Whitney Houston's death on Saturday evening, I was shocked. I had heard stories recently that were not flattering, and some downright scary. The thing with Whitney and celebrities like her is that you want them to eventually come back out on top, and that they eventually will.
Whitney was the pop music darling in the 1980s when I was a kid. Now she's just a tragic tale of "what ifs" and "what could have beens."
That said, there's nothing like a good drug addiction to make people rush to judge others, especially in the case of a celebrity.
Addiction is not a laughing matter, but it is deeply personal. What makes it so personal is that the person with the issue has to want to be clean. Interventions don't work unless the person wants "it," meaning they "want to be clean."
I know because I have addiction in my family. I had an incident hit close to home, when my dad told me that he and another friend had to check one of his best friends into rehab last night for painkiller addiction.
It's deeply personal, but his friend is getting the help he needs. Not to mention, he wants it to happen.
On the flip side, there are people like Elvis Presley and Michael Jackson, who had people around them willing to do anything they asked, including keep them sedated and supplied with painkillers, pills, bad food or alcohol to provide an effort of escapism, ultimately leading to death. Enabling is a big part of addiction, but again, if a person is on a path to self-destruction, taking it away from them also makes them more determined to hurt themselves and find other suppliers. Sometimes, there are people who do not want to be helped.
Celebrities, sports figures and anyone living in the public eye deal with real human problems such as addiction and going into rehab to get themselves cleaned up, but we lay people on the outside looking in feel the need to judge their paths. The sad reality is that unless they want to be clean, it's not going to happen over night. My dad has been a recovering alcoholic and drug addict for over 20 years now. This could not be possible without his support network to keep himself clean, but also with determination that he won't end up like that again. He'll be the first to tell you that it's never ending. The struggle doesn't get easier and it's hard work.
That said, the rush to judgment of Whitney Houston's death is typical and expected. While it wouldn't be surprising if we found out drugs had something to do with it, it still doesn't mean we're not allowed to be sad over the talent that has been lost and what could have been.
A Bronx Tale said tellingly that the worst thing in this world is wasted talent. The truth is, artists like Michael Jackson, Elvis Presley or Whitney Houston will always be alive somehow because their art will never die. Yet, the world might have been a better place had they been around to contribute. Addiction is ugly and painful for those around to watch, but if they had realized how valuable they've been to this world, perhaps it would have been motivating for them to stick around.
In the meantime, if addiction isn't something that you're intimately familiar with, we shouldn't be rushing to judge those who can't get out of that vicious cycle either.