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Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, John Belushi, Chris Farley, River Phoenix, Amy Winehouse.  The list of celebrity deaths linked to drug overdose goes on and now it includes Whitney Houston.  This morning’s report that Houston’s death Saturday was a result of a lethal combination of prescription drugs and alcohol sadly comes as no surprise.  Houston was best known for her voice but also for her troubled marriage to Bobby Brown and for her addiction issues.

Addiction kills.  It can be a slow and private death, but for celebrities, it can be very public.  Think of Charlie Sheen’s many drunken and high performances just before and after being fired from “Two and a Half Men”.  Thankfully, we didn’t witness his complete downfall.  Celebrities who are also addicts have the unfortunate position of being in the media where they often become the source of ridicule, the butt of jokes.  Most addicts suffer in the privacy of their homes, where friends and family have the unbearable task of trying to help. This seems true for Houston’s family, too (there were reports of Houston’s daughter, Bobbi Kristina, pulling her out of a rehearsal Saturday afternoon because of Houston’s erratic behavior–a sign that the 18-year-old has had to deal first-hand with her mother’s addiction problems).

Addiction is not a joke.  It’s a disease.  It has nothing to do with one’s character, morals, or willpower.  It is a complex combination of genetics, family history, and brain damage.  And it takes a lot more than lectures of “getting your act together” or “just saying no” to stop.  It’s time to stop joking or lecturing about addiction and to start showing compassion, concern, and care for people suffering from something beyond their control.  If you or someone you know is dealing with addiction, know that it’s not too late.  They can get help.  Remind him or her gently that wake-up calls come in many different ways–let Whitney Houston’s death serve as such.  In the long run, your friend will thank you for saving his life.

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One thought on “Addiction is Not a Joke

  1. I agree with you that addiction is more than being about any one thing and it definitely involves more than willpower or bootstrapping. A part of overcoming it does involve growing our sense of agency and having that become the dominant discourse mentally and using it to replace negative thoughts. That said, I’m always afraid that in acknowledging the many aspects of addiction and depression that the focus moves away from developing our mental discourse. It can still be true that the best way to overcome addiction involves creating our sense of agency even while maintaining that its not the only thing. I think most often the opposition to saying something similar to this is in being against having it said abruptly, abrasively and in a way that the recipient/addicted person feels they are being judged.

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