Burn Out or Fade Away
Ages ago,Â Gabriella requested a post on Amy Winehouse. I’m happy to comply, but it took me a while – and fair warning, this is not about singing.
A scrawny, unkempt addict overdosed after many attempts by friends and family to get her clean. Then one of her friends wrote something about it.
These would be – unfortunately -Â commonplace except that the people involved are – deservingly -Â famous, and aÂ lot was said about the gruesome “27 Club” of talented artists who died young. I think any similarity is less to do with any mystical nature of the number 27, and more to do with the connection between artistic ability and mental illness. There’s beenÂ researchÂ into this, but you can list some with just a quick think. Amy Winehouse and Kurt Cobain, certainly, of the “27 Club”, but also everyone from Emily Dickinson to Vincent Van Gogh. You don’t have to be ill to be clever, but it seems to happen. Maybe it’s some unpleasant cosmic quid pro quo.
At any rate, I never “got” Russell Brand – the friend who wrote about Amy – but the more I hear from him the more impressed I am. What he wroteÂ sealed it:
“When you love someone who suffers from the disease of addiction, you await the phone call. There will be a phone call. The sincere hope is that the call will be from the addict themselves, telling you theyâ€™ve had enough, that theyâ€™re ready to stop, ready to try something new. Of course, though, you fear the other call, the sad nocturnal chime from a friend or relative telling you itâ€™s too late, sheâ€™s gone.Â Frustratingly, itâ€™s not a call you can make; it must be received. It is impossible to intervene.”
He goes on about how addiction must be treated better, but he misses a point that I believe very strongly: addiction is a symptom. There may be well-adjusted, fulfilled addicts somewhere, but they’re generally self-medicating.
In any case, though, he’s perfectly summed up what it’s like to know an addict. No matter where you are or how many years it’s been, one tiny particle of your being always expects that call that it’s too late.Â Because next to it is another particle which, no matter how many decades ago you gave up, always has and always will hold out an improbable hope that someday things will be okay.
It’d require the addict being a different person than the one you’ve known, of course.Â But impossible things do sometimes happen, and you can never stop hoping.
Amy didn’t give herself the chance to fade away. You could be glib and say that if she could have been different, she wouldn’t have been that unique person with that unique talent. But I know her family never did – and won’t ever – stop wishing for that impossibility to have happened.