It would be difficult to write a blog today without mentioning the tragic events of the past weekend. 76 innocent victims murdered in
. 43 killed and hundreds injured in a train crash in Norway . And last, but by no means least, the untimely death of the extraordinary singer Amy Winehouse. China
The thread that links all three of these tragedies is that they were pretty much impossible to prevent. How can a country defend itself against unimaginable acts of cruelty perpetrated by someone who on the face if it seemed just a little unhinged? The train crash was caused by a lightening strike, a force of nature, or, in insurance terms – an ‘Act of God’. And Amy, poor Amy. We still don’t know the cause of her death, but we do know that the last few years of her short life were very troubled.
There has been some commentary about ‘a wasted life’, how friends or family ‘should have done more’, how ‘her management should have protected her’ bla bla. But all these comments demonstrate a fundamental misunderstanding of drug or alcohol addiction. Amy was suffering from a life limiting, life threatening disease, harder to treat than many cancers and socially still unacceptable and difficult to comprehend. I was deeply touched by the tribute that Russell Brand, the actor and comedian, and recovering addict, placed on his website. Here is an extract:
‘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 they've had enough, that they'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 it's too late, she's gone…..Frustratingly it's not a call you can ever make it must be received. It is impossible to intervene. …..The priority of any addict is to anaesthetise the pain of living to ease the passage of the day with some purchased relief.
Now Amy Winehouse is dead, like many others whose unnecessary deaths have been retrospectively romanticised at 27 years old…….. All we can do is adapt the way we view this condition, not as a crime or a romantic affectation but as a disease that will kill. We need to review the way society treats addicts, not as criminals but as sick people in need of care. We need to look at the way our government funds rehabilitation. It is cheaper to rehabilitate an addict than to send them to prison, so criminalisation doesn't even make economic sense. Not all of us know someone with the incredible talent that Amy had but we all know drunks and junkies and they all need help and the help is out there. All they have to do is pick up the phone and make the call. Or not. Either way, there will be a phone call’
Maybe this will be Amy’s legacy – not just an amazing collection of hauntingly beautiful music, but the start or a deeper understanding of this terrifying disease.
May she rest in peace.