Let me start by saying this: I was never a huge Whitney Houston fan. When she was bopping around in a mini-dress singing “I Wanna Dance With Somebody,” I was skulking around in Iron Maiden t-shirts, trying (and failing) to be Lita Ford. I saw The Bodyguard on a date in 1993 and thought it was basically a crime against cinema.
It wasn’t until I heard that Whitney was an addict that I felt any kind of kinship with her whatsoever. (I’ve been in recovery for narcotics addiction since 1991.) I remember watching footage of her going all gaga over Bobby Brown when he was released from jail in 2000 and being reminded of the boyfriend who introduced me to cocaine when I was seventeen. Talk about pearls before swine. I wanted to both strangle her and find her a sponsor.
Recently, I saw Houston referred to as just “another dead addict” and I was deeply offended because I don’t consider myself better than any other addict, sober or not, dead or alive. We’re all in the same boat; some of us just happen to be holding on tighter when the winds hit. Still, I get it: Addicts — especially celebrity addicts — are really difficult to like.
How could Houston squander all that talent? That beauty? Her relationship with her daughter? How could someone with enough money to buy the Betty Ford Clinic . . . fail to get adequate help?
Amy Winehouse was so brazen about her refusal to go to Rehab for her alcohol and drug addiction that she wrote a dang song about it (and it won three Grammy Awards). Anyone very surprised by her death really wasn’t paying attention.
Mark Twain once said, “A man who carries a cat by the tail learns something he can learn no other way.” The addict is, of course, the jackass holding the cat. And while holding the cat, he’s telling everyone within earshot how much he’s enjoying getting his arm torn all to heck and how he could put the cat down any time but just chooses not to.
Addiction is a mysterious, frustrating, horrific thing. Some believe it is a choice; others believe it’s a legitimate disability. Somewhere in the middle is where I’d put it. The addict can choose not to pick up that first hit or drink. But you don’t choose the state of addiction that makes you crave that kind of pain. I was born with it, and I wouldn’t wish it on anyone.
Most addicts in recovery can pinpoint the moment when they knew that something had to change, and that if it didn’t they were going to die, and that they didn’t want to die. Some call it their rock bottom; I call it a boot to the head. Everybody’s is different. Some of us never get one, especially if our heads are well-cushioned by money and fame.
I’ll never be a big fan of Whitney Houston the celebrity. But Whitney Houston the addict? I just wish she had more time to get that boot to the head.