winehouse’s fatal overdose.
Like everyone else, I wasn’t exactly shocked — she was an addict and that is a lethal situation. As Russell brand describes in his post, “For Amy,” “Addiction is a serious disease; it will end with jail, mental institutions or death.”
So while I wasn’t surprised, I was profoundly sad — for Amy and for all addicts and their family and friends.
I read tweets that were bitter that she was receiving attention while others died in obscurity, and tweets that were cold and accusing, blaming her for her fate.
While both facts are true — so many incredible people die without the world mourning the deep loss and Amy was the only one who could have saved herself from ending up dead at 27 — my sadness pooled up inside of me as I remembered the addicts and alcoholics I have loved in my own life.
As a youth worker, I worked for six years with at risk youth. I have seen addiction rip apart young lives, while I scrambled, desperately trying to do some damage control and maybe help to pull a few to safety.
And, like so many of us I am sure, my own extended family and friends have endured the destruction and loss of alcoholism.
Addiction and alcoholism are not the diseases of celebrity. In fact, like Amy Winehouse and probably most celebrities who are afflicted, the disease was raging long before celebrity began to feed it.
It is infuriating to watch someone die unnecessarily.
I have been there, trying to save someone from themselves. I know the frustration, the agony, the futility. I know what it is like to give up.
But I hate to hear the condemnation, the judgement.
We all have crap in our lives. For most of us, our mistakes and shame are hidden and not as deadly as Amy’s.
But it is still there. We are still fundamentally flawed, failing those around us. We all need grace and forgiveness. We all need someone to help save us from ourselves in one way or another.
So, as the news swirls about Amy Winehouse and the other celebrities who couldn’t make it past 27 years old, I hope that instead of throwing judgement we can be grateful that Amy’s tragic death at least shines the spotlight on the disease and seriousness of addiction and alchoholism, that perhaps some battling their own demons will be frightened enough to start saving themselves.
As Russell Brand reminds us:
“Not all of us know someone with the incredible talent that Amy had but we all know drunks and junkies and they all need help and the help is out there. All they have to do is pick up the phone and make the call. Or no. Either way, there will be a phone call.”
The entertainment industry has seen its share of stars who have died drug-related deaths. Had they been entered into drug rehab programs, their lives could have been saved.