Piątek: Amy Winehouse – a junkie legend without a legend

[dropcap]T[/dropcap]hey tried to make me go to rehab but i said no, no, no’, Amy Winehouse used to sing. It would be very easy to build around these words a junkie legend about a rebellious, addicted girl that didn’t want to give in to society. Many elements from Amy’s life would fit this legend, with her death in the first place. She died at the age of 27, just like many other junkie-legendary stars: Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, Brian Jones, Kurt Cobain and Jim Morrison.

However, that would be a false legend. Amy tried to give it up, and more precisely she tried to undergo various treatments. She went to rehab, yet broke it off, then she went to tropical islands, where there was no peddlers, but unfortunately there were bartenders. The trouble is that it doesn’t matter to the disease if a drug is legal or not. A few months ago doctors warned her that if she didn’t quit alcohol, she risked her life. Amy chose death. I am not surprised, because often I also have a mind to choose death myself.

Non-addicted people have no idea what an unceasing torment this disease is. This is a continuous temptation, recurrent, shattering your brain and stomach, but which you can’t yield to, because each glass or gram only intensifies this thirst instead of relieving it. There does not exist in the media proper information on the subject of addiction, and in this connection people who occasionally abuse alcohol or regularly smoke are considered to be addicted. Often a harmful habit like smoking is confused with addiction, a disease, which is progressive, incurable and terminal.

I would like to stress this – progressive. Someone who has been smoking cigarettes every day for twenty years is not addicted. The feeling of craving resulting from quitting does not spell addiction. Addiction is a significant and probably congenital lack of resistance to substances that change somebody’s mood. To be more precise, this is an inability to accept the cessation of pleasure, when stopping pleasure, you don’t come back to your natural state, but rather get into unbearable stress. That is why a person suffering from this disease not only has to keep abstinent, but also stay away from gambling, be careful with sex, work, shopping, chocolate, video games, sport and all other things, which make life pleasurable.

This is usually an unknown aspect to those not-addicted. No surprise that the layman often tells me with a smile: ‘oh, I am also addicted to alcohol, tobacco, and somehow I can deal with that’. In such situations I really have to prevent myself from whacking this person in the face. I just answer that if you can deal with that, you are not addicted. I always want to say: ‘you do not make jokes about cancer, so do not laugh at my disease’. Nevertheless, in spite of the general ignorance and unconcern of the media, something seems to be changing.

The sign of these changes is the fact that, even though all elements for a legend were present in Amy’s life and death, Amy didn’t become a junkie legend and, probably, she never will. We do not live in the 60s anymore, when taking drugs was treated as a form of initiation and a ticket to a group of mystics. We do not live in the 90s when Cobain’s death was explained with an existential Weltschmerzem. Nowadays, even the media does not seem thoughtlessly excited with the case of Amy, but usually writes about it in terms of struggling with a disease. No one was thrilled by her living on the edge.

This is good. There is nothing thrilling in addiction. It should be treated. Unfortunately this is very difficult, as Amy had the chance to have become convinced of. This disease can’t be absolutely cured, but only cured incompletely, which means that a patient suffers less or more through the whole sober life. There is no pill for this, and maybe it’s better this way, because addicted people might overdose on it.

I hope that Amy is standing now in front of the only Doctor, who may relieve her from this pain. I believe that there, unlike here, it is completely curable.


Krytyka Polityczna
Krytyka Polityczna (Political Critique) is the largest Eastern European liberal network of institutions and activists. It consists of the online daily Dziennik Opinii, a quarterly magazine, publishing house, cultural centres in Warsaw, Łódź, Gdańsk and Cieszyn, activist clubs in a dozen cities in Poland (and also in Kiev and Berlin), as well as a research centre: the Institute for Advanced Study in Warsaw.