When I got the news that Whitney Houston was found dead in her hotel room at the age of 48, I couldn’t say that I was surprised. We all knew it was just a matter of time. Whitney had been publically struggling with addiction for the last two decades and watching her life unfold was a little bit like watching a train derail at high speed, but in slow motion: You just knew it was going to end badly.
The news of Whitney Houston’s death reached me via Twitter early on Sunday morning. She was found dead in the bathtub in her hotel room in Beverly Hills. Early unconfirmed reports said that she had drowned possibly due to passing out in the bath as a result of a combination of drugs and/or alcohol that she had taken. Sad as it was, I could not help but recall her infamous 2002 interview with Diane Sawyer, and her words “crack is wack” was stuck in my head.
During the 2002 interview with Diane Sawyer, Whitney uttered "crack is wack" as she admitted to abusing cocaine, marijuana and pills. She went further and said “Crack is cheap. I make too much money to ever smoke crack. Let's get that straight. Okay? We don't do crack. We don't do that. Crack is wack." Then seven years later, Whitney Houston tells Oprah Winfrey she was clean and sober and we all wanted to believe her. Now, just over two years later, we know her sobriety did not last and in the end her addiction killed her.
Many of us have been or will be affected by addiction, in one way or another, either directly or indirectly during the course of our lives. Addiction does not discriminate; it doesn’t care whether you are rich or poor, famous, beautiful, black or white. Addiction will strip you of your dignity, your talents, your loved ones and when there’s nothing left –it will kill you.
During my thirty something years on this planet I have encountered my fair share of addicts in both my professional and personal life. I have watched them give up all that’s near and dear to them for a bottle of whiskey, a few grams of coke, a joint and/or a handful of prescription drugs. It is sad, it is shocking and at some point you just have to realize that people make their own choices in their lives and if those choices are to destroy them in the end, it is still their choice to make.
Addiction is a cruel mistress. Some people can experiment with drugs and never become addicted. Most people I know have experimented with one drug or another at college, have drunk too much or taken ecstasy when raves were still cool. Most people I know have done this and have not become addicted. But then there are the others who started off with smoking marijuana and ended up heroin addicts, started off with taking ecstasy and ended up addicted to crystal meth. It’s difficult to tell who will become addicted, but once they are it is very difficult to get them clean.
One such person is my father. I have not spoken to or had any contact with him for well over four years. He is an alcoholic and has been one for the last twenty odd years. I have very few memories of him ever being a dad to me as alcohol didn’t afford him or I this luxury and quite a few pleasant childhood memories are overshadowed by alcohol related incidents involving fighting, beaten down doors, broken bottles and crashed cars. During the last 16 years he has been to rehab three times and all three times it was unsuccessful and he has never stopped drinking. He is an alcoholic who has chosen his addiction over his family multiple times. He doesn’t believe he has a problem and he doesn’t really want help and one day his addiction will kill him too.
Addicts lie, they lie to other people and they lie to themselves. After a while they also start believing their lies. They justify their actions and, more importantly, their addiction by external events always finding an excuse, an explanation or a person to blame for their own substance abuse. Their addiction becomes their master and everything and anything that stands between them and their next fix, whether it is a loved one or not, becomes disposable. They become selfish, cruel and unrepentant.
Addicts must be living in their own hell, but it's those around them that suffer the most. Those who love them, care for them and have to stand witness to a prolonged painful process of self-destruction. Those who have to witness the person they once knew wither away, change into a total stranger who is slowly killing themselves. Watch helplessly as they refuse treatment, turn their backs on them and always going back to their addiction until one day it is too late.
Having lived with and been raised by an addict, you could say that I am somewhat biased. I have seen how it destroys a family, relationships and love. I have seen how cruel it can be and it has made me a hard person because of it. I have little sympathy for the addict who doesn’t want to admit they have a problem and when offered help refuses it.
Whitney Houston is dead and it didn’t come as a surprise. A promising career has been systematically and very publically destroyed by addiction in just over twenty years. She’s not the first celebrity who has died due to addiction and she will not be the last. Let her death and those of all the others serve as a stark warning of the dangers of drug addiction. With her death, let it finally sink in that all of us are equally vulnerably and that in the end addiction kills. May your soul rest in peace Whitney Houston and I believe I speak for many when I say I wish it ended differently.
Till next time.