From “For Amy” by Russell Brand on his website:
“Now Amy Winehouse is dead, like many others whose unnecessary deaths have been retrospectively romanticised, at 27 years old. Whether this tragedy was preventable or not is now irrelevant. It is not preventable today. We have lost a beautiful and talented woman to this disease. Not all addicts have Amy’s incredible talent. Or Kurt’s or Jimi’s or Janis’s, some people just get the affliction. All we can do is adapt the way we view this condition, not as a crime or a romantic affectation but a disease that will kill.”
Of course, Brand has a unique insight into Winehouse’s condition, as he used to be an addict himself.
He’s definitely right in saying society should not be romanticising drug addiction and death. And it’s certainly sad that she died so young, but I’m a bit conflicted about the whole situation.
She was ridiculed in the press and the butt of jokes, especially after her most recent attempt at a comeback, in Serbia, where she appeared to be drunk or high, or both, and addressed the audience as Athenians, I believe. And now that she’s dead, everyone wants to remark on what a fine young talent we’ve lost. The same thing happened with Michael Jackson. No one gave a rats ass about these people until it was too late.
But, on the other hand, if an addict can’t get clean, and doesn’t want to get clean, it’s no one’s responsibility but theirs, at the end of the day.
How many chances did Winehouse have to get clean? How many chances has Lindsay Lohan had? Corey Haim? Courtney Love? Pete Doherty? Anna Nicole Smith? The list goes on.
Yes, I understand that addiction is a disease, and we should try to help people afflicted with it like we would those afflicted with diabetes or schizophrenia. After all, addiction is a mental illness of sorts, and the two often go hand in hand.
And Brand writes that making drug addiction a crime is the wrong answer. “It is cheaper to rehabilitate an addict than to send them to prison, so criminalisation doesn’t even make economic sense,” he writes.
But we’ve all read the literature: drugs cause addiction. So why take them in the first place? To be cool? To cope? ’Cause you’re bored?
I can’t pretend to understand, as I have smoked less than five whole cigarettes in my lifetime, I’ve never been drunk, and I’ve never taken drugs (except for an accidental bite of a hash brownie, but that’s another story!). I have people in my life who are recreational drug users (some are very long-term recreational drug users), but I don’t approve and I can’t pretend to understand. Why would you knowingly do something that could—and probably will—kill you?
I’m not really sure where I stand on the issue: my gut reaction is to say that Winehouse has got no one to blame but herself, but my compassion for people with mental illness other than addiction, and those who have slipped through the cracks, makes me feel like this is not just a black and white issue. Can you feel sorry for some people, but not for others?
Maybe those reading this could shed some light on this issue? Have you had experience with addiction or are close to someone who has, and what are your views on the issue?
Elsewhere: [Russell Brand.TV] For Amy.
Image via Amy Winehouse Picz.