The reports are in, and Amy Winehouse drank herself to death.
Actually, the London coroner who performed the autopsy and subsequent tests declared it “death by misadventure.” Which is such a quintessentially English way of stating things, as if Amy, poor girl, met her demise by spelunking in Swildon’s with the Oxford Caving Club. Or got thrown by her camel while trekking through Marrakesh. And not, you know, drinking to the point where her organs got so pickled that they all shut down.
“Death by misadventure.” Quite.
Plenty of people threw shade at this girl when the reports of her death first lumbered to the surface, thinking she was on the pipe, chasing the dragon, pharming….because that’s what she was known to do, and somebody dying of a DRUG overdose is always cause to act real high and mighty. Junkies, after all, don’t deserve our compassion.
But as it turns out, Amy had no illegal intoxicants in her system. She took herself out entirely legally, with the stuff that many of you are probably planning on ingesting yourselves this weekend. It happens. You can do quite a lot of damage to yourself with just alcohol.
I’m a recovering alcoholic. I am biologically programmed to want too much of a good thing. For me, it absolutely stands to reason that if “two every six hours” makes me feel better, then “six every two hours” will make me feel GREAT. It’s difficult to explain this to people who aren’t wired thus. It’s difficult to explain how, once you’re in the throes of this disorder, you can’t “just stop.” I wince a little when I hit another year as a sober person and someone invariably congratulates me on my “willpower.” Because that’s another thing that’s difficult to explain – stopping, and staying stopped, has nothing to do with willpower. I’d like to stop making this about willpower, in fact, because that implies that the countless addicts out there who are still struggling are somehow morally inferior, rather than gravely ill, making it therefore acceptable to sneer and joke when their addictions kill them.
I, personally, lost my right to drink “responsibly” years ago, but I also understand that I’m in the minority. I’m hardly in favor of a return to Prohibition. Have a drink. Hell – have a couple. Sláinte. But drinking to excess, contrary to popular opinion, is not funny. It’s not cute, it’s not a rite of passage, it’s not “rock-n-roll.” It’s poisoning yourself. Why do you think it’s called inTOXICation? I’m really not trying to be a killjoy, hell-bent on ruining everyone’s good time with my soapboxing. I’m saying – be careful. Please. Just because you can buy it alongside your potato chips and chicken wings doesn’t mean it’s LESS harmful than something that comes in a tiny little ziploc bag purchased in a neighborhood you wouldn’t otherwise be in. You don’t have to be me, or Amy Winehouse, to fuck things up good and proper for yourself and your loved ones with a couple too many.
It’s heartbreaking when anyone succumbs to this illness, because it’s an illness that can be arrested any number of ways. REBT, AA, SMART Recovery, Secular Organizations for Sobriety, prayer, meditation, therapy….I don’t claim that any one way is the ONLY way to do it. That’s not my place. But I have a responsibility, as someone in recovery, to talk about this, to say: “This nearly killed me….don’t let it kill you.”