Saturday, July 23, 2011

Blaming Amy Winehouse's parents? Not so fast.

I can't say I was a huge Amy Winehouse fan. I was familiar with one of her albums and I liked it a lot, but I can't say I spent a lot of time thinking about her or her reported drug problems. Yet when the news came today that she had died, I felt very unsettled and sad.

I have a good friend who tends to see life as very black and white. We were talking about the reports that Winehouse had died, and my friend remarked: "I heard her parents didn't even try to get her to rehab. In her song 'Rehab," she even says, 'My daddy says I'm fine.' I'll bet they're sorry now."

Ah, yes. Here we go, blaming the parents -- even though Winehouse was an adult who obviously had been supporting herself for quite some time, and had been married and divorced. Say her parents wanted her to, indeed, go to rehab -- in fact, she reportedly had been in and out of treatment many times. What were they supposed to have done? Take away her car? Ground her?

Our relatively small community, Johnston, experienced an overdose-related loss a few weeks ago. The young man was 21 and had been an addict since high school; once his parents were aware of the problem, they did everything experts advised them to do. They sent him to treatment programs. They participated in the counseling sessions at the inpatient facilities that tried to help him. They supported him, but didn't support his addictions. He was given unconditional love and countless opportunities to build a future.

And yet he overdosed. Why? Because when push came to shove, his parents couldn't force him to do something he didn't want to do: stop using drugs.

We all know drugs are ridiculously available, and many kids love them; just this week, I heard of a college honor student, a clean-cut, high-achieving woman, who is in treatment for heroin addiction.What allows some kids to be able to stay away from controlled substances while others embrace them? If I knew that, I'd run Dr. Drew Pinsky out of business.

Experts say the culprit may be some combination of environment and genetics, and that makes a lot of sense. I also believe plain old internal fortitude has something to do with it; sure, it would be great to be able to rely on a substance that would make me feel relaxed when I wanted to feel relaxed, or give me energy when I need it. Thankfully, most of us understand that those effects are obtained at too high a risk, so we abstain.

But take a young person who perhaps has some sort of genetic predisposition to addiction. Give her drugs. Allow her to enjoy them. Keep in mind scientists say young people's brains are not quite fully "cooked" until the young people turn 25, and that compounds the problem: Kids think they're invincible. They are certain the bad things that happen to others won't happen to them. So they drink or smoke or use one more time, because there's always tomorrow.

Sadly, for Amy Winehouse and her family, there's no tomorrow. Blame Winehouse's fame; blame her money and her friends and her hangers-on and our society as a whole. But don't blame her parents. Chances are they're on their knees, with "If only I had..." running through their heads on an endless loop. Say prayers, if you're inclined; donate money to addiction research. But don't blame Amy Winehouse's parents, because it would be all too easy for that child to be yours.

1 comment:

  1. 100%

    Sadly, many people seem to be blaming her parents. There's only so much you can do I guess.