Death By Misadventure.

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.”

3 thoughts on “Death By Misadventure.

  1. Well-written Lisa. I felt bad upon hearing of Amy Winehouse’s death and refused the jump in & joke along that many of my peers did. I had one friend in particular that thought I was a killjoy because I stated that I refuse to joke about her death, this person’s excuse was that I was not related to her or a friend, so why not joke about it? I said you can do what you like, but don’t try to make me feel bad about not wanting going along with the crowd. Compassion is key whether you know the person or not. Substance abuse regardless of type has roots in genetics and painful past emotional experiences. It can take being around enabling relationships & negative friendships to flip that switch, or a jarring experience, or even boredom. I have known a fair amount of people who are suffering from drug or alcohol addiction. I have no idea what its like to be wired for addiction, but from this point of view I see it akin to walking a tightrope to get to the other side to acute Awareness instead of “willpower” where one becomes sober and healthy.

  2. I’ve heard stories like Amy’s so very often – but only from those alcoholics fortunate enough to make it back to the rooms of recovery. Relapse teaches hard lessons about what is meant by “progressive” disease. People who relapse return with war stories…”I thought I’d have 1 or 2 but I fell into the bottle and couldn’t stop.” They don’t return happy, recanting fun and frolic and frivolity. Their souvenirs are always truths of isolated drinking, escalated destruction to themselves and others, and shame so strong that it’s nearly impossible to come back and start over. I was in Ptown when Amy died, and there were parties and celebrations and extreme responses – my tribe deals with a lot of life’s largess with camp and humor and sometimes cruelty. I was heartbroken. I hadn’t paid much attention to her music career as it played out in media, I just registered she was “one of us.” When I read her story, her death, her ultimate and final “qualification,” as they say in the rooms, I was deeply reminded of the power this disease – this progressive disease that kills people. Amy was about to celebrate a birthday, and by last accounts was not suicidal. She simply and sadly relapsed on alcohol – a legal substance that kills millions every year – directly or indirectly. She simply couldn’t stop, because that’s what happens when you are an alcoholic who has 1 drink – you can’t stop at 1, your body can’t process the alcohol, and you are poisoned to death. That is simply sad.

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