Artist, addict or both? With the untimely death of Amy Winehouse, those familiar with her music (especially her song “Rehab”) find her art to be extremely telling. The song opens with “They tried to make me go to rehab but I said no, no, no.” Looking back on her life it is obvious that she didn’t go to rehab and if she did, she still had some issues afterwards.
A person with talent of such a high caliber is undoubtedly aware of their fame and popularity, so why would they lose it all because of drugs and alcohol? Is this type of death sometimes a person’s destiny? Or is that just what some artists tell themselves? Is it possible for a person in her position to pull themselves together and make it to old age ( yes a little less edgy, perhaps a bit burnt, yet sober)? Or would sobriety kill their appeal?
A few of the musicians I’ve known had serious drug or alcohol problems. Though none of them were famous, they felt the pressure to participate in “the lifestyle.” In fact, some of them acted as if drugs and sex was their birthright as a musician (talk about wasting talent out of stupidity). I watched at their lives spiraled out of control, as they messed things up for themselves and others, sometimes intentionally, and then used that as an excuse to feel sorry for themselves and turn back to the bottle. When you see it up close like it’s pathetic.
If you have ever had a serious problem with drugs or alcohol you may have experienced some close calls yourself. A few years ago I found myself spiralling downwards after a bad break-up and a long period of unemployment. I did have a job but it wasn’t anything great, and one night I went out with a friend who was visiting from Europe and my boss for a night of drinking. When I left my house that night, I had no idea by the end of it, we’d end up in the back of a shopping plaza in my bosses car snorting cocaine off a credit card.
Initially I thought it was a bad idea, but failed to talk my friend or boss out of it. I had tried it before but planned on never doing it again. As they passed the credit card back and forth between one another, I changed my mind, “Give me some,” I said, and snorted a very miniscule amount up each nostril.
Emotionally and phsyically that became my rock bottom. I felt guilty for using drugs after staying away from anything remotely illegal for years. Not long after, I came down with a serious case of pneumonia in which I almost died. I wasn’t able to get out of bed for a month. I very well could’ve continued hanging out in bars and with addicts when I regained my strength, but I didn’t. Coming so close to death and almost reaching it, my will to live grew stronger than ever before.
In the past, during my darker years, suicide was often a fleeting thought, though it was never completely off the table as an option. I had been through so much and couldn’t deal with life. When I was a young teenager I even took a handful of Tylenal PM and washed it down with vodka but nothing happened. Other than that one half hearted and failed attempt, I hadn’t really tried or thought about trying to kill myself again. Instead I did it the slow way, through addiction, abusive relationships, and eating disorders. Surely I knew one or all of them would catch up with me some day, though as a human, we have a way of thinking ourselves immortal until further notice. I remained fairly unscathed until the day I was so sick with pneumonia I couldn’t get out of bed even go to the emergency room. This was the day that my decade long romance with unhealthy behavior caught up with me.
I’m not sure that Amy Winehouse ever got out of her own way. When you are caught up in the party or drug scene you think you are living “the life.” These substances have a way of making you feel cool and invicible. Pair those feelings with the amount of money Amy had and there is no making a person like her go to rehab. It will take a lot longer for a person with that much fame and money to end up out on the streets than it would for someone like myself. Having these financial advantages are not really advantages when you are an addict, in fact, the money she had helped enable her and kept her from having to answer to the serious concerns and pleas for help from her family and friends.
The world has been touched and saddened by Amy Winehouse’s untimely death, even those of us who weren’t her fans are sad. I think that people have reacted so strongly to her passing because many of our lives have been affected by an addict, whether we struggled with destructive habits ourselves or watched friends or family destroy their own lives and everything around them. We have seen how helpless a situation like hers can be, we have experienced the inability to get through to someone in her situation or to even pull ourselves out of the gutter called addiction. Whether it’s food, drugs, or gambling, addiction can destroy your life, your family’s life, and inevitably kill you, and with Amy Winehouse, we saw it happen in plain site. She did not hide who she was or where she would inevitably end up and it was evident both in her art and life.
When I think about her and why this happened, I think that she was so far into the lifestyle that should didn’t believe that she could ever escape nor did she want to. Surely she’d spiraled downward, had some close calls, and could’ve tried to end her addiction with the support of others; but she didn’t. Like countless talented musicians before her maybe she felt this was her destiny. When you believe something strongly enough you can easily make it happen, and perhaps she felt that this was the only way she could go out, that a sober version of herself would never properly define Amy Winehouse.