Monday, July 25, 2011

I just cannot feel too sorry

So, a singer I've never heard or cared about dies, probably as a result of years of heavy drug use; if I've got my timeline right she did this a day after a horror movie played out in Norway.  One guess which of these two events is occupying the majority of my Facebook feed.

Given the manner in which the woman in question lived, her death certainly could not have been a surprise to anyone with two brain cells to rub together.  For crying out loud, the refrain for the song she's most famous for is "I don't wanna go to rehab."  Because of this, pretty reasonable people are finding it difficult to feel much sympathy, especially given the whole eighty-five teenagers getting murdered hours earlier thing.  There is, then, plenty of gallows humor aimed at her--far easier to face someone who killed herself (directly or otherwise) though gross stupidity than to even try to comprehend the tragedy from Norway.

Enter the Sensitivity Police.  It goes like this: someone makes a Winehouse joke or even just says they can't feel too much sorrow, and the Sensitivity Police jump in with "You're horrible for saying that!  Addiction is a disease.  You would never mock someone for dying from cancer, so why is it okay to mock someone who died from addiction?  You just don't know what it's like."

Here's the thing.  Addiction is an acquired disease.  No one wakes up one morning addicted to cocaine, having never touched it before in their life.  It takes exposure, and generally speaking it takes repeated exposure.  This is true of any sort of addiction--drugs, alcohol, cigarettes, porn.  It does not appear out of thin air.  It just doesn't.

And while, yes, there may be a genetic component to things, it's not as though addiction is inevitable.  My father was an alcoholic and smoked.  Me, I've never touched a cigarette outside of fetching the occasional pack for my uncle as a child, and though I discovered in my late twenties that getting drunk is a fine way to escape your troubles for a little while, I was mindful of the genetic component to alcoholism and made damned sure I didn't make a habit of it, because addiction often springs from habit.  And it is not as though I am some kind of freak of willpower, either.  My ex-husband, for all his other failings (dude does not like thinking for himself), never picked up either smoking or alcoholism from his father.

Some people actually have very good reasons to start down the path that leads them to addiction.  Well, I shouldn't say good reasons, but understandable ones.  If your life totally sucks and you are unsuccessful compared to your peers and lonely and you start using drugs/alcohol in an attempt to fit in and have a social life, and then a few months or years down the road you realize you have an addiction...I get that.  I really do.  I have a lot of sympathy.  But it doesn't change the fact that you chose to get on that path.

I have a very hard time feeling sympathy for someone who dies young because they made consistent bad choices throughout their however-short life.  Just like I have a very hard time feeling sympathy for someone who contracts lung cancer after decades of smoking, or for the gangbanger who gets shot in the commission of a felony.

Life is choice, people.


peter d said...


Dave said...

What Winehouse had that your average addict doesn't was all the enablers money could buy. The only thing those people who worked for her will mourn now that she has finally, and very much expectedly, done herself in, is the paycheck.

TOTWTYTR said...

Well said.