Romanticizing Addiction, Part 2

Yesterday I posted a conversation between two well known news commentators about the addictions which presumably lead to the death of Whitney Houston.

People die every single day. People die as a result of disease, malnutrition, violence and neglect. People die defending their countries. Some people die simply because they were at the wrong place at the wrong time. Regardless of hows or whys behind their deaths, I don’t imagine the mourning process is any easier for the ones they leave behind. I suppose what’s so unsettling about Houston’s death is that no one was particularly surprised by it. Her death saddened me. I’m know I’m not alone.

But my sadness is not what I’ve been struggling with.

It’s my anger. And perhaps the guilt associated with where that anger lies.

I’ve done the blame game. Her ex-husband is an easy target. Her life seemed to turn south quickly after she began a relationship with Bobby Brown. Maybe he introduced her to addiction, but unless he held her down and forced drugs on her, he’s ultimately not to blame.

I’ve blamed her entourage. Surely they knew the downward spiral she was on. But rather than help her, they enabled her. How could they allow her to destroy herself? But who am I kidding? Celebrities often surround themselves with people whose soul purpose is to accommodate them.

I’ve blamed fame and fortune. Addicted celebrities are a cliche. Fame destroys people.

But ultimately, the responsibility for Whitney Houston’s death lies with Whitney Houston. Whether she did so intentionally or accidentally, she killed herself, robbed the world of arguably one of the purest, most beautiful voices we’ve ever know, and robbed her family of a life spent with them.

My anger is fueled by the knowledge that not only is her daughter without a mother, but the fact that for all intents and purposes, she has been without a mother the majority of her young life. Because while addiction is a horrible disease for the addict, not much is said about the other victims of it–the people they love. I’ve been around enough addicts to understand this undeniable truth: Everything and everyone is secondary to the addiction. When an addict is in the midst of his addiction, nothing else is more important than their fix. Not their kids, not their spouses, parents or friends. They will often justify bad behavior, they will lie, they will manipulate and take advantage of people. Is it any surprise that the vast majority of all reported child abuse and neglect cases are at the hands of a chemically dependent caregiver?

I’m not angry at Whitney Houston specifically. I’m angry at a society that romanticizes addicts as heroic yet helpless victims to their addiction.

I will not be so flippant to say that addicts just need to get their shit together and sober up. I know the addiction is the symptom of other underlying issues and sobriety is a life long, difficult road. But I also refuse to believe that because addiction is a disease, the addict is helpless to do anything about it.

I started smoking when I was 14 or 15 years old. I tried to quit several times, but it wasn’t until I found out I was pregnant with my first child that I gave up tobacco. Because when you come to understand that you’re not only endangering your own life but the life of someone else, you begin to take the damage you’re doing seriously. Quitting smoking was a no-brainer for me. I simply wouldn’t risk the health of my unborn child to feed my addiction. Was it easy? Heck no. Have I slipped since them? Honestly? Yes. The craving may go away for some people, but I’ve never found that to be the case. Even though getting pregnant is no longer in the realm of possibilities for me, being around for as long as I can for my family and setting a good example while I’m here is too important to give in to addiction.

There’s such a thing as personal responsibility and caring more about the people who love you than your own immediate cravings. When all you want to do is give in and numb the pain, remember that numbing your own pain comes at a high price–the pain of the people who love you and that are terrified they’re going to lose you. You’ve got to get honest with yourself, break the cycle of guilt and ask for help before it’s too late.

Whitney Houston didn’t have to die. She embarked on that road years ago. She could have gotten off that road but chose not to. I’m not suggesting it would have been an easy choice, but it is a choice.

Editor’s Note: I apologize if this post seems mean spirited and judgmental. It’s not meant to be. As I said, my anger is not directed specifically at the death of Whitney Houston. I suppose it’s in part the result of attending too many funerals of friends who died as a result of their addictions, and seeing first hand the emotional wasteland their deaths leave behind for those who loved them.

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