In which I share my ramblings with my traveling companions. Musings about the Church, cooking, mothering, movies, teaching and everything else.
Sunday, February 12, 2012
After Whitney Houston's Death: Reflections From A Grateful Alcoholic
Jamie is a family friend, a soccer coach to our younger son and a beloved neighbor.
By James McCrone
I celebrated eight years sobriety last week (Feb. 3). Whitney Houston died last night.
My wife and I will commemorate and celebrate those eight years with dinner out tonight. While our discussion will not dwell on things past, whatever we end up talking about, the subtext will remain that this dinner, the health and well being of the children and the continuation of a (now) happy marriage, could not have been foreseen eight and a half years ago. We’ll certainly talk about Whitney Houston, who was barely six months older than I am. Amy Winehouse died this past summer.
Both women were mocked in life and now in death for their struggles. I googled “Whitney Houston Jokes” and “Amy Winehouse Jokes," and came up with over 4,600,000 entries and 400,000 respectively. Certainly our dysfunctional societal relationship with the cult of celebrity explains it somewhat, but the fact that Houston’s and Winehouse’s struggles with alcohol and drugs could be regarded as funny shows a fundamental misunderstanding of the nature of addiction and its ramifications.
As a society, we are only now beginning to get an understanding of mental health issues like anxiety and depression as illnesses. A woman with post-partum depression can be treated and counseled, as can someone suffering panic attacks, and the success in reaching people who suffer is a direct result of a shift in society’s attitudes. To mock or belittle someone afflicted this way would not be regarded as funny.
No one wonders at why smokers have such a hard time giving it up. They’re addicted. An alcoholic/drug addict drinks because he is addicted. It is a tragedy individually and collaterally; and our collective refusal to confront what addiction is, keeps people sick and families suffering.
I was lucky. I am lucky. I’m not dead, for which am I profoundly grateful. Much has been put right. I am a grateful alcoholic. The point, however, is that I cannot go back to drinking now that I have worked through my personal shit. Addiction lives, lurks, hovers at my shoulder, like an over-eager waiter, ready to fill my glass. I am often reminded of the Nobel Prize scene in A Beautiful Mind. John Nash accepts his award, and in among the crowd stand the three “ghosts” of his illness—at a distance, but always there.
The deck is stacked against addicts. Houston and Winehouse might not have made it to old age anyway. But a better understanding of their suffering might have increased their odds. Whatever else it is, it ain’t funny.