Amy Winehouse

Monday, 25 July 2011
Amy Winehouse
What's more surprising to me than the death, at age 27, of Amy Winehouse, is the judgmental, even harsh denouncement of her life.

Many were surprised to learn that, according to news reports today, her autopsy immediately failed to establish a cause of death. The London Metropolitan Police said Monday that further toxicology tests are needed and the results are expected in two to four weeks.

Police have said her death is being treated as "unexplained" but not suspicious, and have said speculation that she might have suffered an overdose was inappropriate.

"Inappropriate" for the police to say publicly, perhaps, but I think we can pretty safely assume that her death was "drug-related" - in some way.

Her addictions to drugs and alcohol have been played out on the public stage for years now. She even immortalized her struggles in her song, "Rehab" which contained the lyric, "They tried to make me go to rehab but I said 'no, no, no'."
I ain't got the time and if my daddy thinks I'm fine
He's tried to make me go to rehab but I won't go go go

I'd rather be at home with ray
I ain't got seventy days
Cause there's nothing
There's nothing you can teach me
That I can't learn from Mr Hathaway

I didn't get a lot in class
But I know it don't come in a shot glass

They tried to make me go to rehab but I said 'no, no, no'
The references to "Ray" and "Mr. Hathaway" are Ray Charles and Donny Hathaway, both of whom influenced her music.

Her song makes it painfully clear: she knows what she's doing. She's drinking and using drugs to ease the pain of whatever it is she's feeling and doesn't intend to stop.

Which makes some people - especially those in recovering from addiction or those who are affected by or live with people with an addiction - C.R.A.Z.Y.

I am stunned by the anger and the high-handed moralizing and harsh judgment being pronounced on her, post mortem. It is ugly and painful to read.

I understand. Watching someone with an addiction - especially those who refuse to get help ("No, No, No.") - is maddening. There's no reasoning with them. They can't listen to or hear reason. All they can think of is getting their next high so they won't feel the pain anymore.
I don't ever wanna drink again
I just ooh I just need a friend
I'm not gonna spend ten weeks
have everyone think I'm on the mend

It's not just my pride
It's just 'til these tears have dried

They tried to make me go to rehab but I said 'no, no, no'
Yes I've been black but when I come back you'll know know know
I ain't got the time and if my daddy thinks I'm fine
He's tried to make me go to rehab but I won't go go go
I won't romanticize the destruction addiction does to the addict and his/her family by talking about the "tortured soul" of a "struggling artist".

Yes, I know all about Jimmy Hendrix and Janice Joplin. Got it on River Phoenix and Michael Jackson.

Grunge-rocker Kurt Cobain? Actor Richard Burton? Singer Judy Garland? Actress Marilyn Monroe?

Check, check, check and CHECK.

Yes, and I know that Sigmund Freud died of a physician-assisted morphine overdose.

I understand about the connection between art and brilliance and addiction and "accidental" or intended suicide. No, wait. That's not true. I don't understand it. I only understand that it exists.

I just want to say to all my friends in recovery - and all those who are family and friends of those whose lives have been deeply troubled and rendered chaotic by addiction - I understand your anger and rage. I even understand your need to harshly judge.

God know, my own life has been touched by addiction in violent and destructive ways.

That being said, it is important to remember that addiction is a disease. Like diabetes or cancer. There is some evidence that there are genetic predispositions. Other researches show a link between depression and bipolar disorder and addiction.

We don't judge people for those illnesses - even those who don't manage their diabetes or decline surgery or treatment for cancer.

Addiction is not a moral deficiency. Neither is it a romantic idea about artistic brilliance.

It's a disease.

It's not illegal to drink alcohol or take or smoke or snort drugs. It's illegal to sell them or to have them on your person. It's not illegal to have them IN your person - unless you are a danger to yourself or others while intoxicated or high.

It's a disease.

Addicts need help. They don't always get it or appreciate it when someone convinces them to say "yes" to Rehab because the truth is that Rehab, besides not always being effective, doesn't take away the pain. Rehab helps you to live with your pain and find other, more healthy ways to deal with your pain.

Some people, like Amy Winehouse, are as addicted to the "pain - relief - pain" cycle as they are to their drug of choice. For artists, it can become the double-edged source of their creativity and artistry, making the prognosis for full recovery even more remote.

In any event, the sad, tragic fact remains: Amy Jade Winehouse is dead. She was 27 years old. She was a brilliant vocalist and songwriter. She won five Grammy awards, tying the record for the most Grammys by a female artist in a single night. She was also the first British singer to have won that many Grammys.

She accomplished a great deal and entertained millions in her short time on this earth. That's more than many people can say about their own lives.

Does such a waste of talent and life make me angry? Yes, yes of course it does. But it does no good to turn that anger into judgement - not for Amy Winehouse or for me.

As my anger abates, I may be able to feel pity, which can lead to empathy - a good thing. When its source is anger, however - especially over something I can't control - pity is a sorrow that can have a slightly contemptuous edge.

It is dehumanizing, witnessed by the fact that I hear myself saying, "Oh, poor thing!" Wait! Did I just say, 'poor thing'? Why yes, yes, in fact, I did.

I have discovered that that kind of pity is not good for my soul.

When I can channel that angry energy into compassion, I am able to see the bigger picture. I am humbled to explore my own failings and shortcomings and work on them. In my vulnerability, I can be more empathic and more emotionally available.

Most importantly, I stop my "savior behavior", thinking I can save the world - or this person or that situation - or sit in judgment of others. Instead, I can learn to love more deeply. Unconditionally. The way God loves us and Jesus wants us to love others.

Judgment makes you feel righteous and good (or better) about yourself.

Compassion, however, makes you a better person.

May the death of Amy Jade Winehouse bring us all to a greater sense of understanding, empathy and compassion for all who suffer in any way - even those who seem to bring it on themselves - helping us to let go of anger and judgment over what we can't control and better able to bring more love into a world broken and made dark by suffering.

Understanding. Empathy. Compassion. Love.

God knows, the world is in short supply of all four.

Rest in peace, Amy. Your music will live on, even though you couldn't.


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