When a celebrity death happens at the same time as an unfathomable international tragedy, you invariably find yourself defending what you choose to acknowledge on your social network of choice. Your priorities come into question the second you post about the dead celebrity, because her death was the result of “poor life choices” and therefore expected, unsurprising, and less worthy of your attention. To post about the dead celebrity is somehow tantamount to ignorance or – worse still – apathy as regards the countless people who aren’t famous who have also died senselessly.
Because if I’m reading my Facebook wall correctly, one “dead junkie whore” does not equal 100+ murdered Norwegians. These are the mathematics of compassion.
When an addict dies of his or her disease, I pay attention. It’s as simple as that.
I pay attention, because I am an addict. I pay attention because I don’t assume for a nanosecond that I am immune from a tragic, ugly death because I’ve managed to go a number of years without alcohol or taking medication for reasons other than why it’s prescribed. I pay attention, because there are people out there who still believe that what they are doing makes them feel better, makes them more “in the moment,” makes them more creative, or any of the other bullshit we tell ourselves when we are still drinking and using.
And when an addict dies of his or her disease, I write about it. I try to tell people that addiction is a goddamn horror show of epic proportions, and that two out of three of us will NOT MAKE IT, not because we’re weak, not because we’re morally bankrupt, but because we are sick. I am, for all intents and purposes, something of an expert here.
I understand, all too well, the rancor that erupts when an addicted celebrity finally succumbs to years of self-abuse. We are infuriating to live with. We are baffling to those who don’t have this constant, screaming urge to behave quite abnormally. Our behavior is the very epitome of selfishness. We all come into this world naturally solipsistic: feed me, change me, comfort me. Selflessness is a learned behavior. A brain in the throes of addiction is a brain controlled almost entirely by primal instinct: all that matters is feeling “better,” which is to say not feeling at all. I can think of no better way to describe it. I can only try to make sense of senselessness.
And yet, a mind that is so disordered, so hell-bent on utterly destroying its carrier, is still something to be ridiculed. And when addiction gets what it wants, it’s a chance for everyone who’s not addicted to point fingers and cast aspersions.
I write about this because it’s what I know. I write about this because in doing so, I somehow believe that it’s helping. I can’t stop a madman from going on a killing spree. I can write about what’s wrong with me, and hope that someone identifies. In the end, all we have is hope.